I am a big fan of starting the day off right. It sets us up for the 10-12 hours that follow, prepared to succeed! The rule in my house is a bit extreme for most standards: No Sugar for Breakfast. That typically means, 0 grams, unless it’s from whole fruits. It’s extremely hard to find cereals with 0 grams that my kids enjoy, so I do give a tiny bit of room on the cereal and allow up to 6 grams of sugar. Otherwise, sweetening is allowed with whole fruits.
Note about honey: I used to allow it because I thought it was an all natural sweetener, but then I read about it and learned, your body uses it exactly like it uses table sugar. Half of it goes into your liver and turns into fat. So, we skip the honey and the maple syrup.
The term “healthy breakfast” can certainly be a relative term. To clarify, my opinion of a healthy breakfast is:
- sugar-free or very low in sugar
- low in unhealthy saturated fats
- high in slow burning carbohydrates
- Protein is good, but not mandatory
- high in vitamins and minerals
- balanced and tasty
If sugar addiction is an issue, as it was in my house, use a little honey and slowly back off of it. It is less sweet than table or brown sugars and it will be easier to ween off of.
A Word About Ingredients
With each processed item I have listed, look for products that have the least amount of processing and no sugar added. Read the labels carefully, it’s really easy to use a product with unhealthy additives without even realizing it!
Look for breads, for instance, without high fructose corn syrup or sugars and without hydrogenated oils; choosing those that do contain whole grain wheat or other whole grains. Completely avoid breads with enriched flours. I really like the Whole Foods Brand Breads and they have a great oat variety that is really good toasted.
Other items that I’m not brand specific on, only buy those with natural ingredients. For instance, apple butter should be without added sugars and the ingredients should be simple. Another thing to watch, is fruit spreads, choose only those made with fruits and fruit juice, no added sugars.
Check bags of frozen fruits to make sure they only contain fruits and boxes of raisins to ensure they only contain grapes.
Feel free to substitute peanut butter with the healthier alternative of almond butter and again, the ingredients should be natural and without sugars.
1. Hardboiled Egg
Hardboiled eggs are one of the easiest things to prepare ahead of time. Try this no fail method from goodlifeeats.com. We are all rushed in the morning and I look for things to grab and go. You can boil a half-dozen or so, hardboiled eggs, on Sunday night while you’re making dinner. Peel the eggs while they’re hot, since it’s so much easier and store in an airtight container for a few days. They never last long enough in my house to worry about spoiling.
Balance the meal with one of these choices:
- whole grain, whole wheat bread, lightly toasted with apple butter on top
- a small bowl of mixed frozen fruit (we like ours still frozen) and a handful of Chex or Life cereal
- Slice the egg and serve it rolled up inside a whole wheat tortilla with salsa or with fat-free greek yogurt
- an 8oz glass of green smoothie, for a great recipe, read my Power Smoothie blog post
2. Steel Cut Oatmeal
This is a serious all-star. Cook, according to package directions, a large pot of steel-cut oats on Sunday (with a little bit of salt) and put them in a tight sealing container for use during the coming week. You simply scoop a serving out of the container and into a microwave safe bowl, add one teaspoon of water and microwave on high for 30-seconds, stir and microwave for another 30-seconds. Stir well and serve with one of the following choices:
- mixed frozen berries on top with 1-cup of skim milk, eaten just like you would eat a bowl of cereal
- puree 4 ripened strawberries, stems removed and top with 1-cup of skim milk
- one handful of raisins with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and top with 1-cup of skim milk
- Slice an apple and use the apple to scoop the oatmeal
- try it plain with 1-cup of skim milk (this is actually my favorite way to eat it)
3. Peanut Butter Toast
If you choose the right bread and pair it with the right peanut butter, this is a really well-rounded breakfast. You can top it with raisins or serve with a side of fruit or leave it as is. If you don’t have a problem eating the recommended amounts of fruit in an average day, feel free to skip. We simply serve ours with a glass of skim milk.
4. Flax Waffles
We have a great store brand flax waffle (shown above) that does not contain a bunch of sugar or preservatives and is made from whole grain wheat flour. It’s a great alternative to toast and it’s easy since you pop it into the toaster.
If you have a waffle maker, here is a pretty healthy recipe that you could make ahead, freeze and pop into the toaster, just as easy.
