Jump Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

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Eating for Your Health

UW Health nutritionists help explain the health benefits of breakfast

You often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although it's easy to skip breakfast, it is crucial to make eating in the morning a top priority.


Eating breakfast helps to boost your metabolism (your body's engine) and to maintain energy levels throughout the morning. Skipping breakfast often leads to unhealthy snacking on foods that give quick bursts of energy, such as soda, candy and processed carbohydrates. These food choices don't provide the energy and nourishment that keep you performing at your best throughout the day.


From Our e-NewsletterPeople who skip breakfast are also more likely to eat a larger meal for dinner. However, ideally you should eat a large breakfast and a smaller meal for dinner. Furthermore, people who routinely skip breakfast are more likely to gain weight.


The Importance of Breakfast


Eating breakfast is especially important for children and adolescents. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, children who eat breakfast are more likely to:

  • Meet daily nutrient requirements
  • Concentrate and perform better in school
  • Have better problem-solving skills
  • Have improved hand-eye coordination
  • Be more alert
  • Be more creative
  • Miss fewer days of school
  • Be more physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

Breakfast should give you at least 25 percent of your daily energy and nutrient needs. A breakfast high in fiber and protein – at least five grams of each – will provide a sustained release of fuel to your body and brain and help to improve concentration and energy levels.


Which breakfast foods are high in protein?


One cup of skim milk, one cup of low-fat yogurt, one cup of low-fat cottage cheese all fit the bill, as do one ounce of reduced-fat cheese, an egg, a tablespoon of peanut butter or two ounces of lean breakfast meat.


Make Your Breakfast a Healthier One

  • Include a variety of food groups in your breakfast including a carbohydrate (whole grain or fruit) and lean protein (dairy, meat, peanut butter, soy, nuts, egg)
  • Choose high-fiber foods to keep you feeling full. Examples include:
    • a cup of cooked oatmeal
    • a cup of cold whole-grain cereal
    • two slices of 100 percent whole-wheat bread
    • a small whole-wheat bagel
    • two tablespoons of nuts
    • ½ cup berries
    • a banana
  • Eat whole fruit rather than juice to increase fiber intake
  • Choose low-fat dairy products such as skim milk or low-fat yogurt. Greek yogurt is an excellent protein source.
  • Limit foods that are high in fat or processed carbohydrates like donuts, sugary cereals and toaster pastries

Many people rush out the door in the morning and say they don't have time to prepare a healthy breakfast. The key is to plan ahead and set out the ingredients the night before.


If you don't have time to sit down to eat breakfast, pack a to-go bag to eat on your morning commute. Including a healthy breakfast in your daily routine doesn’t have to be time-consuming, but it is the key to starting your day off right.


Healthy Breakfast Suggestions

  • Whole-grain bagel with light cream cheese and apple or skim milk
  • Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and banana slices and skim milk
  • Oatmeal with skim milk, raisins and walnuts
  • Homemade smoothie with one cup of frozen fruit, one cup of low-fat yogurt and one or two tablespoons of flaxseed
  • Whole-grain cereal with skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and piece of fruit
  • Scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast and piece of fruit
  • Bran muffin, cottage cheese and fruit
  • Whole-grain tortilla filled with vegetables, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
  • Whole-grain waffle with peanut butter

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