Let’s face it: Some of the things your grandma used to tell you just aren’t true. There really isn’t a tooth fairy, toads won’t give you warts, and itchy palms don’t mean you’re going to come into some money.
One saying grandma was right about? “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” As true as it is, breakfast still isn’t the most popular meal of the day. Depending on whom you ask, the morning meal is either revered as a great excuse to nosh on waffles and eggs benedict, or a despised thanks to bad childhood memories of being forced to scarf down bran cereal every day.
Breakfast doesn’t have to fit either of these extremes, though, and truthfully, it should be neither a rich, decadent affair nor a hurried, tasteless meal. The best breakfasts are nutritious and delicious—and don’t take hours to prepare.
Read on for healthy breakfast ideas guaranteed to start your day off on the right foot, plus a little bit more about why the first meal of the day is so important.
Why Is Breakfast Important?
Okay, you’ve been told that eating three square meals a day is a big deal for your whole life, but why does one teensy piece of toast in the morning matter so much? It all comes down to fueling your body.
The basic premise of breakfast makes a lot of sense. You’ve been sleeping for eight or more hours—and in that time, your body has digested your dinner from the previous night, and needs more energy. Therefore, you eat.
Not to mention, the health benefits of eating just one small meal in the morning can be staggering. Just take a few of the studies that have been conducted on the health effects of breakfast, for example. One study revealed that people who ate breakfast experienced more balanced blood sugar throughout the day. Researchers have also noticed that people who eat breakfast tend to move around more first thing in the morning, perhaps indicating that breakfast can provide the body with essential energy. Other positive health benefits of noshing on a morning meal include a reduced risk of weight gain, obesity, and hypertension. And that’s not all—eating a balanced breakfast can help children focus better and succeed at school.
Skipping breakfast, on the other hand, has been associated with a higher risk of developing heart disease. Researchers have also noted that people who don’t make a point of eating in the morning are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
If you ask us, that’s reason enough to consider grabbing a banana or energy bar before you start your morning commute.
What Makes a Healthy Breakfast?
It’s important to note that we’re not suggesting an enormous plate of three eggs, four strips of bacon, two pieces of toast slathered in jam, and a bowl of oatmeal. By breakfast, we mean an energizing, nutritious meal—however small or large you need it to be to feel satisfied and ready to take on the day.
Michelle Pellizzon, a certified health coach and Thrive Market’s Fitness and Nutrition Editor, explains that the definition of a healthy breakfast is different for everyone.
“My first piece of advice is to listen to your body; if eating breakfast gets you energized and ready for your day, then go for it,” she says.
Of course, waking up craving Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t mean you can justify binging on two crullers before 9 a.m. That’s where Pellizzon’s first rule for the morning meal comes in: Avoid refined sugars.
“If you're going to eat breakfast, try to avoid anything that's super high in sugar or simple carbohydrates.”
“Sugary cereals or sweetened coffee drinks will shoot your blood sugar sky high, which leads to the production of belly fat," she says. "Plus, sugar is inflammatory, which affects your brain function and can lead to brain fog ... Not a great way to start a workday!”
So what should you opt for? Any meal that contains both healthy fats and protein, two nutrients that Pellizzon says are crucial to starting the day on an energizing note. Think an egg scrambled with avocado or a vegan protein shake with almond butter and coconut oil.
“It keeps you fuller for longer, revs your metabolism first thing in the morning, and will give you sustained energy while keeping blood sugar levels stable,” Pellizzon explains. Sounds like a win-win!
If you’re not sure what you should chow down on first thing in the morning, don’t worry—we’ve got plenty of healthy breakfast ideas that will give your body the fuel it needs and still satisfy your taste buds.
24 Healthy Breakfast Recipes
You don’t need to spend hours planning your meals or slaving away in the kitchen to concoct healthy, delicious breakfasts. In fact, some of our favorite options require almost no prep time at all (read: smoothies) or can be whipped up in big batches and reheated the morning of (read: make-ahead options).
We even have a few last-minute ideas for those days when you only have a few minutes to slap something together on the way out the door. Read on for some brilliant breakfast inspiration—we know these recipes will have your mouth watering in no time.
Hit the reset button with a rejuvenating (and low-calorie) smoothie. Made from green apples, cucumber, and fresh mint, this light and slightly tart drink makes a perfect early morning breakfast.
Spinach, kale, and avocado bring plenty of green goodness, while hemp milk and seeds add some extra protein for a thick, creamy vegan treat anyone can enjoy.
You’ll think you’re lying on a beach somewhere after one sip of our pina colada–inspired drink. The addition of chia seeds brings some omega-3 fatty acids, which will fuel your body with long-lasting energy.
If the tart flavors of raspberry and pineapple aren’t enough to wake you up, energizing maca root should do the trick. Try it with frozen raspberries for a thicker, creamier morning treat.
