Breakfast can be a tricky meal of the day. You either don’t have time to create something from scratch and actually enjoy it, or you might not have an appetite right after waking up (especially if you are an early riser and wake up at 5 or 6 a.m., where you’re still rubbing the sleep off of your eyes).
However, getting something nutritious in your stomach first thing — or at least 30 minutes or so after waking up — can be a great way to make sure you’re fueled properly for the day ahead. Getting in good fats, fiber, and protein, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals, will boost mental alertness and physical stamina to help you start your day on a productive note.
But because making time for that morning meal can be challenging, it’s best to have a few go-to hacks to make those early hours a bit easier. Here are a couple of tips from dietitians that they use themselves to guarantee a delicious and nutritionally-dense breakfast each morning.
Dietitian-Approved Easy Breakfast Ideas
Add in Milk Instead of Water
Give common breakfast items — like oatmeal or smoothies — a satiating boost by adding milk instead of water.
“You can easily make common breakfast items like oatmeal and pancakes with water, but using milk as a swap gives your dish some extra protein and important nutrients, like calcium and magnesium,” says Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian and author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook.
Plus, it adds a little richness to the dish too, so it feels more filling.
“Protein is a nutrient that helps keep us satisfied, so this small addition can help you combat a hungry tummy later on in the day,” she explains.
Prep Berries the Night Before
Berries are high in fiber and antioxidants to keep you full and protect your heart, and they offer a natural sweetness, which you may wake up with a craving for. Wash and stem fresh berries the night before.
“Only one in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables, which leaves many people vulnerable to nutrient gaps,” says Manaker. “An easy way to sneak in more produce is to include fresh berries in your yogurt parfait, cereal, and oatmeal dish, and having them washed and ready to go makes adding them a breeze."
Have a Glass of Water Before Breakfast
Drink plain water before you eat anything to get instant hydration, or else you may forget to drink enough fluids until later in the day.
“Many of us wake up dehydrated. But once we down that cup of coffee, we may feel satisfied and may not take a sip of water until lunchtime,” says Manaker.
“Making a point to drink water before eating or drinking anything else can help you start your day hydrated and you may find yourself drinking less coffee as a result, because you aren't actually trying to quench your thirst,” she says.
Don’t Skimp on Healthy Fats
“I make sure I start my day with some fat to keep me full long into the morning. Since I’m plant-based, that means adding some sort of nuts or seeds to breakfast,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, founder of Greenletes and host of the Greenletes Podcast.
Healthy fats help with hunger control and prevent overeating later in the day.
“I usually opt for something simple, like nut butter on toast or seeds in oatmeal,” she says.
Add in Veggies
Although veggies don’t seem like a typical breakfast food or anything you’d wake up with a craving for exactly, you should incorporate veggies at breakfast.
“Many people neglect veggies at breakfast, but it’s really important to spread veggie intake throughout the day to get the recommended three cups per day,” says Rizzo. “I usually opt for raw veggies like spinach, and throw them into scrambled eggs or blend them into a smoothie."
It’s a great way to start your day with a boost of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. An even better hack is to keep frozen veggies on hand instead, which are just as nutritious as fresh ones, and are ready whenever you need them.
Microwave Quick Oats
Quick-cook oats have the same exact nutrient profile as steel cut and rolled, but they obviously cook much faster — a major morning breakfast hack, right there.
“I microwave one serving for 90 seconds with a tablespoon of milled chia seeds and soy milk to be sure I’m getting additional protein, some healthy fat, and satiating fiber,” says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. “Then I stir in frozen mixed berries and a spoonful of nut butter and I have a balanced and delicious breakfast in under 5 minutes."
You can take it a step further and measure out your quick oats and chia, then store them for a few days in glass containers. Then you just add in liquid in the morning.
Buy Hard Boiled Eggs to Have Ready to Go
“While I’d love to say I hard boil my own eggs when I food prep, it just isn’t a priority with a busy schedule, so I often purchase them already boiled and peeled to save time,” says Jones.
“I can toast some whole grain bread while making my coffee and then simply top my toast with avocado, two to three sliced boiled eggs and top with sriracha or Everything But The Bagel seasoning,” she adds.
They are super versatile and portable, too!
Add Protein to Cereal
“Getting enough protein in at breakfast is critical to preventing muscle loss as we age, supporting metabolism and minimizing snacking later on,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
Cereal is an easy breakfast option, and it is tasty and quick to eat, but it lacks protein.
“Morning favorites like cereal can be low on protein, so I stir two to three tablespoons of protein powder into my milk before adding it to cereal,” she says.
The end results is flavored milk that is satiating for a more well-balanced breakfast.
Give Nutritional Yeast Some Love
Nutritional yeast is a plant-based, vegan, high-protein option that has a nice cheesy flavor and texture, but most people don’t use it often, especially those who do consume dairy and animal meat.
“I add nutritional yeast, also known as nooch, to just about every breakfast item, as it is a vegan source of dense nutrition that amps up the health benefits of all my breakfasts,” says Trista Best, RD. “It has a naturally cheesy taste and texture, making it a great cheese replacement in my eggs and grits."
Grab Toast As a Simple Base
Toast is the easiest kind of breakfast you can make within seconds and then you can add on toppings, which can be prepared ahead of time to make them more accessible.
Just put the two slices of bread in the toaster, spread about one tablespoon of a base on each slice — like almond or peanut butter, hummus, Greek yogurt, egg or fish salad, or avocado — and then play with toppings. Think: chia seeds, nuts, fruit, sliced avocado, smoked salmon, and more. It’s a solid breakfast that comes together fast.