I love breakfast. It calms my early-morning hunger and includes foods I adore, like oatmeal and eggs. But not everyone feels this way about breakfast foods. Over the years, many of my patients have complained that they simply don't like cereal, hate yogurt and cottage cheese, and have no love for eggs. My response to them has always been the same: OK, but that shouldn't stop you from eating breakfast!
Breakfast is defined as the day's first meal. In other words, you simply need to start the day with food, which certainly doesn't need to be typical breakfast foods if you don't like them. The key is to find foods that provide the important nutrients we should begin our days with—especially fiber and protein. You can find these nutrients in many foods, including those served at dinner.
Let's start with leftovers. These are a great choice for breakfast, as long as they were part of a healthy meal the night before. (You don't want to repeat a diet disaster.) For example, broiled chicken with brown rice and broccoli—why not? Grilled salmon, quinoa, and roasted brussel sprouts? Sure, that meal deserves an encore. If you had to cook this meal from scratch it might not be the best choice, since quick and easy are usually the key parameters for a breakfast meal, but go for it it's pre-made.
My sister is known for eating Chinese food leftovers for breakfast. Her choice of tofu or shrimp with Chinese vegetables and brown rice always gets a nod of approval from me. Perhaps if she was choosing spare ribs, fried rice, and an egg roll, I might not be so agreeable.
I also think back to my college days when many students would eat cold pizza as a hangover cure (whether it worked or not, I don't know). Now I look at it as a healthy choice for breakfast as long as the toppings aren't loaded with extra fat, the crust is 100 percent whole grain, and the portion is kept to one slice.
If you're a fan of just a couple breakfast items, try a hybrid of both dinner and breakfast foods for your morning meal. For example, the other day I had an egg-white omelet with spinach and tomato for breakfast, but instead pairing it with my usual whole-wheat toast, I opted for black beans. Another delicious option: Spread hummus on whole-wheat toast instead of cream cheese. Some people I know aren't fans of oatmeal, so they opt for quinoa as their breakfast grain.
If you think about it, breakfast foods vary according to culture. If you travel outside the United States, don't be surprised to find fish, beans, rice, or tofu on the breakfast menu. The bottom line is that when eating any food for breakfast, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my meal contain fiber?
- Does my meal include lean protein?
- Does my meal include a healthy fat?
- Am I watching my portion size?
Remember that any breakfast is better than no breakfast! Tell me on Twitter: What's your favorite non-breakfast food in the morning?
Hungry for more? Write to email@example.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.
Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.