How to build a healthy breakfast to fuel your day

How to build a healthy breakfast to fuel your day

What you eat in the morning is key for fueling the rest of the day. Learn what a good healthy breakfast looks like, plus tips for on-the-go options. 

Why should you eat breakfast?

Whatever your health goals may be, breakfast is essential for setting yourself up for success. 

After all, your morning meal is key for keeping your internal rhythm on track.

While that may not sound important to you at first, this rhythm is responsible for the natural ups and downs of your hormones throughout the day.

Or in other words, this rhythm is responsible for regulating when you feel hungry and tired. It also plays a key role in digestion. In fact, some studies suggest that your metabolism is more efficient in the morning. 

Still not convinced? Eating a nutritious breakfast can support better learning in kids, higher energy levels throughout your morning, and improved athletic performance. 

Find out all the reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

What is a good healthy breakfast?

Of course, not all breakfasts are created equally. 

Eating a donut or pastry everyday will not have the same health benefits as a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit. 

When it comes to building a healthy breakfast, there are three main nutrients that your meal should contain: 

  1. Protein
  2. Fiber
  3. Healthy fat

Now, how much you have of each of these and the types of foods you choose will all depend on the type of diet you follow, personalized nutrition needs, health goals, and food preferences. 

While not exhaustive, let’s take a look at some nutritious ways to get each of these three components. 

Healthy protein sources at breakfast

Protein is SUPER important in the morning. 

It’s key for keeping you nice and full all morning. Plus, it supports muscle repair and growth after a morning workout. Want to lose weight? Protein at breakfast is your new best friend. 

How much protein should you have at your morning meal? For most people, 20-30 grams is ideal, but it can vary anywhere from 15 grams up to 35 grams depending on your nutrient needs and health goals. 

Here are some healthy, high protein breakfast foods: 

  • Eggs: scrambled, poached, fried, boiled, steamed, or baked.
  • Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts.
  • Nut butters: almond, cashew, hazelnut, peanut butter and sunflower
  • Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower.
  • Greek yogurt: plain Greek or Icelandic-style yogurt.
  • Dairy: milk and cheese.
  • Soy: soy milk, tofu, and tempeh. 
  • Salmon: smoked, canned, or baked. 
  • Lean meats: lean ground turkey or homemade turkey or chicken sausage.

Best sources of fiber

Fiber has many important roles in our bodies: it’s good for heart and digestive health, can help maintain a healthy weight, and keeps blood sugar levels stable. 

Even if you’re on a low-carb diet, like keto or paleo, it’s still important that you’re getting your 25-38 grams of fiber each day! 

Here are some great sources of fiber to include: 

  • Fruits: any and all fruits, including apples, avocados, bananas, berries, figs, peaches, and pears. 
  • Vegetables: any and all veggies, including broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
  • Whole grains: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, einkorn, farro, oats, quinoa, spelt, sprouted whole grains and breads, whole grain flour and breads. 
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds

Healthy fats 

If you grew up in the low-fat craze of the 80’s and 90’s then the idea of “healthy fats” may sound like an oxymoron. 

However, certain types of fats are essential for good health and can even help you maintain a healthy weight. 

Here are some healthy fats to incorporate into a healthy breakfast:

  • Avocados and avocado oil 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Nuts and nut butters: especially almonds and walnuts.
  • Seeds: flax, chia, and hemp seeds are all rich in plant-based omega-3’s
  • Salmon or other fatty fish

Breakfast foods to eat less of 

We’ve talked a lot about which ingredients to eat more of in the morning, but what breakfast foods should you avoid or eat less often? 

Here are some common options to try to consume less frequently:

  • Pastries. 
  • Bakery-style muffins. 
  • Sugary breakfast cereals.
  • Flavored instant oatmeal packets.
  • Most store-bought granolas.
  • Some frozen breakfast sandwiches and wraps.
  • Most flavored coffee creamers.
  • Sweetened fruit juices.

Are there healthy packaged breakfast options?

I prefer to make my own healthy breakfast foods, but there are times when we all need an easy store-bought option. 

So what should you buy? 

Look for items that are:

  • Minimally processed (these will usually have a shorter ingredient list).
  • Low in added sugars.
  • Contain a good amount of protein and fiber. 

How to choose a healthy breakfast option when dining out 

From vacations and work trips to going out with friends, breakfast is a meal many of us enjoy dining out for. 

And while I’m all for the occasional indulgence, here are some of my top 3 tips for choosing a healthier breakfast option when out: 

  1. Look for menu items that include the three healthy breakfast components: Protein + Fiber + Healthy Fat. 
  2. If you can’t find an option you like, don’t be afraid to build your own from the “Sides” section of the menu. 
  3. Swap out processed meats (like bacon and sausage) for avocado or extra veggies.

Some examples of a healthier breakfast menu choices include: 

  • Breakfast sandwich with whole grain bread, poached eggs, and veggies.
  • One blueberry pancake with a side of scrambled eggs
  • Veggie omelet, if you can ask for 2 eggs and the rest egg whites. 
  • Unsweetened oatmeal with dried or fresh fruit, nuts/nut butter, or seeds. 
  • Veggie hash with an egg or two. 
  • Unsweetened yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and homemade granola.

More nutrition guides

Want tips and recipes for building a healthy breakfast to fit your specific needs? Be sure to check out my nutrition page for more breakfast guides!

If you found this content helpful, be sure to leave a comment and follow along on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for even more dietitian-approved breakfast tips and recipes! 

How to build a healthy breakfast

Disclaimer: This information is meant simply for educational purposes and should not be mistaken for personalized nutrition advice. It’s always important to talk with your doctor or dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

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About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Here you’ll find healthy breakfast recipes designed by a registered dietitian with your health goals in mind.

As a dietitian I understand that a healthy breakfast is essential for giving you the fuel you need to power through your day. Which is why on TheHealthyToast, you’ll find nutrition guides plus the best healthy breakfast recipes for every diet and lifestyle.

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