Breakfast: How to Eat What You Want, and Add What You Need
Hello, and welcome to my small January series where I show you how to make super nutritious meals out of the favorite foods you’re already eating. Today, I’m ‘dishing’ some tips for how to eat what you want for breakfast, while adding what you need.
Did you see what I did there? Dietitians love food puns!… It’s okay if you didn’t laugh.
Anyways, here’s how this works. I’m going to list a few common breakfast foods that we all LOVE, but often consider “unhealthy” or “not the best” for whatever reason. These foods get a bad rap and you’ve probably been told that you should only eat them as a treat. Maybe you feel guilty when you eat them (btw, we’re done with that), or you feel like you need to “make up for it” by eating suuuuuper healthy the rest of the day, week, month, whatever. Or you just feel like you could do better.
Avoiding your favorite foods just makes eating HARD, right? Unless the food makes you physically ill (no magic cures for any allergies here), I think it makes a lot more sense to just eat what you want and add to it!
If you’re looking for ways to eat more protein at breakfast, eat more fiber, eat more fruit and/or veggies, or just get more balance, this is for you.
(*let’s go ahead and group waffles and French toast in here)
Reasons “they” say not to eat pancakes: Too much sugar, low protein, high-calorie, too many carbs.
Reasons I say TO eat pancakes: Delicious, good for the soul.
Okay but for real, pancakes do pack a lot of sugar and calories and not a lot of vitamins and minerals and stuff to keep you full. But that’s OKAY because we can balance it out. It’s so easy. Here are some hacks to add some extra nutrition to pancakes:
This is the easiest route to “bulk up” your pancakes. My go-to combo is a DIY blueberry sauce made by microwaving blueberries and then mashing them up, plus a heavy sprinkle of hemp seeds. That alone adds a little fiber and some protein (hemp seeds provide 10 grams per 3 tablespoons!). Plus hemp seeds are a great source of polyunsaturated fat.
Some other easy toppings include chia seeds, fresh fruit (sliced banana is my fave), peanut butter (any nut butter), coconut flakes, chia jam, or Greek yogurt.
It’s really easy to throw some extras into your batter! Think protein powder, flaxseed, or fruit. Just pay attention to the dry:liquid ratio to keep the batter a good consistency! You can also experiment with things like pumpkin or sweet potato puree, mashed banana, or coconut oil.
If dumping some cereal into a bowl with milk is the most work you’re willing to do in the morning, no problemo. Even if it’s Lucky Charms.
Okay yes I should tell you that choosing a high fiber cereal with low added sugar (not Lucky Charms) is the best choice. But it’s not about being perfect. Let’s see how we can make ANY cereal more nutritious.
Yep…serve that cereal parfait style, over a bowl of thick, creamy Greek yogurt (or a dairy-free alternative if needed). One cup of yogurt gives you a little more protein than milk (10g vs 6g), and yogurt is more of a blank slate for even more nutrient-dense toppings.
Remember the “nature’s cereal” trend, where people added frozen berries to coconut water and ice? If that was an okay thing to do, why not add berries to ACTUAL cereal? Use frozen or dried for some crunch, or stick with fresh. Your choice.
High Fiber Cereal
Did you ever mix cereals as a kid? This is a fun and easy way to bulk up those Lucky Charms. Just mix in some bran flakes or muesli to mix up the flavor and texture, while adding a little fiber (but not TOO much fiber, because that’s a thing).
Super filling and super nutrient dense.
High Protein Milk
An easy way to eat more protein at breakfast. Regular cow’s milk is already a decent source of protein (8 grams per cup). If you can’t do lactose, try Fairlife (13 grams per cup) or soy milk (7 grams per cup).
Yes…I’ve seen some wellness influencers saying we should avoid oatmeal. *screams into pillow*
Here’s what I love about oatmeal: It’s warm and cozy. It’s a blank slate for any flavor you want, sweet OR savory. It’s high in fiber! It’s easy to make and you can prep the night before. Here are some things to add:
Protein oats! Just keep in mind that you’ll probably need a little extra liquid to keep your oats from drying out.
