A Healthy Lifestyle Might Start With A Balanced Breakfast After All

You've probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and there are some valid reasons why this is a common saying. Breakfast, if you're eating a healthy one that is well-balanced, can do all sorts of good things for you throughout the morning. According to WebMD, missing this important meal can mess up the normal rhythm of how your body processes both fasting and your other meals. No matter what time you choose to eat breakfast, because we know plenty of people practice intermittent fasting, this meal provides the fuel you need to get through the day.


Registered dietitian nutritionist Sharon Collison told Time, "People who don't eat enough earlier in the day may have increased hunger and increased cravings later in the day and will end up eating more." She added that "Skipping breakfast is associated with increased disease risk — not only obesity but diabetes, heart disease, and just lower dietary quality." So, let's look closer at the reasons you should be eating a healthy breakfast, and what that looks like.

What is a well-balanced breakfast?

Before we look deeper into what your healthy breakfast is going to do for you, let's get an idea of what a well-balanced breakfast actually is. According to MyPlate, a healthy and well-balanced meal consists of proteins, vegetables, fruits, low or no-fat dairy, and whole grains, nixing things like too much salt and sugar. They also suggest changing up your proteins, which, aside from meat, can be found in foods like beans and nuts.


The Whole U suggests avoiding processed foods, so you want fresh foods that aren't coming from a box (as much as possible). While vegetables may not seem like a breakfast food, they definitely are — but you can always opt for a serving of fruit instead, or do both. Brocolli is a great protein-rich substitute for fatty breakfast meats and tastes great cooked and scrambled with eggs or egg substitutes. Donuts and muffins contain a lot of sugar, so you want to avoid them as much as possible — or opt for sugar-free treats if you're having a craving. Whole grain breads are also healthier than white bread.

A healthy breakfast is an energy boost

Before you skip breakfast or just grab a slice of toast on your way out the door, consider the energy boost the right breakfast will give you (and the slump you may fall into if you don't eat healthily). According to Healthline, there are two things you want to look for in your first meal of the day that are going to give you the energy boost to be more active: proteins and fats. While it might seem as simple as eating some ham or bacon, you also want to be sure that you're opting for low-fat proteins and healthy fats (which means you may want to be careful with that greasy goodness).


Some healthy fats to consider adding to your breakfast (but watch your portions) include avocados, chia seeds, Greek yogurt, and healthy cooking oils like grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil. Healthy proteins include eggs (which are also a good fatty food), tofu, and even turkey-based breakfast meats.

And it boosts your brain power, too

When you wake up in the morning, if you tend to feel a little slow-going when it comes to thinking, it's likely because your body used up its storage of glycogen while you were sleeping. Breakfast is a great time to boost those levels, and per BetterHealth, it's healthy carbs that will help boost that morning brain activity while keeping your mind powered throughout the day.


When registered dietitian Jane Reagan talked with CU Boulder Today about the link between a healthy breakfast and more brain activity, she pointed out studies that have proven breakfast to increase certain cognitive functions like memory and concentration. That alone should be enough to motivate us all to not skip breakfast! Brain-healthy foods like nuts and seeds, broccoli, fish, and berries are excellent healthy options that can make for some creative breakfasts. In addition to mixing nuts, seeds, or berries with your yogurt or fiber-rich oatmeal, add a protein on the side to ensure you're providing your body with the energy it needs for the day ahead.

An unhealthy breakfast can lead to weight gain

A lot of us are on the move the moment we wake up, and that makes unhealthy breakfast options seem so much easier. Who has time to cook something at home? Why not swing by your favorite fast food joint for a breakfast sandwich and some hashbrowns? If you notice that you get a little sleepier after this type of breakfast, it's because you didn't give yourself the right energy-boosting nutrients — and you added a whole bunch of empty calories to your diet.


Not eating a well-balanced breakfast can lead to weight gain, though any meal or snack throughout the day that isn't healthy can add to this possibility. Be sure you're not eating all carbs or all proteins, and that you're mixing in some healthy fibers at mealtime. Take time eating your breakfast, even if that means getting up a little earlier so you have time to eat more slowly. "Eating quickly and haphazardly can lead to increased calorie intake," registered dietitian Shannon Henry told Eat This, Not That! However, you also don't want to take in too few calories. "Starting your day with an extra small breakfast can set you up to feel famished later on, eventually leading to you overeating during the evening hours," added registered dietitian nutritionist Rachel Fine.


