By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE
Despite what you may have heard, eating breakfast isn’t necessary for everyone.
In fact, skipping breakfast may be better than eating many unhealthy breakfast foods.
You can read about the worst breakfast foods here: 10 Worst Foods to Eat in the Morning.
However, eating the right foods can give you energy and prevent you from eating too much during the rest of the day.
Here are the 12 best foods you can eat in the morning.
Eggs are undeniably healthy and delicious.
In one study, men ate either eggs or a bagel for breakfast. They felt more satisfied after the eggs, and took in fewer calories during the rest of the day (3).
Eggs are also one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient that’s very important for brain and liver health (6).
They’re also high in cholesterol, but don’t raise cholesterol levels in most people. In fact, eating whole eggs may reduce heart disease risk by modifying the shape of LDL, increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity (7, 8).
What’s more, three large eggs provide about 20 grams of high-quality protein.
Eggs are also very versatile. For example, hard-boiled eggs make a great portable breakfast that can be prepared ahead of time.
Bottom Line: Eggs are high in protein and several important nutrients. They also promote fullness and help you eat fewer calories.
2. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is creamy, delicious and nourishing.
It is made by straining whey and other liquid from the curds, which produces a creamier yogurt that is more concentrated in protein.
The term “thermic effect” refers to the increase in metabolic rate that occurs after eating.
Certain types of Greek yogurt are good sources of probiotics, like Bifidobacterium, which help your gut stay healthy. To make sure your yogurt contains probiotics, look for the phrase “contains live and active cultures” on the label (14).
Try topping Greek yogurt with berries or chopped fruit in order to increase the meal’s vitamin, mineral and fiber content.
Bottom Line: Greek yogurt is high in protein, helps reduce appetite and may aid with weight loss. Certain types also contain beneficial probiotics.
Coffee is an amazing beverage to start your day.
It’s high in caffeine, which has been shown to improve mood, alertness and mental performance.
An analysis of 41 studies found the most effective dose to be 38–400 mg per day, to maximize the benefits of caffeine while reducing side effects (17).
This is roughly 0.3 to 4 cups of coffee per day, depending on how strong it is (17).
Bottom Line: Having a cup of coffee is a great way to start your day. The caffeine in it may improve mood, mental performance and metabolism.
Oatmeal is the best breakfast choice for cereal lovers.
In addition, beta-glucan is a viscous fiber that promotes feelings of fullness. One study found that beta-glucan increased levels of the “fullness hormone” PYY and that higher doses had the greatest effect (27, 28, 29).
Although oats don’t contain gluten, they’re often processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains. Researchers have found that most oats are indeed contaminated with other grains, especially barley (33).
Therefore, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should choose oats that have been certified as gluten-free.
One cup of cooked oatmeal contains about 6 grams of protein, which won’t provide the benefits of a higher-protein breakfast. Oatmeal made from steel-cut oats provides about twice as much protein.
To boost the protein content of an oatmeal breakfast, prepare it with milk instead of water or serve it with a side of eggs or a piece of cheese.
Bottom Line: Oatmeal is rich in beta-glucan fiber, which lowers cholesterol and increases feelings of fullness. It also contains antioxidants.
5. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are extremely nutritious.
They’re also one of the best sources of fiber around.
In fact, one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds provides an impressive 11 grams of fiber per serving.
What’s more, a portion of the fiber in chia seeds is viscous fiber.
In a small study, people with diabetes who ate chia seeds for 12 weeks experienced reduced hunger, along with improvements in blood sugar and blood pressure (36).
In another study of people with diabetes, chia seeds decreased the inflammatory marker CRP by 40%. Elevated CRP is a major risk factor for heart disease (40).
However, one serving of chia seeds provides about 4 grams of protein, which may not be optimal for breakfast.
Here is a recipe for chia pudding that contains more than 25 grams of protein.
High-Protein Chia Seed Pudding
- 1 ounce (28 grams) dried chia seeds.
