I'm what's known as a breakfast-skipper and I'm not alone. According to a study done by the NPD Group, 31 million Americans are skipping right along with me. If you usually eat breakfast, these grab 'n go breakfasts will shave time off your morning routine. If you're a skipper (like me) these ready to eat meals may change that, or you can pack these breakfasts for a mid-morning snack or eat them as your post-morning-workout meal.
Each grab 'n go breakfast on the list includes directions for preparing and freezing batches of breakfast goodies (then zap them in the microwave and you are out the door) and recommendations for healthy brands you can buy with the work done for you. Obviously, cutting your own fruit will save you a ton of cash...and you can customize your breakfasts with mix-in options if you prepare them yourself, but having a stash of packaged breakfasts can be a lifesaver in a crunch.
These portable baked goods are perfect for freezing, though I don't recommend the store-bought bakery versions. I mean it must be obvious that while those are easy options, they aren't the healthiest. Many contain chemicals and additives, like propylene glycol, the chemical used to winterize RVs and commonly found in those imitation blueberries. If you are going to purchase your muffins, stock up with a box of an organic version, like Garden Lites or VitaTops.
You can make your own simple muffins by mixing any flavor packaged cake mix with a 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin and baking for 25-30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Spice cake mix is amazing. So is chocolate cake mix and a handful of chocolate chips. Once you've baked your batch of muffins, freeze them in air-tight bags. You can take them out to thaw the night before or pack one with your lunch for a late morning snack.
14 Fresh Fruit
If you haven't looked lately, fresh cut fruit from the grocery store is super-expensive. A better option is to buy fresh fruit (especially if it's on sale) and portion it into to-go containers or a large mixing bowl to dish out daily. Fresh fruit doesn't stay that way for long so you'll have to get a new supply every few days. Don't over-buy if you can help it. Freezing is a great way to save your produce before it goes bad but frozen fruit never has the same texture once it's thawed, though it is great for baking and smoothies.
If you love berries (blue, rasp, black) buy a large container when they're on sale and incorporate them into the other breakfasts on this list. If you don't want to cut fruit at all opt for peaches, plums, apples and oranges.
When buying fruit, be aware that strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, grapes, and cherries are all listed on this annual's Dirty Dozen List from the Environmental Working Group. If possible, choose an organic option when selecting these fruits. Clean your produce by spraying fruit with or soaking it in a 3 to 1 mixture of water to white vinegar. Then rinse, cut and use to make our next two breakfasts.
13 Yogurt and Parfait
Yogurt is a simple and portable breakfast that can also serve as a snack or complete a layered parfait. (Or smoothie, but we'll get to that.) When buying yogurt, be mindful of what you'll be using it for and don't waste money on individual containers if you won't be using them. The varieties of yogurt available and the health benefits of each has become overwhelming but the basic rules are to pick a brand that's low on sugar and high in probiotics, the cultures linked to health benefits including better brain function, as found by UCLA researchers. Good brands to try include Fage Total 0% Nonfat Greek Style (or strawberry), Dannon Light & Fit Peach, and Stonyfield Farm Organic Plain.
Reusable cups are great for layering parfaits. When constructing your creations, layer fresh fruit, yogurt and a low sugar granola and be sure to pack a spoon. Build your parfait the night before or prepare five on Sunday so you're set for the week.
Yup, fruit and yogurt sure are versatile. Here's your chance to use that fruit you froze before it went bad. You can also freeze yogurt in ice cube trays to easily add to your blender. When concocting your smoothie, add fruit, yogurt, any mix-ins and a small amount of liquid: this can be unsweetened juice, water, almond milk, or coconut water.
Smoothies are also a great way to sneak in extra servings of vegetables (think spinach, kale, and sweet veggies like beets and carrots) or other super foods like chia seeds, flaxseed, coconut oil, cinnamon, and cacao powder. Try these smoothie recipes for yummy results.
You can make your smoothie on the fly or prep single serving bags so you can blend and run. If you find yourself making smoothies every morning, treat yourself to a personal blender. These blenders allow you to blend your ingredients right in your to-go cup. You'll save time and clean-up effort...and you don't need a hundred dollar Ninja. You can get a personal blender from Wal-Mart for around twenty bucks.
Get yourself a roll of freezer paper and some masking tape because paying five dollars a box for breakfast sandwiches is insane. Think about all the money you're wasting away by doing this. Not only do you save money but you stay healthy too. Breakfast sandwiches are great because there are so many different combinations you can't go wrong. I prefer to use English muffins and avoid preparing biscuits in addition to assembling these but you could easily bake a tray of biscuits or use bagels.
