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Breakfast is a controversial meal. Some people advise to skip it, while others do not. This article will discuss why you should have breakfast and healthy breakfast foods you can have on the go or at your leisure.
My breakfast routine has changed over the years. When I was a teenager and young adult, I usually skipped breakfast, but temporarily prioritized having breakfast in my mid-20’s when after reading a nutrition guide advocating the practice.
Now that I’ve been working from home the past few years, my less rushed mornings and easy access to the kitchen has helped ensure that I eat something most mornings.
So, you might wonder whether you should eat breakfast most days and if so, what healthy breakfast foods to keep in rotation. We will answer these questions below.
Should You Eat Breakfast?
Weight Loss Benefits
The debate on whether to eat or skip breakfast usually revolves around weight loss, where different sources have different opinions. However, as you will see below, more factors are at play than simply the act of eating breakfast or not.
Interestingly, this study compared various eating habits to determine which resulted in the largest reduction in body mass index (BMI), which estimates a person’s body fat percentage based on height and weight.
The study showed that long 18+ hour overnight fasts (i.e. the time between eating at night and eating again in the morning) resulted in the largest drop in BMI, followed by consumption of a large breakfast. That is, people who ate the most at breakfast versus at other meals during the day lost more body fat. Also, no snacking between meals helps.
However, the effects of eating or skipping breakfast seem less defined in individuals who are overweight or obese.
For instance, this study revealed that skipping or eating breakfast did not affect the weight of obese individuals. Participants who ate breakfast engaged in more physical activity during the morning after, while participants who skipped breakfast made up for the calorie deficit by eating later in the day. Researchers theorized obese individuals are more likely to eat skipped calories later in the day compared to lean individuals.
Another study similarly found no difference in weight loss between overweight and obese participants who skipped or ate breakfast.
Thus, we may be able to reconcile the above studies by surmising that your overall eating habits is more important than the act of skipping or eating breakfast, particularly in overweight or obese individuals. Eating a big, healthy breakfast and not overeating during the rest of the day seems to be solid advice, however.
Cardiovascular Health Benefits
Eating breakfast may benefit your cardiovascular health.
This study revealed that more individuals who skipped breakfast died from cardiovascular disease during a 23-year period than individuals who ate breakfast daily.
Another study similarly showed that men who skipped breakfast experienced higher risks for coronary heart disease than men who ate breakfast. Eating late at night was another risk factor. This other study supported the finding that breakfast skippers were at higher risk for cardiovascular disease than individuals who at breakfast at least 5 times a week.
Thus, eating breakfast seems healthier for your heart as well.
The Importance of Healthy Breakfast Foods
The type of breakfast you eat matters, so you should consider what you eat in the mornings before browsing the supermarket breakfast aisle filled with cereals, breakfast bars, shakes, etc.
This study found that the type of food you eat for breakfast matters more to your health than just the act of eating breakfast. The researchers recommended foods lower on the glycemic index (GI) (i.e. foods that are slower to raise your blood sugar) and higher in protein to benefit your health, particularly against metabolic disorders.
So, what does that mean in terms of choosing healthy breakfast foods? Basically, you should avoid high-carbohydrate or high-sugar meals, especially ones low in protein. Unfortunately, if you’re a grain lover, that means avoiding grain- or flour-based foods like bagels, cereals, and toast.
You should also avoid high-sugar items like breakfast pastries, shakes, and smoothies.
We will share some healthy breakfast foods below to give you some options.
Healthy Breakfast Foods on the Go
The following options are all portable, allowing you to eat them on the go without utensils. They are high in protein and low in glycemic load, so qualify as healthy breakfast foods.
1. Boiled Eggs
Eggs are a quintessential breakfast food. Although they once had a bad reputation for purportedly raising cholesterol, the medical community has since retracted that stance against eggs.
We now understand that eating cholesterol doesn’t translate into raised cholesterol levels in your body. (See our article, Is Fat-Free or Low-Fat Healthy for You? 15+ Studies Say “No” to Popular Beliefs, for relevant discussion.) Thus, don’t be afraid to eat eggs!
Boiled eggs are the most convenient option for eggs on the go and are surprisingly delightful with just a little bit of salt and pepper sprinkled on top. (See Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs in the Instant Pot or Stovetop: 2 Ways to learn how to make perfect, easy-to-peel eggs.)
2. Mini Quiches
If you want eggs in different form, mini quiches are fantastic options for bringing on the go. They are perfect to bring in a small Tupperware or container.
You can make carb-free (and low-GI) mini quiches without a crust by just baking the ingredients in a muffin pan. The small size prevents the mini quiches from falling apart easily, which is why they’re great on the go.
Here is a recipe for crustless quiche cups, where you can substitute or add other ingredients like bacon or ham, for the vegetables listed.
If you’re into smoothies, you can make a low-sugar protein smoothie. Either you can rely on whole food sources for protein (e.g. adding nut butter to the smoothie) or add add protein powder or collagen protein powder to increase the protein content.
One of my favorite protein smoothies is simply blending milk, a little bit of heavy whipping cream, raw cocoa powder, peanut butter, ice, and a few drops of liquid stevia. It’s like a peanut butter chocolate milkshake! I often add protein powder as well if I want the smoothie to be more filling.
If you’re less concerned about protein content, you can make a regular, low-sugar fruit and vegetable smoothie. For instance, you can try our suggestion in Make Green Smoothies Healthier + Low-Sugar Guaranteed | Recipe.
Healthy Breakfast Foods When You Have Time
If you have time to actually cook or to sit down for breakfast (with eating utensils), then you can cook traditional breakfast options like eggs (or omelets), bacon, ham, or sausage. However, if you want something else, here are other options for healthy breakfast foods:
1. Breakfast Quiche or Casseroles
2. Banana Pancakes
Whenever we have extra bananas in the house, I make flourless banana pancakes for my kids. It’s a fantastic way to get them to eat eggs without complaint.
This recipe gives a basic rundown on how to make flourless banana pancakes. They are basically like little crepes, where the main bulk comes from eggs and mashed bananas. In that sense, adjust your expectations to anticipate an end product more like crepes than traditional fluffy pancakes.
Because my kids are willing to eat these pancakes, I take advantage of the chance to increase their egg consumption by increasing the egg to banana ratio in the recipe. (Also, since bananas are relatively high in sugar for fruits, I add more eggs to lower the overall sugar per pancake.) Thus, I alter the recipe by using 4 eggs for every 1 banana, and leave the rest of the recipe the same.
Although the subtle sweetness and thinner consistency of these pancakes may eliminate your desire to add syrup, feel free to eat them with syrup if you’re less concerned about minimizing sugar intake. (Feel free to read our article, Sneaky Hidden Sugars You May Find in 6 Popular Foods and More, about sugar intake.)
3. Breakfast Hash
Although potatoes are the most common base for breakfast hashes, you have other options that are lower on the GI index.
Some people opt for sweet potatoes, since they are lower in the GI index than regular potatoes, but not by much. So if your reason for choosing sweet potatoes over regular potatoes is to reduce your blood sugar response, the difference may not matter all that much. If you legitimately prefer the taste of sweet potatoes, however, then you can try a sweet potato hash like this recipe.
Another potato alternative that is actually much lower on the GI index is butternut squash. This recipe is for butternut squash hash. The squash won’t have as firm and dry a texture as regular or sweet potatoes, but adds its own appeal and can make a good side dish for any meal.
Lastly, cauliflower is another popular starch substitute and is very low on the GI index, like with this hash recipe.
If you try any of the above-listed healthy breakfast options or have your own to suggest, please comment below to share!