When it comes to breakfast, what is your go-to meal? Do you prefer to snack on fruit? Munch on a bag of granola? Fry up a few eggs to go along with your turkey bacon? The foods we tend to cook for breakfast are as diverse as we are. But with so many options to choose from, it can become overwhelming when you have to choose the best meal to start your day off right.
Making healthy food choices at breakfast just got a little easier. Here are a few healthy ingredient swaps to replace your questionable go-to breakfast options with ingredients that will make you a much happier — and healthier — human being.
Omelette: Use Canadian bacon instead of regular bacon
Bacon is that food that’s impossible not to love. Whether you like it crispy or tender, these delicious strips of meat are the fried delicacy you don’t want to live without. Except you could — because there are healthier ways to enjoy meat for breakfast.
Making an omelette with Canadian bacon instead of regular bacon isn’t all that different. Incorporating a healthier ingredient into an already familiar breakfast dish is a great way to start eating healthier, one small (and delicious) step at a time.
This omelette substitutes regular bacon with the Canadian variety, offering plenty of protein and not nearly as much saturated fat. You have the option to add a variety of vegetables to this recipe to create an even more filling meal that definitely won’t leave you with a grumbling stomach during your morning meeting at the office.
Cheese and Canadian Bacon Omelette (makes 2 servings)
- 3 ounces Canadian bacon, cut into strips
- 4 eggs (or egg whites)
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
- 2 teaspoons butter
- Green peppers, avocado, mushrooms, and tomatoes (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, whisk eggs until fluffy. Add the bacon, cheese, and half of the fresh basil.
In a skillet (make sure it has an oven-safe handle) at medium heat, melt butter. Spoon the egg mixture into the skillet and spread evenly. Reduce to low heat and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the bottom of the omelette is golden in color.
Bake the omelette in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until a fork inserted into its middle comes out clean. Once you take it out of the oven, loosen its sides, cut across, and fold one side on top of the other. Serve hot.
Why Canadian bacon?
When choosing what you want to eat for breakfast, protein is essential — but it can be difficult to know which source to choose. Unlike the long strips of bacon you wish you could hate, Canadian bacon is lean and low in sodium. You can incorporate Canadian bacon into many of the recipes you would normally use fatty, salty bacon — with fewer consequences, of course.
Cereal: Use whole grain oats instead of sugary flakes
Why is breakfast cereal one of the first things we reach for when it is time for breakfast? Mostly, it’s because it’s convenient. It takes minimal effort to pour cereal and milk into a bowl. While not all breakfast cereals are terrible for you, there are more cringe-worthy brands than there are brands worth buying. It might be time to skip the cold cereal altogether and go for something similar — but much, much healthier.
What else starts out as a grain, ends up in a bowl, and can include milk as an essential component? Whole grain oatmeal, of course. It may not be cold, and when you’re making it from scratch at the beginning of the week, it can take longer than you might prefer. But it’s a swap definitely worth giving a try.
Oatmeal is much more fibrous than sugary breakfast cereal, which means you won’t feel hungry just a half hour after finishing a bowl of oatmeal the way you probably do after a bowl of cereal. Oatmeal also makes it easier to add fresh fruit and nuts to your bowl, providing even more health benefits. Homemade oatmeal is simple, and you can eat it over multiple days to save time on busy weekday mornings.
Steel Cut Oatmeal (makes 4 servings)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
In a large saucepan, combine water and milk. Simmer over medium heat.
In a 12-in skillet, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the oats and stir them occasionally as they cook. Continue cooking until oats are golden in color, around 2 minutes or so.
Stir the oats into the simmering milk mixture. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue simmering and stirring until mixture becomes thick.
Stir in the salt and continue simmering and stirring. Reduce heat gradually to prevent burning the bottom of the oatmeal. Continue until about half the liquid in the saucepan is absorbed.
Remove from heat, stir in any add-ins (see below) and portion out into bowls after cooling for about 5 minutes. If you’re adding any fruit on top, do so immediately before serving. Let the oatmeal cool completely before you transfer to a container to refrigerate for later use.
You can also add nuts to the recipe to pack in more protein. Some people prefer a variety of textures to their oatmeal, and nuts can provide a crunch that is somewhat similar to the crunchy, tasty breakfast cereal you know and love and need to not eat so much of, probably.
Why steel cut oats?
Eating more whole grains such as steel cut oats reduces your risk for a number of chronic conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Unlike the majority of breakfast cereals, oats are low in sugar and packed with nutrition in every serving. Two cups of Lucky Charms cereal with milk would give you about 430 calories, while 1/2 cups of steel cut oats before adding milk would only give you about 300 calories that would actually fill you up. There are only about 30 grams of carbohydrates in one serving of steel cut oats.