Once you have your bread component, assemble your sandwiches. Fillings can include egg, pre-cooked sausage patties (including turkey or vegan), cheese slices (muenster is amazing), Canadian bacon, roasted red pepper slices, onion, bacon slices, green pepper, and dijon mustard. Wrap your sandwiches in freezer paper and secure the end with masking tape. I suggest thawing your sandwich in the refrigerator the night before so you won't have a frozen middle.
Unlike our other grab and go breakfasts, I don't recommend freezing these. Roll-ups only take a moment to prepare and you can eat them on your way out the door. To assemble a roll-up, you'll spread soft cheese on a tortilla and layer it with deli slices and veggies...then roll and run. My apologies for being vague but there are so many options here.
You could choose spinach or tomato wraps instead of tortillas, vegetable or another flavored cream cheese, or a variety of Laughing Cow brand cheeses, honey ham, mesquite turkey, bell pepper slices, green onions, cilantro, avocado, or a sprinkle of garlic powder. Or you could try making sweet roll-ups with flour tortillas, strawberry cream cheese, berries, and fresh mint. Marscapone cheese topped with chopped apples and walnuts then drizzled with honey and a dusting of cinnamon. Honey nut cream cheese, peanut butter, banana slices, and mini chocolate chips. Okay, I'm done. You get the idea.
Maybe I cannot talk you out of your fruity sugar chunks with marshmallows, but cereal can be a healthy (and quick) breakfast or snack. It's also really delicious. It is also an opportunity to eat an extra serving of fruit by making use of those bananas and strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, well, all the berries you have in your kitchen.
Choosing a healthy cereal means finding one that is high in nutrients and low in sugar, or ingredients that immediately are turned to sugar in the body. Top picks from Shape Magazine include Kashi Honey Puffs, good ol' fashion Cheerios, and Cascadian Farm Hearty Morning, which has whole grain flakes and crunchy granola clusters. If you have not tried them yet, I also recommend trying almond and cashew milk. While I will not try to settle the cow's milk debate here, these organic options come in a vanilla flavor so count me in.
8 Breakfast Bars
There are so many bad versions of this great breakfast food (cereal stuck together with sugar, fruit that is flavored, colored goo) on the market that if you're considering eating one, just have a candy bar. No judgment. But there are also companies who are doing it right by keeping the ingredients simple and not loading their bars with added fat, sugar, and preservatives. Popular brands in this category include Larabar and Kind. When looking for a prepackaged snack bar, check the list of ingredients (whole ingredients you can recognize are best) and the amount of sugar per bar.
There is another way to get fresh tasting bars and know exactly the ingredients that are in them. Yup, baking. But I promise that there are super-simple breakfast bar recipes (like these from Eating Well) that you can bake and then portion and freeze for later...or you might want to make a double batch to be sure there's some left for the week. Or if you prefer (mostly no-bake) granola bars, Daily Burn has got you covered.
7 Overnight Oats
Packaged oatmeal (you know, the envelopes?) has very little nutritional value and a lot of sugar. Some varieties contain as much as 13 grams of sugar, the same amount of sugar found in seven Pixie Stix straws. I know, right? The good news is that you'll save money making your own healthy, overnight oats. Why overnight oats? Because not only does soaking your oats aid in your ability to digest them but it also unlocks nutrients your body couldn't access without soaking.
Choose whole rolled or steel cut oats (instant or quick-cooking oats have a higher glycemic index rating and will spike your blood sugar). These are naturally gluten-free, high in fiber, will help move cholesterol out of the body, and will keep you full longer. Pretty impressive, huh?
Use a small container and add one cup of oats, one cup of filtered water, and a spoonful of yogurt (you can also add a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar instead of yogurt). Cover your container and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least twelve hours. This is another chance to prep a couple days' worth by soaking additional portions. When you're ready to eat your oats, heat them in the microwave and add nuts, fruit, honey, chia seeds, or flax powder to up their nutritional value.
6 Egg Cups
Made incredibly popular by Hungry Girl's Lisa Lillien, this technique for cooking an egg-celent breakfast takes the pan out of the equation. All you need is a coffee mug, some non-stick spray, an egg and some mix-ins. You could also use Egg Beaters, which are primarily egg whites and contain less cholesterol than traditional eggs. For mix-ins consider adding jarred red pepper slices, mushrooms, onions, cubed ham, tomato or diced bell peppers.
To create your egg-stravagent breakfast, spray the inside of your mug with non-stick cooking spray and add your mix-ins and egg with salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently, then microwave for 45 seconds. Stir again and return to the microwave for a full minute. Once the eggs have set (unless you like them runny) fluff your mixture with a fork and enjoy. You could also sprinkle your eggs with a pinch of shredded or feta cheese or green onion slices.