You'll likely snack less later if you don't skip breakfast

Skipping or eating an unhealthy breakfast might also cause you to eat more later in the day, from oversized meals to too many snacks. In fact, skipping any of the three key meals a day could lead to too much snacking later on when you won't be doing as much to burn those calories back off. Dr. Michelle Pearlman told Healthline, "Although it is common to consume breakfast cereals and cow's milk and yogurt for breakfast, there are many other foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and non-dairy milk that contain similar nutrients to those that are provided by dairy foods/beverages." So, not only do you not want to skip that morning meal altogether, but you also want to watch what you eat when it comes down to consuming the nutrients that will get you through the day.


If it's that you're too busy in the morning, consider preparing meals at night that you can easily reheat in the microwave or eat cold. From oatmeal cups filled with fruits and nuts to healthy breakfast shakes rich in nutrients and even little breakfast quiches with plenty of veggies and a low-fat meat mixed in, there are all sorts of things you can prepare ahead of time to make breakfast easier to eat each morning.

A healthy breakfast is nutrient-rich

Why should you eat a nutrient-rich breakfast? There are many health benefits to picking the right foods to eat for your first morning meal, from heart-healthy options to the right foods for helping lower bad cholesterol and increasing the good stuff. One of the main nutrients we get from breakfast is calcium, which helps build strong bones and keeps them strengthened as we age. You don't have to drink milk to get calcium either — it's found in many seeds, nuts, and veggies, according to Medical News Today. B vitamins in proteins and leafy greens help give you energy and regulate moods — and a good mood in the morning is a sure way to get through the workday with less stress. 


And, those fiber-rich breakfast options keep your digestive system on track, as well as your heart health, says Kauvery Hospital. Plus, fiber also helps lower bad cholesterol, which, in turn, can lower your risk of stroke. Oatmeal is a great fiber-rich option, as are many vegetables and fruits.

Coffee alone won't do the job

We know it's super easy to grab a cup of coffee and go, whether you drink it black or you prefer a frozen latte. However, coffee alone is not enough to get you through the morning hours, and, while coffee does have some positive benefits, it also has plenty of negative ones. Before you dump out that pot, let's look at some good things coffee offers us. No more than two cups a day of coffee provides your brain benefits that may help battle illnesses like Alzheimer's disease. It's an antioxidant-carrying beverage that can help with the reduction of inflammation, which means it could help fight off pain too — but skip all the dairy, flavors, and sugar.


Negatives, however, include that it could raise your blood pressure — it is a stimulant, after all. It can also cause dehydration if you drink too much of it. Some people experience stomach upset from the acid in coffee. 

Be mindful of carbs in the morning

While carbs do carry positive benefits when consumed in the morning, like that brain-boosting potential, you definitely don't want to eat too many of them. Here's why: Many carbohydrate-rich foods contain a lot of sugar and that increased sugar intake can lead to quick brain and energy drain before you even make it to lunchtime. Basically, too much will do the exact opposite of what you want it to do, so it's essential to make healthy carb choices for breakfast. "If you feel sluggish and tired after a meal, it may be that you consumed too many carbs ... especially the fast-digesting ones," registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade told Eat This, Not That!


Palinski-Wade added, "It's best to get your carbohydrates from whole foods, rather than from added sugar such as cane sugar." So be sure that you're reading those labels on your foods. Go for whole grains and skip the white bread.

Healthy breakfast choices are immune boosting

The right foods on your breakfast menu can actually help you stave off illnesses by boosting your immune system. Look to foods that are rich in antioxidants, which include vitamins and other nutrients that naturally assist in preventing diseases. Antioxidants are also known to reduce inflammation, which makes them a great diet resource for people who have arthritis and other illnesses that are exacerbated by swelling and inflammation. 


