It’s no wonder breakfast has a reputation as the most important meal of the day: Studies show that people who eat well in the morning may have improved concentration and memory, a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and an easier time managing their weight. So why is it, then, that 31 million Americans don’t regularly eat breakfast? Some say there’s just no time, while others say they simply aren’t hungry in the wee hours of the morning or that typical fare doesn’t excite them. But for every reason to skip breakfast that is proposed there’s at least one simple, tasty meal idea that can help you get going on the right foot.
“A good balance of protein with carbs will help set you up for success,” says former Canyon Ranch Corporate Chef Scott Uehlein. Here are 10 healthy, satisfying on-the-go options—some traditional, some not—that fit the bill and will nourish you for the day ahead.
Takeout Cereal: No time to sit with a bowl and a spoon? No problem. Toss a cup of high-fiber cereal and a handful each of your favorite nuts and dried fruit in a baggie so you can munch on the way to the office. Round it out with a container of yogurt or a latte made with low-fat milk.
Picnic in a Bag: Pair a nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt with a piece of fruit, like a banana, and a small handful of walnuts or almonds. You can graze or, if the opportunity strikes, combine the three for a delicious fruit-and-yogurt parfait.
Hard-Boiled Eggs: Packed with satisfying protein, brain-building choline and vision-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin, eggs are a super-smart way to start your day. Hard boil a dozen and keep them in your fridge for an easy, portable meal or snack. Pair one or two with a small whole-grain roll or crackers and sliced cucumber.
Overnight Oats: This twist on the classic bowl of oatmeal is perfect for days when you know you’ll be running out the door. Mix together 1/3 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup Greek yogurt and 1 teaspoon chia seeds in a small Mason jar or lidded glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight; in the morning, mix it well and add optional toppings like fresh or dried fruit, maple syrup, flaked coconut or nuts. Sitting in the yogurt overnight softens the oats.
Slow-Cooker Oatmeal: If you prefer your oats cooked but don’t have time to prepare them in the morning, let your slow cooker do the work. Before you go to sleep, coat its lining with a thin layer of butter and fill it with 4 cups of water, 1 cup steel-cut oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Cook it on low for eight hours and serve it in the morning with your favorite toppings. (Results may vary depending on your slow cooker; adjust the timing as necessary.) Save the extra for the rest of the week—it will heat up nicely in a minute or two in the microwave.
Hearty Breakfast Bowl: Repurpose last night’s leftover brown rice, quinoa or couscous into today’s morning meal by topping it with low-fat milk and microwaving until warm—about one to two minutes. Sprinkle it with fresh fruit and slivered almonds.
Nutty Panini: Sandwiches don’t just have to be for lunch. Spread a slice of whole-grain bread with peanut or almond butter; top it with thin slices of banana or pear and another slice of bread and cook it in panini grill or in a toaster oven.
Fruit and Cheese Pairing: Toss one or two single-serving cheese sticks or rounds in your bag along with a handful of dried apricot halves and a handful of whole-grain crackers or nuts.
DIY Breakfast Bars: There are plenty of breakfast bars you can buy, but some of their ingredient lists read more like a formula than a recipe. Try pre-making a batch of whole-food-based bars like our Fruit & Nut Bar. For those days when you’ve already left the house before you’ve even had a chance to think about breakfast, “look for a bar with just a few ingredients,” Chef Scott says. Several brands feature ones made with dried fruit, nuts and not much more.