Breakfast Foods for Energy

A mix of fiber and protein is key. These ideas can help you fuel up.

By Sharon Liao

What if there was one simple change you could embrace to boost energy, fend off weight gain, and live longer? It turns out there is: Studies show that having breakfast can unlock those benefits. But the key is choosing the right foods—those rich in protein and fiber, says Vijaya Surampudi, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition. Sounds easy, but how do those foods fit in with your appetite and lifestyle? We have some ideas.

The Nutrients You Need

The fiber-protein combination can keep you satisfied, boost your energy, and help protect against some illnesses.

Fiber takes the body a while to digest, so it fends off hunger. And the combination of fiber and breakfast helps your health. In a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine in 2021, those who ate a morning meal had a 31 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the study period than those who didn’t. But even among breakfast eaters, fiber played a role. Those who had a morning meal and a high fiber intake (more than 25 grams a day) had a 21 percent lower risk of mortality from all causes than those who ate breakfast but got less fiber. Conversely, people who had a high fiber intake but didn’t eat breakfast didn’t see any benefit.

Like fiber, protein keeps you full. Research shows that eating a protein-packed breakfast keeps blood sugar stable for hours afterward, preventing the energy slumps that lead to snacking and overeating, says Erin Rossi, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition.

Aim to get at least 8 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein in your morning meal. Here are a few ways to do that:

• Two scrambled eggs with vegetables and 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla, plus a medium apple, for 8 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein.

• A smoothie made with ¼ cup oats (pulverized in a blender first), 1½ cups of frozen berries, ½ cup of nonfat Greek yogurt, ¼ cup of orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of orange zest, for 8 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein.

• An Oats Oat Cup (Apple Cinnamon) from RX A.M. and ¼ cup of almonds, for 9.5 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein.

4 Tips for a Healthier Breakfast

These are common obstacles that may stand in the way of healthy morning meals—and some solutions that can help.

You want only carbs. “A strong craving for carbs can signal that you’re not getting enough protein or fat in your diet,” Surampudi says. But you can slip fiber and protein into a carb-heavy breakfast. For example, if you like pancakes or waffles, replace half the flour in the recipe with whole-wheat flour, and use protein-rich cottage cheese or Greek yogurt in place of half the liquid. And switch from syrup to a scoop of nut butter and fruit. Another healthy carb choice: oatmeal. This whole grain has 4 grams of fiber per cup. Increase the protein content by serving it with milk and nuts.

You’re not very hungry in the morning. People have different internal clocks that influence hunger. If you don’t have much of an appetite when you wake up, it’s okay to wait an hour or two before eating. Can’t stomach a full meal? Have something small that contains fiber and protein, such as Greek yogurt with berries or an apple with a cheese stick.

You’re always in a rush. Prep something healthy the night before. Mix chia seeds with yogurt and pop it in the refrigerator overnight for a chia pudding. Or whip up a smoothie with fruit, Greek yogurt, milk, and flaxseed that you can grab and go, Rossi suggests.

You’re not a fan of breakfast foods. There’s no rule that says you have to eat cereal, eggs, or pancakes. Consider heating up last night’s leftovers or making a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-grain bread.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article also appeared in the February 2023 issue of Consumer Reports On Health.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2023, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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