Even when you're not feeling well, be sure to get your antioxidants so you can feel better faster. Some great breakfast food options for this include foods rich in fiber. Registered dietitian nutritionist Isa Kujawski told Eat This, Not That!: "The dietary fiber in foods like oats feed friendly gut bacteria, which support the immune system and can also keep bad bacteria in check. The complex carbohydrates in oats also provide a steady source of slow-burning fuel for the morning to power your day and keep you feeling full." Add other antioxidants, like berries or other fruits and cinnamon to your oatmeal.

Consider milk alternatives

They say milk does the body good, but too much of a good thing can also be bad for you. That's why it's important to consider some of the dairy alternatives that are out there. There is a lot of controversy when it comes to animal-based milk, like the fact that adult humans aren't in need of milk and that babies should consume milk from their species alone — but milk is rich in calcium. It's also a fatty food — but is it a good fat? And, what if you're lactose intolerant? 


First, if you prefer cow's milk, be sure to pick low- or no-fat options for a healthier intake, and follow those serving suggestions so you don't take in more calories than you really need. If your real dairy products cause you stomach discomfort, there's a good chance you're lactose intolerant. Even if you're not, consider enjoying some alternatives from time to time. From soy milk, oat milk, and almond milk to lesser-known milk alternatives like pea milk, there are tons of healthy options with different flavors for you to choose from (and those alternatives can still make chocolate milk).

It gives you another chance to eat your fruits and veggies

Adding veggies to your scrambled eggs and putting fruit in your cereal and oatmeal are just a couple of the ways that breakfast ensures you're getting your required intake of fruits and vegetables. And, in case you didn't know, that daily recommended amount is five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit. With so many different options, you'll have an endless array of choices. Veggies and fruits are heart-healthy, help with maintaining a healthy weight, and they also help fight diseases.


Some fruits that go well in breakfast meals include blueberries, strawberries, and apples. You don't have to stick with fresh, as dried fruits are great as well. Avocado is a culinary vegetable (meaning it's actually a fruit) that is a common breakfast staple these days, whether you enjoy it on avocado toast, in a breakfast burrito, or cooked up in your eggs. Other vegetables that taste great in egg scrambles include tomatoes (another culinary vegetable), zucchini, asparagus, and broccoli. If you're a fan of potatoes for breakfast, opt for sweet potatoes instead of their starchy cousin. 

And don't skip the fiber

Let's talk some more about the benefits of fiber in your breakfast and which foods you should be grabbing from the fridge when it comes to this healthy nutrient. When most of us think of fiber, we think of our digestive system getting regulated, but this nutrient does even more than that. In the digestive part of the body, fiber can help you fight health issues like rectal cancer and hemorrhoids. Fiber-rich foods that don't have any added sugars can help control blood sugar levels and are great for weight maintenance while helping to keep your cholesterol in check.


Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are the best healthy places to get the fiber your body needs — these fibers, according to WebMD, move through your system faster than other carb-heavy foods, keeping your blood sugar levels even. While there are fiber supplements out there, "We don't really know if a particular nutrient works the same in isolation as it does coming from the broccoli," registered dietitian Tracie Jackson told WebMD. So, your best bet is to add these foods to your diet, and getting some with each meal is a great idea (which means you shouldn't skip breakfast).

Ultimately, breakfast doesn't have to be difficult

Now that you know the things that should be included in your well-balanced breakfast, you may feel a little overwhelmed thinking about all of that prep time. Lucky for you, having healthy breakfast meals daily doesn't have to be difficult. Whether you're preparing those oatmeal bowls on the weekends to reheat or eat cold each morning or you're trying to come up with a fast-and-easy meal to make each day, we have some quick ideas to get you inspired in the kitchen.


Avocado toast is one of those easy and healthy options that doesn't require much effort — just toast your favorite whole wheat bread, spread a mashed, fresh avocado, and top with an egg fried in some grapeseed oil. Rinse things down with a glass of orange juice and don't forget a glass of water. If you love breakfast burritos, use turkey sausage as a healthy meat option, cook it up with your choice of veggies, including some colorful bell peppers, scramble in some eggs or egg substitute, and wrap it up in a whole wheat tortilla. Greek yogurt is a healthful topping if you don't have sour cream handy! Smoothies filled with fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and dairy alternatives are also well-rounded and easy to make in the morning (you can always prep your ingredients ahead of time and freeze them).