5 Breakfast Burritos
Breakfast burritos can be fully assembled ahead of time then wrapped and frozen or you can make an egg mug and wrap it in a tortilla before heading out the door. Your burrito filling (sans egg) also makes a great mix-in for your egg cups if you set some aside in the fridge.
Using a large saute pan, brown any raw meat (turkey sausage, taco meat) that you will be using and drain the excess fat. Add any veggies you like: spinach, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes are only a few possibilities. Once the mixture is heated through, add your egg (salt and pepper to taste) and stir until eggs are set, making sure to scrape along the bottom of the pan to release any cooked-on scramble. Allow your scramble to cook, then portion into tortillas and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Wrap burritos, then wrap in freezer paper and secure with masking tape. I recommend thawing your burrito the night before in the fridge to avoid heating complications (like a frozen middle). You might also want to spring for a jar of picante sauce, which McDonald's has proven tastes amazing on these!
4 Cottage Cheese
This amazing food contains so many essential amino acids that it qualifies as a complete protein and each cup offers 23 grams of these proteins, giving you 50 percent of your recommended daily intake with each serving. Not only does cottage cheese get high marks in the protein department, it also boasts vitamin B, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and phosphorus, an essential element that works with other nutrients and enzymes in the body, including calcium's ability to build healthy bones.
When buying cottage cheese, be aware of salt and saturated fat values. Lower fat versions are good options for limiting saturated fat, though you should check these varieties for added sugars. Also beware the prepackaged snack packs with fruit, as many contain more sugar than fruit. Besides, you'll save money (and a blood sugar spike) by adding your own cherries, peaches, and berries. Or you can enjoy your cottage cheese on top of a tomato slice, sprinkled with diced onions and a smidge of salt and pepper.
Usually laden with sugary syrup and artery-clogging pats of butter, waffles have gotten a bad rep. Not because they're unhealthy in themselves but because of all the dessert elements we drizzle, sprinkle, and powder them with. But it doesn't have to be this way.
If you don't have a waffle maker, take heart. There are plenty of nutritional prepackaged options including Van's Gourmet Multi-Grain Waffles and Nature's Path Hemp Plus Waffles. If dropping five dollars on frozen waffles seems ludicrous, check the clearance section of your local supermarket or post an ISO in your local Facebook for-sale groups for a waffle maker to find one on the cheap. Then you can mix up these amazing recipes from Fitness Magazine. To get you out the door in a jiffy, shake your waffle mix up in a plastic storage container with a pouring spout (or a protein mix shaker) and store it in the fridge. It will be ready for action when you are. Then spread your waffles with natural peanut butter or a creamy yogurt fruit spread (I recommend Brummel & Brown's Strawberry Buttery Spread with Real Strawberries) and top with fresh fruit like strawberry slices or blueberries. Adding cinnamon, vanilla, or nutmeg to your waffle mix can eliminate the need for toppings altogether.
Basic, I know, but not all toast (um, bread) is created equal. White bread, especially when slathered with butter and jelly, will spike your blood sugar (causing you to crash later) and has little to no nutritional value. To make sure you're getting valuable nutrients, choose a bread made from whole grains and seeds. The Huffington Post and Ali Campbell (a registered dietician) have compiled their recommendations (and some bread to avoid) in a handy slide show which praises Ezekiel 4:9 Flax Sprouted Whole Grain Bread and the Silver Hills brand.
Also, while margarine spreads may be cheap, they include added oils can hurt you nutritionally. Check labels for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated ingredients. These are trans-fats, even if the label claims the product is trans-fat free. Consumer Reports has compiled a short list of butter substitutes that scored well with taste-testers and have added health benefits you won't find in most spreads on the market. You can also slather your toast in peanut butter for added protein, an all-fruit spread (again, check for added sugar), or that dreamy strawberry spread you put on your waffles.
1 Chia Pudding
Having gained popularity for its simple construction and nutritional superpowers, chia pudding is a simple to fix breakfast that you can easily prep the night before. Chia seeds (yes, the same ones you spread on that terra-cotta head to grow sprouts of hair) are whole grains in themselves and are packed with omega-3 fatty acids (the ones that raise your good cholesterol), antioxidants, fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium. These little powerhouse pellets soften and gel when soaked in liquid, giving your body access to a host of nutritional benefits.
A simple pudding recipe is to add coconut milk and honey to the seeds in a small container or mason jar (save those jelly jars!) and leave the mixture in the fridge overnight. Voila! You can top your pudding with nuts and fruit as well. If you're looking for some amazing variations of this super-smart breakfast (or post-workout) meal, BuzzFeed has got your back with concoctions like Almond Joy, chocolate cherry, and peanut butter and jelly.