Feeling a little under the weather? Drink to your health with an immune-boosting smoothie. Antioxidant-rich blueberries kick the immune system into high gear, while the kick from the ginger helps clear the sinuses. A little almond butter adds some much-needed protein.
Anyone who’s ever tried to blend up a bunch of veggies and call it a smoothie knows that it’s not the most appetizing thing. Here, banana and pineapple add essential sweetness, while a small scoop of coconut oil add a dose of healthy fats.
This is one detox drink you won’t need a fancy juicer to make! Blend beets, blood oranges, and pomegranate juice for a vibrant smoothie, or strain the mixture through some cheesecloth for a juice.
Odds are, you’ve heard of acai berries—they’re one of those “it” ingredients currently making the rounds. Try them blended into a frozen smoothie bowl and topped with kiwi and a little grain-free granola.
Here, plain old oats are transformed into a lusciously thick spice pudding-cake, with carrots, apples, and raisins lending just enough sweetness to make this breakfast feel decadent. Despite it’s dessert-like taste, though, this baked oatmeal dish is full of fruit and vegetables and totally gluten-free.
Speaking of gluten-free, these nutty muffins filled to bursting with fresh blueberries and pumpkin seeds couldn’t be more satisfying. An added bonus: They’re totally Paleo-friendly and free of refined sugar.
Need something a little heartier in the morning? Try this tortilla espanola, a Spanish version of a traditional omelet made with sweet potatoes. Cook a batch at the beginning of the week, and reheat a slice for breakfast every day.
Chock full of superfoods like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut, flax seeds, goji berries, and golden berries, these cookies will definitely start off your day on a positive note. Though these little treats feel dessert-y, with no added sugar, flour, or butter, they’re totally suitable for morning.
Dried cherries and Madagascar vanilla lend notes of fruity sweetness to this grain-free granola. Toasting the mixture of walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and coconut in the oven locks in that caramelized flavor.
The concept behind overnight oats is pure genius: Leave oats soaking in liquid for a few hours, and by morning, they’ll have the texture of cooked oatmeal without any of the work. This decadent variation centers around apples and fall spices.
Here’s another easy overnight recipe: chia seed pudding. Soaking the tiny seeds while you sleep allows them to swell up like tapioca, resulting in a creamy pudding with a unique texture. The addition of matcha green tea to this recipe makes for a balanced, energizing breakfast.
Think of our breakfast porridge as a sweet version of tabbouleh. Whole-grain bulgur wheat soaked in orange juice and honey syrup is mixed with fresh fruit and mint for a mind-blowingly tasty morning meal.
Step one: Whip up a batch of these grain-free coconut flour pancakes. Step two: Eat one or two, for quality assurance. Step three: Slather peanut or almond butter on one pancake, jam on the other, and sandwich them together for an easy, on-the-go breakfast. Make a bunch and freeze them in individual sandwich bags to enjoy later!
This recipe is a little more labor-intensive, but we promise, the end result is definitely worth it. Cook the spicy tomato sauce ahead of time, and refrigerate it until you’re ready to eat some. Then, scoop some into a small skillet, crack an egg on top, and bake until it’s just cooked. Excuse us for drooling.
Crave a little fruit first thing in the a.m.? Then grab one of these fruit-on-the-bottom chia pudding cups with apricot and coconut. Store them in individual bowls or jars to make it even easier on yourself in the morning!
Anyone—and we really mean anyone—can master this super simple, gluten-free breakfast recipe. You simply cook quinoa a bit more than you normally would—until it gets thick and creamy—then top with almond butter, jam, nuts, or fresh fruit and enjoy. Like everything else on this list, you can easily prepare a giant batch on Sunday night and chow down all week.
Easy Last-Minute Breakfasts
Forgot to prep something ahead of time? Out of smoothie fixins? Try one of these ideas that require few ingredients and even less time.
One of the best ways to get some essential nutrients first thing in the morning is to slather them on a crisp piece of gluten-free or whole grain bread. Sliced avocado sprinkled with some flaky sea salt will provide plenty of healthy fats, while a thick spread of almond butter topped with some berries offers lots of protein. Get creative with whatever you have on hand.
Got anything good left in the fridge? Maybe some veggie stir-fry, a slice roasted turkey, or sauteed mushrooms and onions? Any of those foods could be easily (and deliciously) reinvented in an egg scramble. Just try to get plenty of veggies in there!
Grab a ½ cup or so of Greek yogurt or coconut milk yogurt (for the dairy-free), and throw whatever top with whatever you have on hand—fresh fruit, herbs, honey, nuts, and seeds all work beautifully. Voilà, instant delectable parfait!
When things are looking really meager in the fridge, turn to pantry staples like fresh or dried fruit, nuts, and cheese. Taken together, a few slices of cheese, a handful of nuts, and some fruit makes for a surprisingly satiating and tasty breakfast.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont