A nutritious and balanced breakfast can be difficult to incorporate into an everyday routine. 25% of all Americans tend to skip the morning meal, and many say that it’s due to not having enough time to eat it in the first place.1 Instead, you might grab the nearest sugary granola bar on your way out the door or stop at a coffee shop for an even sweeter latte. Parents might find themselves gnawing on their toddler’s leftover waffle and pieces of fruit. If you’re trying to lose weight, breakfast might not seem appealing to begin with. The fear of overeating, eating the wrong thing, or perhaps not knowing what to eat might lead you to skip the meal entirely, causing you to overeat later in the day when hunger becomes too strong to ignore.
With lifestyle trends like intermittent fasting that shy away from regular meals throughout the day growing more popular, breakfast’s relevancy is under fire. However, most nutritionists, dieticians, and food experts agree that breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. To help you figure out how to re-center this meal in your day, we’ll show you the health benefits of breakfast, what a good breakfast looks like, and healthy recipe ideas with different focuses so you can find options no matter your dietary needs.
Decades of research link having a healthy breakfast to better health outcomes. Even if you’re not hungry, experts still recommend having something light instead of skipping, delaying, or grazing. Establishing a pattern of regular and healthy meals contributes to healthy metabolic processes, allowing us to have a steady flow of energy throughout the day. Eating first thing in the morning can also increase satiety, meaning you’ll be less hungry (and less likely to snack or graze) later.2
Regularly eating breakfast can lower your average blood sugar (HbA1c), stabilize your daily glucose levels, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. In the short term, eating breakfast is associated with more mental clarity, improved memory, and attention because you have the energy necessary to focus well.3 Despite sounding like a paradox, eating a healthy breakfast is also important for satiety and reduced snacking, which can lead to healthy weight loss. One study found that eating breakfasts high in protein, such as a breakfast with eggs, led to reduced evening and night-time snacking, particularly high-fat snacks like chips.4
Not eating breakfast consistently can keep you from being in the best shape possible. Those who skip breakfast 4-5 days out of the week have a 55% increased risk of developing metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes.1 Sporadic or irregular breakfast consumption is also related to an increased risk of stroke and cerebral hemorrhage.3 A study from 2021 even found that skipping breakfast once a week significantly decreased any health benefits you’d get from regular morning meals.2
If possible, try to eat within two hours of waking up. Your body has spent a prolonged amount of time at rest and needs the energy boost to get things going and keep them running throughout the day. Your body is the most sensitive to insulin in the morning, meaning it metabolizes blood sugar much more effectively than at any other time. Take advantage of this by eating a breakfast high in protein, fiber, or both. A high-protein breakfast can lead to weight loss, improved blood sugar, increased satiety, and lower blood pressure,4 and a high-fiber breakfast is beneficial for a healthy gut microbiome and can lower cholesterol.1
Though they are fast, tasty, and convenient, breakfast foods such as sugary cereals, toaster pastries, and even coffee can impact our health negatively, leading to problems like insulin resistance and poor cardiovascular health. With some creativity, breakfast can be delicious and nutritious, regardless of your dietary preferences.
Protein works exceptionally well in breakfasts because it helps stabilize blood sugar levels and is slow to digest, giving you a steady stream of energy throughout the day. Unlike refined carbohydrates such as cereal and white bread, protein won’t spike your blood sugar, saving you from the otherwise inevitable mid-day crash. Because protein is filling, it helps with weight loss and management, reduces snack cravings, and maintains muscle mass.5
If you’re vegan or want to limit your animal-based proteins, there still are plenty of options available: try using tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, and even plant-based sausage in place of animal protein. Or, you can use a vegan protein powder (such as pea protein) alongside a smaller meal. Read on for some ideas for high-protein breakfasts.
This delicious recipe from Eat This, Not That is a powerhouse of protein and nutrients. With 19 grams of protein, this is an easy, tasty way to fuel your body in the morning and keep it going throughout the day.