- 1 scoop whey protein powder.
- 1 cup coconut milk or almond milk.
- Half a cup of berries.
- Stevia or other sweetener to taste, if desired.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Bottom Line: Chia seeds are high in fiber and packed with antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and decrease disease risk.
Berries are delicious and packed with antioxidants.
Popular types include blueberries, raspberries,strawberries and blackberries.
They’re lower in sugar than most fruits, yet higher in fiber. In fact, raspberries and blackberries each provide an impressive 8 grams of fiber per cup.
What’s more, one cup of berries contains only 50–85 calories, depending on the type.
A good way to add berries to your breakfast is to eat them with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.
Bottom Line: Berries are high in fiber and low in calories. They’re also rich in antioxidants that may decrease the risk of disease.
Nuts are tasty, satisfying and nutritious.
Even though nuts are high in calories, studies suggest you do not absorb all of the fat in them.
This may be true for some other nuts as well, although at this time only almonds have been tested.
All types of nuts are also high in magnesium, potassium and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
In addition, Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium. In fact, just two Brazil nuts provide more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of selenium (59).
Nuts are also beneficial for people with diabetes. In one study, replacing a portion of carbs with 2 ounces of nuts led to reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels (60).
Topping Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts provides crunch and flavor, while increasing your breakfast’s nutritional value.
Bottom Line: Nuts are filling, nutrient-dense foods that may help reduce heart disease risk and improve blood sugar control.
8. Green Tea
Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
Green tea provides only 35–70 mg of caffeine per cup, which is about half the amount in coffee.
Green tea may be especially helpful against diabetes. A review of 17 studies found that green tea drinkers had reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels (61).
Bottom Line: Green tea has many health benefits. It contains an antioxidant called EGCG, which has benefits for the brain and nervous system.
9. Protein Shake
Another great way to start your day is with a protein shake or smoothie.
Several types of protein powder can be used, including whey, egg, soy and pea protein.
However, whey protein is absorbed the most quickly by your body (66).
One study compared four high-protein meals. They whey protein meal reduced appetite the most and led to the lowest calorie intake at the next meal (69).
Regardless of the type of protein powder used, a high-protein shake can be satisfying and filling. Add fruit, greens, nut butter or seeds to provide fiber and antioxidants.
Bottom Line: A protein shake or smoothie is a great high-protein breakfast choice that promotes fullness and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
Fruit can be a delicious part of a nourishing breakfast.
All types of fruit contain vitamins, potassium, fiber and are relatively low in calories. One cup of chopped fruit provides about 80–130 calories, depending on the type.
Citrus fruits are also very high in vitamin C. In fact, a large orange provides more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
Fruit is also very filling, due to its high fiber and water content (73).
Pair fruit with eggs, cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for a well-balanced breakfast that will sustain you for hours.
Bottom Line: Fruit is a good source of vitamins, potassium and fiber. It also contains antioxidants that can help reduce disease risk.
Flaxseeds are incredibly healthy.
Two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds contain 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.
Try adding flaxseeds to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or a smoothie to increase the fiber and antioxidant content of your breakfast.
Just make sure to choose ground flaxseeds or grind them yourself, because whole flaxseeds can’t be absorbed by your gut and will simply pass through your system.
Bottom Line: Flaxseeds are high in viscous fiber, which helps you feel full. They may also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels.
12. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a fantastic breakfast food.
In fact, cottage cheese has been shown to be as filling and satisfying as eggs (79).
Full-fat cottage cheese also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may promote weight loss (12).
1 cup of cottage cheese provides an impressive 25 grams of protein. Add berries and ground flaxseeds or chopped nuts to make it even more nutritious.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is high in protein, which promotes feelings of fullness and increases your metabolic rate.
Take Home Message
Whether or not you eat breakfast is a personal choice.
If you do eat in the morning, make sure to start your day off right by fueling your body with these healthy and nutrient-dense foods.
This article originally appeared on Authority Nutrition.