Feeling meh about your usual a.m. meal? We get it. Mornings can be hectic, and it's a lot easier to hit repeat and grab a cereal bar rather than take the time to think of something more inspiring.
But you owe it to your taste buds to make a switch. A delicious, healthy breakfast will keep you excited and fulfilled, and that ensures that you'll actually have that morning meal. You've heard it a million times before, but eating breakfast on the regular really does set your energy level for the day and get you closer to your wellness and fitness goals. Steal some inspiration from the ideas below, designed for every breakfast dilemma.
If you love a carby breakfast
Cereal, oats and other carb-loaded options can be healthy, and the fuel you score from complex carbs gives you a steady energy boost. But they tend to be low in protein, says nutritionist Lauren Harris-Pincus, author of the Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “It’s incredibly important to consume enough protein at breakfast to maintain muscle mass and metabolism as we age,” she says. Protein also fills you up, so your appetite doesn't kick in until lunchtime—another win.
Her suggestion: whisk three tablespoons of whey or plant-based protein powder into milk, then top with cereal and fresh fruit. You can do the same for oatmeal by whisking a few tablespoons of protein powder into ¼ cup of milk and mixing it into cooked oatmeal. The more protein and flavor you pack in there, the more fulfilled your stomach—and your taste buds—will be. Don’t be afraid to experiment, say by adding chocolate protein powder or more exotic fruits.
If you’re training for a race
If your mornings are all about training runs, or you always start the day by crushing it at the gym, you’re going to want to refuel before heading off to work. Your breakfast goal should be to enhance rapid muscle recovery to prep you for another training session tomorrow. With this in mind, aim for a mix of fast-digesting carbs and protein, suggests registered dietitian Molly Kimball.
She suggests blending frozen mango cubes, a carton of plain low-fat Greek yogurt and milk, along with a serving of beetroot powder and a dash of cayenne. The beetroot powder is a rich source of nitrates. “Our body converts it to nitric oxide, which enhances blood vessel dilation and increases blood flow capacity. It can also help with recovery,” says Kimball. The fruit and dairy helps replenish electrolytes sodium, potassium, and calcium, which are critical for muscle function.
And the cayenne? It has anti-inflammatory powers to help with muscle recovery after a workout, and it gives your taste buds a flavor kick too. Plus, some studies suggest that it may help jump-start your metabolism.
If you’re not really a breakfast person
Does the thought of a plate stacked with pancakes and sausage in the morning makes you want to gag? Go ahead and have a little bite instead. “Your body is low on energy, and your muscles are breaking down protein,” explains registered dietitian Kathy Siegel, a nutrition communication consultant in the New York City area.
Siegel's idea is to head to the cottage cheese aisle of the store and pick up a pack of portable half-cup servings. Each contains 13 grams of protein, which helps keep you full and boost muscle synthesis and repair, she says. Top it off with hemp seeds. Three tablespoons of the nutty-tasting seed contain three grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein, as well as minerals iron, zinc and magnesium. Add sliced cherry tomatoes and basil if you want something even more savory.
If you’re looking to lose weight
First, chug a big glass of H20, says Los Angeles–based registered dietitian Ilana Muhlstein. Not only is water energizing, but it can also help you feel fuller and make more sensible decisions around food, she says. Then, go for a combo of fiber (for sustained energy) and protein (for satiety), which will help you stay on track toward your goals, she says.
A great idea is a veggie egg scramble made with two eggs and veggies of choice (throw in whatever leftover or soon-to-go-bad veggies you have on hand, like kale and mushrooms or peppers and onions). Then, serve it with a big handful of berries. Both raspberries and blackberries contain eight grams of fiber and 60 or so calories per cup, which meets nearly one-third of your daily fiber needs. The sweetness of the berries will satiate your sweet tooth, too.
If you only have five minutes before running out the door
The smoothie does it again. “You can pack in tons of nutrients into an easily digestible breakfast,” says registered dietitian Keri Glassman. It takes five minutes to throw together, but if you don’t have that time in the morning, blend it the night before, put it into a travel cup, grab, and hit the road.
Glassman suggests getting your greens in via a morning smoothie. A powerful one to go with is broccoli rabe, because it offers two grams of fiber per cup, along with antioxidants like eyesight-preserving lutein and 100% of your daily vitamin K, which keeps bones strong. She recommends blending almond milk, almond butter, banana, dates, broccoli rabe, oats, hemp seeds and vanilla.