Healthy breakfasts in a hurry

Finding time to prepare breakfast can be a challenge — let alone a healthy, balanced one.

Why are experts so fond of this meal anyway?  Breakfast is more than just the fuel our body needs to start the day. Studies have shown that when we eat a healthy breakfast, we’re more likely to get the nutrients we need. Our concentration and cognitive functioning will be better, and we’ll be more productive throughout the morning. It’s no surprise breakfast initiatives are so important in schools.

What about skipping breakfast to cut calories? That strategy can backfire. If we get too hungry, we’re more likely to make poor food choices at lunchtime and overeat during the day. In fact, studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are better able to manage their weight than people who skip it. A healthy breakfast means we’ll consume less fat and cholesterol during the day too.

Okay, we know breakfast is good for us — but how can we work it into our busy schedule? We’ve got some tips to help.

Breakfast basics

While it’s okay to treat ourselves from time to time, breakfast is like any other meal: we should aim for healthy choices. Balance is important too because we need variety to make sure we get all the nutrients we need — plus some combinations like protein and fibre help us feel fuller longer.

So what does a healthy breakfast look like? Here’s what experts say we should include:

– Foods from at least three of the four food groups, including whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables and meat or meat alternatives. For instance, a bowl of oatmeal with sliced fruit and a glass of milk has you covered, or a hard cooked egg on toast and a 1/2 cup of yoghurt.

– Protein — at least 5 grams, say some sources. Eggs, cheese, lean meats, legumes (i.e. beans and lentils), Greek yoghurt, nuts and seeds offer protein without the saturated fats found in breakfast meats like sausage and bacon.

– Fibre — at least 5 grams. Fibre is found in whole grains, but you’ll find it in fruits and vegetables too. Soluble fibre like the pectin in apples can help you feel full and provide other health benefits.

– Foods that are low in sodium and added sugars. Even if you’re dodging the pastries, these additives can sneak into breads, cereals, breakfast meats and flavoured yoghurts. Experts say it pays to read labels — for instance, cereals should have no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving — and watch what you’re adding to your coffee.


Tasty tips to save time

So how can you put it all together and stay on schedule too? Try these tips:

Plan ahead. Rather than deciding each morning what to make, experts suggest deciding on breakfasts while you’re doing your weekly meal planning — especially if you’re feeding a family. That way you can grocery shop and prep accordingly, and you’re more likely to make good choices when you aren’t hungry.

Even planning tomorrow’s breakfast the night before can be a boon. For instance, while you’re chopping up fruit for dessert, cut up a little extra to save time in the morning.

Keep some staples on hand. It’s easy to mix and match when you’ve got some basics at hand like fresh or dried fruit, whole grain bread or flatbreads, multigrain crackers, single serving yoghurt or cottage cheese, nuts and whole grain cereal. These options won’t require a lot of prep or cooking time, and you’ll have healthy choices on hand for snacks too.

Prepare ahead. Muffins and breakfast bars may be the obvious choice for batch cooking, but there are other ways to prepare ahead when you have the time. For instance, hard cook a few eggs and enjoy them whole throughout the week or use them to stuff breakfast pitas. Prepare a batch of breakfast burritos for your freezer, and put yoghurt or cottage cheese in single-serving containers to grab in a hurry. (For more ideas, see 5 tasty snacks to go.)

Don’t have time to cook oatmeal everyday? Bake it instead — like this Baked Oatmeal with Apple and Cinnamon recipe which can be enjoyed cold and packed as a snack.

Other grains like millet or brown rice can be reheated and topped with skim milk and fruit. Try quinoa — it’s higher in protein than other grains and offers the all essential amino acids. (Need a recipe idea? Try Ryza Sweet Quinoa Porridge and Pear Quinoa Breakfast Bowl.)

Get more from your eggs. Got time for an omelette or scrambled eggs? Adding ingredients like chopped vegetables, spinach, grated cheddar, goat cheese and nuts can help balance this quick meal. (For instance, try a recipe like this Toasted Almond Scramble.)

Borrow from another meal. Some countries throughout Asia don’t have specific breakfast foods. Adopt their customs and try a lunch or dinner food instead. In Israel, for example, a breakfast spread includes choices like humus, tehina, pita bread, herring or sardines, vegetable salad, cheese salad (made of feta cheese, cucumbers, peppers and onion) and other fresh, seasonal produce.

Split it up. Is the mid-morning snack such a bad thing? If you’re not big on breakfast, experts recommend splitting up the meal — for instance, eat a hard boiled egg at home and then snack on some fruit and nuts mid-morning. You aren’t consuming more calories by snacking — rather, you’re dividing up the meal.


Better breakfast ideas

So what could a balanced breakfast look like? Here are some ideas:

– Porridge (oatmeal, quinoa or other hot cereal) topped with fruit and a handful of chopped nuts.

– A breakfast smoothie made with yoghurt, low-fat milk or soy milk and fruit. You can even go dairy-free, like with this Peach Mango Tango Smoothie.

– Create a parfait by layering low-fat yoghurt, sliced fruit, chopped nuts and whole grain cereal or granola.

– A whole grain flat bread topped with sliced fruit and goat cheese, or enjoy pizza for breakfast with a whole grain crust, low-fat shredded cheese and vegetables.

– Whole grain crackers with humus or tahini, plus a piece of fruit or glass of milk.

– Whole grain toast with nut butter and a piece of fresh fruit. (If you’re not a fan of peanut butter, try another nut — like this homemade Roasted Walnut Butter.)

– Whole grain crackers and orange or grapefruit segments served with a yoghurt dip. (Or pair apples and pears with your favourite nut butter.)

– Roll up scrambled eggs, grated cheese and salsa in a whole wheat tortilla. Or, try a breakfast burrito recipe like Rose’s Southwest Breakfast Burrito with Black Beans and Charred Corn.

– Whole grain pancakes or waffles topped with apple sauce and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

– Pack a healthy muffin or breakfast cookie, slice of cheese and container of fruit juice. (Need ideas? Try these Low-fat oatmeal muffins with spicy apple chutney or Oatmeal blueberry walnut muffins.)

Of course, these are just a few of the many ideas and combinations you can try for breakfast. We don’t have to aim for perfection every day — and who doesn’t like to indulge now and then? — but it’s our overall habits that can make a difference. If you have specific dietary concerns like allergies or intolerances, you may want to talk to your doctor or a dietician about which choices work best for you.

For more ideas, visit: Best Healthy Breakfast Recipes
BBC Good Food: Healthy breakfast recipes
MedicineNet: Breakfast Foods
WebMD: What’s the secret to a better breakfast?

Additional sources: Nutrition,, Health Canada,, the, U.K. National Health Services.