Breakfast seems to be the meal that most people have the hardest time making nutritionally balanced (if they eat it at all). Whether that's because people find fewer foods appetizing early in the morning, don't have enough time to make something nutritious, or think that they can function just fine skipping it, breakfast seems to be a problem. And honestly, if you’re not a morning person, getting up earlier to spend time in the kitchen making a meal is going to lose 10 times out of 10 to hitting snooze and getting an extra twenty minutes of sleep.
Most of the quick and easy breakfast “meals” are not really meals at all, as the majority of them are just combinations of fats and carbs with minimal nutritional value. Toast and butter, bagel and cream cheese, or anything from the multitude of local breakfast pastry and donut shops might give you a quick burst of energy after consuming them. However, you’ll most likely crash well before lunch and then be far less inclined to make a good decision on your next meal as you’ll be ravenous.
My two go-to breakfast options are oatmeal and eggs, but they can require some prep time and don't work well if you're on the go. Loaded oatmeal, which is oatmeal plus fruit/protein powder/nuts/seeds takes longer to make the more stuff you add to it and usually needs to cool off for a few minutes before you can eat it. You can cook eggs relatively quickly, but when you start adding breakfast meats or sautéed veggies to your meal you can quickly begin to add a lot of prep and cleanup time to your morning. Both are highly nutritious options for breakfast, and luckily they can both be altered a little bit to eliminate any prep time in the morning.
Oatmeal is a great source of carbs in the morning as it's got a good amount of fiber and protein (for a carb source at least), and since it is a whole grain it takes much longer to digest than many carbs, so it will give you a longer, more steady supply of energy throughout the morning. To make overnight oats, simply take instant oatmeal and add in whatever liquid you prefer, but instead of doing this in an open bowl do it in a jar or sealed container. You can opt to cook the oats or even just keep them raw in the jar and throw it in the fridge overnight, they’ll both have slightly different textures in the morning. After mixing the oats with the liquid add in the extra ingredients, as the flavors blend together better while they sit in the fridge overnight and it will save time in the morning. Protein powder, chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, mango, and banana are my favorite options to add in, and I find that using frozen fruit tastes best because as the fruits thaw overnight the juices seep into the oatmeal and add a lot more flavor. When it's time to get up you can just grab your jar from the fridge and it's easier to eat cold than hot, so you can even bring it with you on the go.
My personal preference is to always have oats if I know I’m going to be working out shortly after my morning clients, as the carbs will fuel my lift and the sugar from the fruit will give me a quick boost of energy. However, if I’m going to be working out in the afternoon and want to structure more of my fats in the morning, then eggs are my go to breakfast.
Cooking scrambled eggs or an omelet the night before doesn’t end up tasting all that great, but baking eggs is a different story. Enter my girlfriend’s egg muffin recipe that she found and modified. You have all the ingredient options of making an omelet but no work to do in the morning. This recipe yields about 6 muffins in a standard size muffin tray, takes 15-20 minutes to prep and about 30 minutes to bake. Reheat in the microwave for about 45 seconds.
Breakfast Egg Muffins
6 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 breakfast sausage links
2 handfuls of chopped fresh spinach
1/3 cup shredded cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Salsa, ketchup, hot sauce, or whatever else you like on your eggs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 6 muffin cups with nonstick spray.
- Cook the sausage, chop it up, and let it cool on a paper towel-lined plate to let the fat drain off.
- Cook the spinach in the same pan until wilted.
- Whisk together the sausage and spinach with the eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Scoop the mix into the muffin tin, leaving a little space at the top. Sprinkle cheese on top and add in salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until eggs are cooked through.
You can obviously make a larger batch and increase the recipe to scale, or try different ingredients. Here are a couple ideas for variations for other breakfast ideas:
- Ground chicken or beef
- Diced jalapeños
- Diced onions
- Mexican-blend shredded cheese
- Top with Greek yogurt and/or salsa
- Maple bacon (or turkey bacon)
- Chopped mushrooms (cooked in the bacon grease)
- Diced green onion
- Cheddar cheese
Another option would be to use less whole eggs and sub in some egg whites if you want to reduce the fat content. We actually just made the original recipe on Sunday, but cooked everything on the grill and they turned out great as well. Try making overnight oats or egg muffins your new breakfast staples, and let me know how they turn out in the comments!
If you are interested in learning how to reduce your sugar intake at breakfast, you can't miss The Chopping Block's upcoming All Natural Sugar Swaps hands-on cooking class. You'll learn how to make a variety of yummy baked goods using natural, non-processed sugar alternatives. Natural sugar swaps provide a healthier option than cane sugar and artificial sweeteners and often allow the home cook to reduce the amount of sugar overall - a worthy goal for us all!