I know it sounds weird, but I promise it’s not! Just stir it into your hot cereal and it will cook and mix beautifully. Plus each white adds around 4 grams of protein!
In case you haven’t noticed, seeds are the easiest thing to add to literally anything. Not even kidding, every time I feel like my kids’ meals could use something, I throw some seeds in. And I always do this with oatmeal.
If oats have always seemed boring, try stirring in a (heaping) spoonful of nut butter. And if you struggle with getting hungry long before lunchtime, the extra fat is going to help a lot.
You don’t even have to keep fresh fruit on hand for this. Toss in some frozen berries and they’ll thaw in the oatmeal almost instantly. Plus they get a little jammy, which is *chef’s kiss*
Feeling full isn’t just about trying to eat more protein at breakfast. Fat helps too! Stir coconut oil into your oats after they’re cooked for a creamy texture, slight coconut flavor (top with coconut flakes for more!), and fat.
This may sound like crazy talk, but you trust me right?! Savory oatmeal will change your life, and it opens the door for another opportunity to get your veggies in. Cook your oats in broth, add a little butter, and add veggies like spinach and mushrooms. You can even top with cheese and or a fried egg (!!)
First, choose a yogurt that you actually like. Plain Greek yogurt always gets a gold star but if it’s too tart for you, that’s okay. The praise for Greek yogurt comes from it’s high protein content, and plain = no added sugar. Simply choosing a lower sugar yogurt most of the time is good enough for me.
I will say this – plain yogurt allows you to control how much sweetener you add! I love some plain Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of peanut butter and drizzle of honey.
If Greek isn’t your thing, you can always add protein to another kind with so many of the toppings we’ve already talked about.
Toast or Bagel
I went through a phase when I ate cinnamon toast every single day for breakfast. And it never failed that I was hungry before I even got to work. There’s nothing wrong with cinnamon toast (I mean it is SO GOOD), but if you’re like me, a couple slices won’t be enough to sustain you. Here are some filling and nutrient-packed toppings you can easily throw on toast or a bagel:
Smashed chickpeas (a yummy way to eat more plant-based protein at breakfast!)
Turning it into a sandwich is never a bad idea.
Eggs are little nutrition superheroes all by themselves, but I’m not one to eat a plain egg. Here are some of my favorite add-ins, for nutrition and flavor:
Pico de gallo
Annnd now I’m craving an omelette with all of the above.
I get it. Cooking breakfast just isn’t happening for some of us. If you’re the grab-n-go kind of person, I’ve got you. First of all, DO NOT feel bad about it. But if you find yourself wanting more in the morning, here are some things to try:
Choose a granola bar high in fiber (>3g) and/or protein (>5g)
Crumble your fave granola bar over yogurt
Make your own! I promise this is easy and you can add tons of good stuff
Pair with another grab-and-go item like a boiled egg or drinkable yogurt (or kefir)
All of you breakfast skippers out there thought you were going to sneak out of here, but I’m looking at YOU. Your homework is to take what you need from this. Maybe experiment with eating breakfast using some inspo from this list and see how you feel.
Remember: Add what YOU need
I’m not telling you that you need to eat more protein at breakfast, eat more fiber, or get more veggies. I’m also NOT saying you need to stress over “adding nutrition” to everything you eat.
I do know the value of a hearty, nutritious breakfast…and I also know the struggle of making it happen. Breakfast often gets the least amount of MY attention, even if it is my favorite meal of the day.
I’m just saying, I get it. These are just ideas!
And if you’re feeling the pressure to cut out your favorite breakfast foods this New Year, screw that. Give your body more of what it needs, while still enjoying the food that bring you joy!
I hope this helps!
PS – If you want some easy, super nutritious breakfast recipes, check out Cassey’s protein cookbook!