Bagels: Use Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese
There are many different things you can put on a bagel. You can spread butter, jelly, or even chocolate hazelnut spread onto your favorite doughnut-shaped breakfast treat. Cream cheese is a common bagel topping — but it’s certainly not the healthiest. Because of its high saturated fat content, it’s probably best to cut back on your cream cheese intake and go for something just as creamy — but much better for your health.
Why Greek yogurt?
Greek yogurt has twice as much protein on average compared to regular yogurt. It’s also a healthy source of probiotics to improve your digestion. Spreading yogurt on your bagel instead of cream cheese cuts down on saturated fat and replaces that with healthy, slow-digesting carbs. Just make sure, when you do buy Greek yogurt from your local grocery store, you’re choosing a brand that uses minimal to zero added or artificial ingredients. Also buy your yogurt plain. It’s much healthier to start with a plain, minimally processed yogurt and add your own fresh ingredients to improve the taste, as we will discuss below.
Yogurt: Use fruit and granola instead of buying pre-flavored
When you’re scrambling for breakfast on the go, it’s quick and easy to grab a single serving container of flavored yogurt and be on your way. Unfortunately, your Greek yogurt with strawberries on the bottom isn’t as healthy as those commercials would like you to think. But there’s something you can do about that.
Who needs artificially flavored yogurt with as much sugar as a serving of dessert when you can easily throw together a cup of yogurt with fresh ingredients to mix in?
If you’ve never tried plain yogurt with fresh fruit and homemade granola, you’re seriously missing out. This granola recipe will add a few much-needed doses of healthy fats and whole grains to your breakfast. And that’s in addition to the protein and fiber your yogurt brings along for the ride.
Healthy Homemade Granola (makes 6 servings)
- 2 cups rolled whole oats
- 1/3 cup raw sunflower or chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 cup raw nuts, chopped (optional)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened dried fruit (optional — adds more sugar)
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. To mix well, use your hands to combine ingredients evenly (wash your hands first!).
Spread the granola mixture evenly and thinly onto a baking sheet. Back for 10 minutes, until your granola is lightly toasted.
Storage tip: You can keep homemade granola for up to 2 weeks, as long as you make sure to store it somewhere cool and dry, such as the refrigerator. Mason jars are great for keeping your granola fresh and tasty until it’s gone!
Flavored yogurts are high in processed sugars, which all but cancels out many of its benefits, especially when it comes to Greek yogurt. Some brands even offer yogurt with fruit and granola already mixed in — but that just adds more sugar. Even packaged granola is loaded with more sugar than necessary. You’re much better off starting with plain Greek yogurt, adding fresh fruit, and making your own granola to sprinkle on top. You’ll still get the same sweet flavor and satisfying crunch in every bite. You’ll just cut back on the alarming amount of sugar in pre-flavored yogurt and packaged granola products.
Pancakes: Use fresh fruit instead of syrup
It’s that time of week again! Saturday morning used to mean cartoons, Lucky Charms, and staying in your pajamas until lunchtime. Not much has changed — except instead of cereal, you’ve graduated to making (and enjoying) enough pancakes to feed an army. And they’re delicious … not without a sweet topping to finish them off, though.
Your go-to topping, maple syrup, gives your warm, fluffy pancakes a sweetness you can’t resist. But there’s a better — and much healthier — way to sweeten one of your go-to weekend breakfasts. Instead of pouring as much syrup as you can get away with on top of your meal, consider adding fresh fruit instead.
Whether you cook fresh fruit into the pancakes themselves or simply garnish your breakfast with a few handfuls of berries, fruit can add ounces of color and flavor you didn’t know was possible.
Fresh Blueberry Pancakes (makes 12 pancakes)
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Add the second (wet) mixture to the first (dry) and stir lightly. Don’t over-mix.
On a griddle on medium high heat, spoon pancake batter and sprinkle fresh blueberries on top. Cook until the batter forms bubbles. Use a spatula to flip the pancake over, cooked side facing up and cook through until golden brown. Repeat with remaining pancakes.
Serve hot with fresh blueberries or strawberries on top.
Why fresh fruit?
Technically, fruit and syrup are both foods relatively high in sugar. So if they both have sugar in them, what’s really the difference between fresh fruit and maple syrup? It’s a lot simpler than it seems. Bottled, heavily processed maple syrup can contain nearly 70 grams of sugar per 100 grams — that’s a lot of sugar. On the other hand, 100 grams of fresh strawberries, for example, comes out to about 5 grams of sugar. Topping your pancakes with sweet, juicy strawberries gives your favorite breakfast all the flavor you’re craving, without the added harmful sugars.
For many, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Use it to your advantage. Fuel up on foods that give you long-lasting energy and silence your appetite. Do your best to cut out processed sugars that could leave you hungrier than you were before your day began. Choose whole grains, quality protein, and healthy fats. Most importantly, create a healthy breakfast you’ll look forward to enjoying again soon.