Start Your Day Right: A Guide to the 12 Most Nourishing Morning Foods

Start Your Day Right: A Guide to the 12 Most Nourishing Morning Foods
06.01.2024

A balanced breakfast typically includes protein, fiber, and a range of nutrients. If you’re looking for a healthy morning meal, try easy options like eggs, whole wheat toast with toppings, nuts, and green tea.

Breakfast is a great way to start your day. A nutritious breakfast can provide long-lasting energy and keep you full for hours. A good breakfast is typically high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients.

Some commercial breakfast foods can be high in sugar, refined carbs, and additives. Instead, why not try some nutrient-dense fresh options?

Here are 12 of the best foods and drinks to enjoy in the morning:

1. Eggs

Eggs make a simple, nutritious breakfast choice.

They provide protein, which is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. It can also keep you feeling full.

In a 2020 study, people who had eggs and toast for breakfast reported significantly less hunger than those who had bran cereal, suggesting the higher protein intake — 25 grams versus 11 grams — promoted greater fullness.

The egg group also ate fewer calories at lunch, suggesting eggs support satiety — the feeling of being full — which can help with weight management.

Eggs also contain:

  • lutein and zeaxanthin in the yolk, antioxidants that appear to support eye health and may have benefits for skin, liver, eye, and cardiovascular health
  • choline, a vital nutrient for brain and liver health
  • B vitamins, including folate
  • vitamin A
  • iron, calcium, and other essential minerals

Recent research indicates that, in contrast with previous beliefs, eggs don’t raise cholesterol levels in most people, despite their high cholesterol content. In fact, there’s some evidence they may have a mild protective effect against heart disease.

Eat your eggs with other nutritious foods, such as whole grain toast, whole fruit, or sautéed vegetables.

SUMMARY

Eggs are high in protein and several important nutrients. They may promote fullness and help lower your calorie intake later in the day.

2. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great option for a quick breakfast.

It’s made by straining whey and other liquid from milk curds, which produces a creamy product higher in protein than regular yogurt.

It’s also lower in calories than many other protein sources. A 1-cup (245-gram) serving provides 25 grams of protein but only 149 calories.

Other nutrients in Greek yogurt include:

  • calcium
  • vitamin B12
  • zinc
  • potassium
  • phosphorus

Certain types contain probiotics like Bifidobacteria, which support digestion. To ensure your yogurt contains probiotics, look for the phrase “contains live and active cultures” on the label.

If you prefer an even creamier, higher protein product, Icelandic yogurt — known as skyr — is another great option.

Eating Greek yogurt with berries and other fruits may add to its prebiotic or probiotic properties. Topping with dried fruit, oatmeal, or nuts can add texture, fiber, and other nutrients.

SUMMARY

Greek yogurt is not only high in protein and low in calories, but certain types are also high in probiotics, which support gut health.

3. Coffee

Coffee contains caffeine, a molecule that promotes alertness, improves mood, and increases physical and mental performance.

It also may also contain a range of polyphenols, compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies suggest that it’s safe for most adults to drink up to 3 cups (710 ml) of coffee per day — or up to 400 mg of caffeine.

During pregnancy, people should consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, as caffeine may increase the risk of complications.

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Drink your coffee black or with dairy or plant-based milk. Try to avoid sugar or use it sparingly, as too much sugar is linked to health risks.

SUMMARY

The caffeine in coffee promotes alertness and enhances physical and mental performance.

4. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is made from rolled or steel-cut oats. It contains a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which can help lower cholesterol and glucose levels, and also has antioxidant and probiotic properties.

Because of the way the body processes oats, they will also leave you feeling full for longer, reducing the temptation to snack mid-morning.

Oats also provide:

  • iron
  • B vitamins
  • manganese
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • selenium

In addition, they contain around 10 grams (g) of protein per cup (81 g) of dry oats. To boost the protein content, make oatmeal with milk instead of water, mix in some protein powder, or serve it with a side of eggs.

Alternatively, mix raw oats with dried fruit nuts, seeds, coconut, and other ingredients for a homemade muesli.

Oats are suitable for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, but you should choose oats that have been certified gluten-free due to a risk of cross-contamination.

SUMMARY

Oatmeal is rich in beta-glucan, a type of fiber that may lower cholesterol levels and increase feelings of fullness. It also contains many vitamins and minerals.

5. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a good source of fiber.

One ounce (28 grams) of dried chia seeds provides close to 10 g of fiber.

This fiber is also soluble, which means it absorbs water and increases the volume of food moving through your digestive tract, making you feel fuller for longer.

The nutrients in chia seeds may also help manage glucose levels, lower cholesterol, and prevent inflammation, among other benefits.

Chia seeds aren’t high in protein, but combining them with Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or a protein shake can boost your protein intake.

6. Berries

Berries — including blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries — are delicious and packed with antioxidants.

They provide a sweet treat that tends to be high in fiber and low in calories.

Berries also offer antioxidants called anthocyanins, which provide the characteristic blue, purple, and red colors of berries. A diet high in anthocyanins may help protect against inflammation, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Add berries to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, chia pudding, or a fruit smoothie for a tasty breakfast.

SUMMARY

Berries are high in fiber and low in calories. They’re also rich in antioxidants that may decrease your risk of disease.

7. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is a high protein breakfast item, providing 24 g of protein per cup (220 g). For this reason, it is also filling. One 2015 study found cottage cheese to be as satisfying as eggs.

Cottage cheese is low in calories, providing only 180 calories per cup (220 g). This means it may support weight loss without leaving you feeling hungry.

You can eat cottage cheese with many other nutritious foods, such as berries, peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers, chia seeds, flaxseeds, or granola.

