Breakfast is a very important meal — literally the break of a natural fast. And breakfast sets the tone for the rest of our day: a healthy choice replenishes energy levels and necessary nutrients, aids in digestion, and can improve mental sharpness. Over the long term, a healthy breakfast habit supports heart and brain health and can improve metabolic function. So although it’s not always easy, making healthy breakfast choices is important!
Without a doubt, mornings can be hectic — so convenience is key. But easy, grab-and-go breakfasts or fast food options can be loaded with unhealthy fats and added sugar. Pancakes covered in syrup, or high-fat sausage or bacon, may be delicious (and are usually fine in moderate amounts for an occasional treat), but they aren’t wise everyday choices. Even some “healthy”-seeming breakfast bars are just sugary cereals in disguise. The problem with that? A big blood sugar spike can lead to an even bigger sugar crash later in the day. And that tumultuous up-and-down can leave you feeling fatigued and hungry (and craving more sugar).
1. Junk-food or highly processed foods (foods that contain few unprocessed ingredients and are high in salt, fat, and added sugar).
2. Cereals with lots of added sugar (nutritionists recommend avoiding cereals with more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, and opting for those with plenty of fiber — more than five grams per serving).
3. No breakfast — a 2019 study that appeared in the Journal for the American College of Cardiology found that skipping breakfast was associated with an increased risk of obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
(Before making drastic changes to your diet, it’s always wise to consult with a healthcare provider about your wellness goals.)
Overall, an egg is a smart breakfast choice. Eggs are relatively low in calories (around 77 for a large egg). With a mere five grams of fat, a solid six grams of protein, and nine essential amino acids, an egg can be a satisfying part of any morning. Eggs are also rich in vitamin D (which supports bone health and the immune system) and are significant sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness in people 55 years old and older).
It’s important to note that eggs are a source of dietary cholesterol — people who are monitoring their cholesterol (for instance, because they are at risk of heart disease) should be aware of their daily intake. If your diet has few other cholesterol sources, though, a daily egg or even two can be part of a healthy eating pattern.
There are many different ways to enjoy eggs for breakfast, and they are easy to whip up quickly — scrambled, hard boiled in advance, or poached.
(Want more healthy-eating tips? Read “Rejecting Diet Culture and Embracing Sustainable Healthy Choices.”)
Yogurt is a fantastic choice for a quick and healthy breakfast. It has plenty of protein, calcium, and probiotics (beneficial bacteria that aid in gut health — learn more in “How to Improve Gut Health: Everything You Need to Know”).
But it’s important to choose the right yogurt, by reading the labels and nutritional facts (a helpful way to assess any packaged food). You’ll find that Greek-style yogurt is typically higher in protein. You’ll also see that many flavored yogurts are packed with sugar, so plain yogurt is usually a healthier choice (if you prefer flavored yogurts, look for those that have fewer than 12 grams of sugar). Then add some fresh fruit and maybe some sunflower or pumpkin seeds for an extra crunch, and you’ve got a great breakfast!
Whole wheat bread is full of healthy vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and protein. A 2016 study even found that a diet rich in whole grains was linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, respiratory diseases, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions.
Then add a nut butter such as peanut butter or almond butter for protein and healthy fat. Seed butters like sunflower seed butter are also tasty, nutritious, and filling. (But as with all packaged foods, be sure to read the label to look for added sugars or artificial ingredients.)
Then there’s avocado — another delicious choice for toast that’s full of nutrients and healthy fat.
Smoothies are a favorite breakfast for many people — but they can vary greatly in terms of nutrition. If you’re opting for packaged smoothies, watch out for those that have a lot of added sugar or are high in fat. Making your own? Healthy fats and protein can come from nut butters or chia seeds; fruits and vegetables add fiber and nutrients; and unsweetened liquids such as almond milk, oat milk, or soy milk can provide a smooth texture.
Some ideas for healthy and delicious smoothies include:
• Nut butter
• Unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
• Unsweetened yogurt
• Chia seeds
The number of healthy smoothie combinations that can be customized to your taste is nearly infinite. Additives such as vanilla, cinnamon, honey, and even dates can add additional flavor.
Some smoothie ingredients are best to avoid or limit, due to their lack of nutritional value. (It’s all too easy to add more than the recommended amount of sugar to a smoothie with too much juice or added sweetener.) Some of these use-only-in-moderation ingredients include:
• Ice cream
• Non-fat yogurt
• Sweeteners (real or artificial)
• Any junk food
Oats are extremely good for you — they’re one of the healthiest grains around. They are full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, all of which support a great start to your day, as well as overall health. Oatmeal can aid in healthy weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and even reduce the risk of heart disease.
Typically, oatmeal is simmered in water or milk and doesn’t take too long to whip up. Another option is to make overnight oats, which you can easily grab in the morning without the hassle of preparing them. Once you have your bowl of oatmeal, you can add some more nutritious toppings to it to add more flavor. Reach for additions like:
• Natural nut butter
• Sunflower seeds
• Fresh or dried fruit
• Sauteed greens
Carbon Health’s expert providers are always ready to talk nutrition! We offer in-person and virtual appointments, so you can schedule an appointment in the way that works best for you. Our seamless, personalized care is designed to support you in reaching all your health goals.