Not in the mood for this sandwich? Here are some other healthy high-protein breakfast recipes to try:
Breakfasts high in fiber have been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve digestion, promote gut health, and even lower the risk of colon cancer. A 2021 study even found that people who eat breakfast and at least 25g of fiber daily are 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than their non-fibrous or breakfast-skipping peers.7 A high-fiber breakfast might include foods such as:
No matter where you get your fiber, though, it’s important to eat some throughout your day. Below, you’ll find a few recipes to give you some high-fiber breakfast ideas.
These apple flax seed muffins from Budget Bytes only take 30 minutes from prep to table, are low in calories, high in fiber, and delicious to boot. With additions of fiber-filled whole grain flour and apples, omega-3-rich flax seeds, and antioxidant-rich cinnamon, the recipe provides healthy ingredients that cover many dietary gaps. We suggest making these over the weekend to have breakfast ready to go for the rest of the week.
If muffins aren’t your thing, consider these other high-fiber breakfasts that will keep you full and coming back for more.
Even if you’re not particularly hungry in the mornings, your body still needs fuel to keep up with your to-do list. Consider still having a light breakfast to fuel your body, especially if you’re prone to drinking coffee before having your first meal. A study from the University of Bath found that even just one cup of strong black coffee consumed on an empty stomach can impair insulin response and lead to insulin resistance if done regularly.8
Despite how uncomfortable it may feel at first, eating a light breakfast alongside your cup of coffee (or before it) will help your long-term health. The healthy recipes below pair well with your coffee and won’t leave you feeling sluggish, providing the energy and nutrition necessary to start your day off right.
Whether you’re pressed for time or want something easy and small to eat, these breakfast bites from The Spruce Eats contain impressively heart-healthy potatoes, eggs, cheese, and calorie-low but nutrient-rich spinach. They take a bit of time to make, but if you plan and make them over the weekend, you can freeze these bites so that you have breakfast on hand throughout the week.
If cheesy eggs and potatoes are outside of your dietary habits, there are plenty of other light breakfast options that can still give you a well-rounded start to your day.
It’s hard to underestimate the benefits of regularly eating a healthy breakfast. From improving metabolic health to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, eating a nutritious breakfast does a lot to keep your body running well. Remember to avoid or, at the very least, limit sugary cereals and processed meats and pair your morning coffee with a meal with protein and fiber, no matter how light. Investing in your metabolic and cardiovascular health can be as easy as simply eating a nutritious breakfast, and you’ll feel the benefits almost immediately.
Innerbody uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Is Breakfast Important? (2022, June 29). Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-you-really-need-to-eat-breakfast/
Li, Z. H., Xu, L., Dai, R., Li, L. J., & Wang, H. J. (2021). Effects of regular breakfast habits on metabolic and cardiovascular diseases: A protocol for systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 100(44), e27629. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000027629
Gibney, M., Barr, S., Bellisle, F., Drewnowski, A., Fagt, S., Livingstone, B., Masset, G., Varela Moreiras, G., Moreno, L., Smith, J., Vieux, F., Thielecke, F., & Hopkins, S. (2018). Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative. Nutrients, 10(5), 559. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050559
Leidy, H. J., Ortinau, L. C., Douglas, S. M., & Hoertel, H. A. (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(4), 677–688. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.053116
5 Health Benefits of a High-Protein Breakfast, According to a Nutrition Coach. (2022, May 6). Clean Eating. https://www.cleaneatingmag.com/clean-diet/5-health-benefits-of-a-high-protein-breakfast/
International Food Information Council Foundation. (2012). Wake up to the benefits of breakfast. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/johns-hopkins-childrens-center/what-we-treat/specialties/nephrology/programs-centers/obesity-hypertension-clinic/_documents/eating-right-wake-up-benefits-breakfast2.pdf
King, D. E., & Xiang, J. (2021, July). A relationship between mortality and eating breakfast and fiber. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 34(4), 678-687. https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.2021.04.210044
Drink coffee after breakfast, not before, for better metabolic control. (n.d.). ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201002091053.htm