SUMMARY

Cottage cheese is high in protein, which may help keep you full and reduce hunger. Common breakfast toppings include fresh fruit, veggies, seeds, and granola.

8. Whole grain toast

Whole grain toast is high in fiber and complex carbs. These digest slowly, help you feel full for longer, and are less likely to raise blood sugar levels than breads or pastries made with white flour.

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You can pair whole wheat toast with many foods, including:

  • mashed egg and tomato
  • avocado and chili flakes
  • unsweetened, whole peanut butter and banana
  • cottage cheese and strawberries
  • sliced figs and honey
  • tuna
  • sliced turkey or chicken
  • baked beans

For extra fiber and protein, try sprouted grain bread, 2 slices of which provide around 8 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein.

SUMMARY

Whole wheat toast is a good source of fiber. Plus, you can top it with a wide variety of nutritious spreads.

9. Nuts

Nuts of all types provide magnesium, potassium, heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and antioxidants.

Their protein, fat, and fiber content also means they can promote fullness and may help in weight management.

A 2022 review concluded that, unless you have a nut allergy, eating a handful of nuts and seeds per day may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health conditions.

Too many nuts could lead to weight gain, however, as they tend to be high in calories. It’s also best to use plain nuts without added salt, sugar, or oil, as these ingredients may be detrimental to health.

Topping Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal with a spoonful or two of chopped nuts is a great way to increase your breakfast’s nutritional value.

SUMMARY

Nuts are a filling, nutrient-dense food that may help reduce heart disease risk and promote brain health.

10. Green tea

Green tea is a soothing drink to get you going in the morning. It contains caffeine, but only about half the amount in coffee.

It also contains L-theanine, a compound that promotes a calming effect and may reduce the “jitters” linked to caffeine intake. It may also improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Finally, green tea provides epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that may help protect against neurological disorders, such as dementia, and cell death.

SUMMARY

Green tea contains caffeine, as well as an antioxidant called EGCG, which is tied to a reduced risk of cognitive decline.

11. Protein shakes or smoothies

Smoothies are another great breakfast option. Blend water, dairy or non-dairy milk with nuts, bananas, frozen berries, or other fruits or vegetables for a tasty start to the day.

Adding protein powder can boost the protein content. This smoothie-protein shake combination can promote fullness and reduce hunger while providing a tasty and nutritionally balanced breakfast.

If you work out early in the morning, this may be a better option after exercise than a heavy breakfast.

SUMMARY

It’s easy to whip up a protein shake or smoothie in a few minutes and take it on the go. Plus, this simple breakfast makes a great post-workout option.

12. Fruit

Fruits are a light breakfast option, and some whole fruits can make an easy snack for your commute.

All fruits are relatively low in calories and contain fiber, a range of vitamins, minerals, and simple sugars. The fiber in fruit helps slow your body’s absorption of its sugars, giving you a steady source of energy.

Other fruits — such as bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, papaya, and mango — are high in potassium.

Many fruits — including oranges, guava, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, acerola cherries, and lychee — are high in vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and plays a key role in skin health.

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Fruits also provide an array of polyphenol compounds and antioxidants, depending on their color. For instance, guava is high in lycopene, while purple plums contain anthocyanins. Eating a range of fruits of various colors can help boost your intake of a range of antioxidants.

Consuming fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, obesity, and many other health conditions.

Whole fruit is higher in fiber than fruit juice, and some commercial fruit juices have added sugar. For this reason, it’s best to eat whole fruit when possible.

For a balanced breakfast, pair fruit with high-protein foods, such as eggs, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese.

SUMMARY

Eating a variety of fruits provides you with different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. What’s more, most fruits contain high amounts of fiber that may promote fullness and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Frequently asked questions

What are healthy foods to eat for breakfast?

Good choices for breakfast foods will be ones that fill you up, so you don’t get hungry again for a while, and they are nutrient-dense. Try whole fruits, eggs, wholemeal toast, nuts, and smoothies for a tasty and satisfying start to the day.

What is the best breakfast for losing belly fat?

Eating foods that are high in protein, fiber, or both can leave you feeling full for longer, making you less likely to snack on unhealthy options during the morning.

High protein options include cottage cheese, yogurt, and eggs. Pair these with nutritious, high-fiber foods such as wholemeal bread, oats, and fruit.

To drink, opt for water, green tea, or coffee without added sugar or cream.

What are 5 healthy breakfast combinations?

Five healthy breakfast combinations include:

  1. An omelet with sauteed vegetables, such as red peppers, broccoli, or mushrooms
  2. Greek yogurt with berries, nuts, and seeds
  3. Steel-cut oatmeal with cut apple, cinnamon, and protein powder
  4. Whole grain toast with avocado and chili flakes or with peanut butter and banana
  5. A smoothie made from banana, protein powder, berries, spinach, and chia seeds

Which foods should I avoid for breakfast?

Foods to steer clear of include those that are high in calories but low in nutrients and fiber. These include cereals, pastries, and white toast that are made from white flour and have added sugar. They are high in calories and unlikely to leave you feeling full for long.

Other highly processed foods, such as sausages and bacon, are high in fat and can be hard to digest.

Commercially prepared juices often have added sugar. Instead, make your own juice or eat whole fruit.

Conclusion

A nutritious breakfast can give you a good start to the day and may help prevent snacking and weight gain.

The best choices to fill you up and boost your overall health will be high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Many nutritious, healthy foods and drinks are also easy to prepare in the morning, for instance, whole grain toast, eggs, green tea, coffee, and protein shakes. If you don’t have time for breakfast, some options — such as fruit — you can eat on the go.

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