Serve as follows:
- fresh mango and a glass of almond or soy milk
- one scrambled egg with chopped tomato on top
- covered with salsa and one half of an avocado, sliced
- covered with on wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese
- 1/2 cup of cottage cheese with pineapple on top
5. Easy Egg Burrito
This is one of my favorites since it’s balanced, portable and so delicious, it almost seems like a splurge.
Scramble one egg with either your favorite salsa or some fresh veggies (green pepper and onion) cut up and sautéed in Pam spray, just until tender.
Take one whole wheat tortilla or a corn tortilla and wrap it in moistened paper towels, enough to wrap all the way around it. Microwave for 10 seconds, flip it over and microwave for another 10 seconds.
Add one tablespoon of low-fat 2% cheddar and one tablespoon of fat-free greek yogurt to the top and roll it up.
6. Green Tea
Make a mug of your favorite green tea and have it along side one whole orange or another whole fruit and a handful of raw almonds or walnuts.
7. FAGE Total Greek Yogurt
There is another brand that I approve of, Chiobani, but I definitely prefer the FAGE because it’s ingredients list is superior without the preservatives, it’s texture is more authentic and thicker and the flavor combinations are more unique.
You can buy the small containers with the fruit on the side and it’s a great portable breakfast, but it’s pretty high in sugar. So, if possible, use 1-cup of plain fat-free (or 2% if you prefer) with a few of your favorites listed below, added on top:
- frozen mixed berries that have been thawed with their juices
- sliced, slivered or broken raw nuts – my favorite is almonds
- strawberry puree, ground flax and toasted almonds
- Post Grape Nuts Cereal adds crunch
- bran flakes cereal and toasted coconut flakes
- sliced green apple and raisins
- one scoop of pumpkin puree and cinnamon on top
- one mashed banana and a few chocolate semi sweet morsels (this is a rare treat at my house)
- low-fat, low sugar or homemade granola
- sliced banana and salted peanuts
8. No Sugar or Low Sugar Cereal
Just because we’ve grown up, doesn’t mean we have to stop eating cereal. There are tons of boxes in your grocer’s cereal isle, most of which, are junk food. BUT there are several that are pretty decent. Serve with skim milk, soy milk or almond milk. Top with a banana!
Here are a few of the favorites:
- PLAIN Cheerios
- Rice or Corn Chex
- Rice Krispies
- Quaker Whole Hearts
- Original Life
- Bran Flakes – add your own raisins
- Barbara’s Brand – look at the label
- Kashi Brand – look at the label
9. SPLURGE: Healthy Muffins
Some of us just can’t give up sugar totally and we need to feel like we’re splurging sometimes. So, I’ve found a few recipes that are relatively good that you can feel good about eating, in moderation. Bake them up over the weekend and keep in the fridge (to avoid mushiness or mold) and microwave for 10-seconds before serving. They will stay good all week. Or you can always freeze a bunch and remove the night before you want to have one.
- Healthy Harvest Breakfast Muffins from food.com – for a great alternative to sugary and fatty sweet muffins
- Healthy Breakfast Muffin from sunshineandsmile.com – for a savory and unique muffin
- Baked Eggs in Ham Cups from fitsugar.com – what a great idea! and it might be the easiest ever
- Gluten Free Blueberry Corn Muffins from lynnskitchenadventures.com – a little more sugar than I would prefer, but not bad for gluten-free
- Healthy Breakfast Muffins! from wwlp.com – interesting use of bran flakes
10. SPLURGE: Sweet Potato Pancakes
This is for a morning when it’s either a special occasion or you have some extra time and leftover baked sweet potato on hand. Whenever I bake them, I always make extra so I can make these. You could also use pumpkin. If you need to use syrup, use 100% maple syrup. Processed syrups are really bad for you. You could also use a little bit of honey mixed into a container of fat-free greek yogurt to top them.
Mix in a bowl:
1/2 of a sweet potato, peel removed, mashed
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
After the above ingredients are mixed, add 2-eggs and mix well. Then add either skim milk or fat-free buttermilk until the consistency turns into pancake batter – roughly 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
Heat a griddle or non-stick pan over medium to medium high heat. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls. It’s just like a pancake, wait until you see the holes forming around the edges and a golden brown color on the other side, before flipping.
Keep in mind, I eyeball this recipe and never measure, so if needed, add a little more flour or whatever you think is needed to make pancake consistency.