33 Healthier Breakfast Alternatives
It’s National School Breakfast Week (March 4–8), and even though many of us are long past gym class and snack time, there’s still a lot to learn about how to start the day right. While many from-scratch healthy breakfasts are pretty healthy, quick convenience foods (we’re looking at you, toaster strudel!) are loaded with sugar — not good  . Studies suggest that a nutritious, fiber-rich breakfast can help people maintain a healthy weight . Pick healthy breakfast options like whole grains, low-fat dairy, eggs, and fresh fruit and vegetables to stay full all morning long. To make busy mornings a bit easier (and healthier!), we’ve compiled some healthy recipes to eat instead of popular pre-packaged breakfast foods. Here’s to a more energetic, healthier, and happier morning!
If your go to breakfast is a…
Flavored Instant Oatmeal Packet
A warm bowl of oatmeal is one of the best ways to start the day, but many prepackaged instant packets have way more sugar than whole grains! Instead of ripping open a paper packet, try one of these homemade oatmeal recipes with fresh fruit for a touch of sweetness and plenty of fiber to keep you full all morning long.
Pre-baked toaster pastries aren’t exactly the healthiest morning option. Between the sugar, processed ingredients, and all kinds of preservatives and chemicals, most nutritionists recommend avoiding these unnatural bad boys. Need a sweet fix in the morning? Try a from-scratch, whole-wheat pastry or another fruity treat for a more filling, nutritious breakfast.
Nibbling on a small, slightly sweet baked good is fine and dandy, but many bakery muffins are huge and loaded with sugar and fat — to the tune of up to 630 calories and 30 grams of fat! Holy dangerfood, Batman! Instead of grabbing a mini-cake for breakfast, bake a batch of these healthier, fruit- and vegetable-based muffins for those on-the-go mornings.
Fast Food Egg Sandwich
They might have more protein than doughnuts, but fast food egg sandwiches are full of fat and sodium, especially when they include salty, fried meats like ham or bacon. Ditch the unpronounceable ingredients and make your own egg dish at home with plenty of fresh veggies for fiber and vitamins. Need it “to go”? Make a batch ahead of time and slip one serving into a whole-wheat pita pocket or English muffin for a speedy breakfast sandwich.
Photo by Kelli Dunn
Chubby police officers munching on doughnuts are a cliché for a reason — anything that’s deep-fried and smothered in neon-pink icing probably isn’t super healthy. Even worse, these sugary treats are full of empty calories, so chowing down on a doughnut in the morning likely won’t keep you full past your commute. Instead of hitting the drive-through, make a homemade version with whole-wheat flour, fiber-rich fresh fruit, and not too much sugar.
Photo by Kelli Dunn
More than half of breakfast cereals marketed to kids have more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies. While some cereals have more whole grains than grams of sugar, these nutritional winners are few and far between. Avoid the cereal-aisle confusion and make your own granola or even chocolate-flavored cereal (it’s much healthier than it sounds!). Add whole grains (oats, quinoa, bran) for fiber, nuts for healthy fats, and coconut and dried fruit for a bit of sweetness and plenty of flavor.
Photo by Kelli Dunn
Anyone who’s stepped foot in a mall has likely been drawn to the siren smell of Cinnabon. Beware! A single roll at a fast-food stand can pack nearly 900 calories — almost half an average adult’s suggested daily caloric intake. Steer clear of the buns, but there’s no reason to write off cinnamon altogether (in fact, we love it!). Combine this versatile spice with whole grains for a delicious and satiating breakfast.
Low-fat yogurt is a great way to get some protein and calcium in the morning, but many fruity varieties (even non-fat options) have more than 10 grams of sugar. Skip the sugar and use plain yogurt (extra points for subbing in Greek yogurt!) to control the amount of sweetness in every spoonful. Instead of a flavored cup of yogurt, try a protein-packed smoothie, fresh fruit compote parfait, or plain yogurt mixed with nuts and dried fruit.
Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft
Granola has become a code word for “healthy” on grocery store shelves, but many bars are glorified candy bars with tons of high fructose corn syrup and other highly processed ingredients. Luckily, going DIY is cheaper and healthier, not to mention super-easy. Instead of relying on sugar for flavor, these versions are chock full of protein-rich nuts, oats, and delicious dried fruit.
Grab a cup of Joe at the coffee shop, but pass over the bakery case to stay healthy in the morning. Croissants, Danishes, and scones are full of butter, sugar, and woefully deficient in protein and filling whole grains. Regardless, many people prefer something sweet to dunk in that morning cappuccino. Try one of these healthier options to cut down on sugar and stay fuller longer.
To be honest, pancakes and waffles aren’t so unhealthy. Most recipes don’t have too much sugar, and it’s even possible to find whole-wheat frozen varieties. But there’s always room from improvement — adding fruit, protein powder, and whole grains can take these breakfast staples from “meh” to magnificent.
How do you make your breakfast as healthy as possible? What’s your go-to morning meal? Share in the comments below or tweet the author @SophBreene.
- Effects of serving high-sugar cereals on children’s breakfast-eating behavior. Harris JL, Schwartz MB, Ustjanauskas A, Ohri-Vachaspati P, Brownell KD. Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. Pediatrics. 2011 January; 127(1):71-6.⤴
- Breakfast frequency and quality may affect glycemia and appetite in adults and children. Pereira MA, Erickson E, McKee P, Schrankler K, Raatz SK, Lytle LA, Pellegrini AD. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011 January; 141(1):163-168.⤴
- Long-term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the National Weight Control Registry. Wyatt HR, Grunwald GK, Mosca CL, Klem ML, Wing RR, Hill JO. University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO, USA. Obesity Research. 2002 February; 10(2):78-82.⤴