Plate with eggs, avocado, and oatmeal

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Leftover birthday cake, Froot Loops®, or the last strawberry that isn’t growing hair—you may feel like this is all you have time for in the morning. With a few extra minutes, however, you can put together breakfast combinations that will get you bounding out the door without compromising your health down the road. These morning meals may inspire you.

“A healthy breakfast gives you the energy and nutrients you need to get through your day. If you don’t like to eat breakfast first thing in the morning, aim to have a healthy breakfast within two hours of waking up,” says Lori Smart, Registered Dietitian and Manager of Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, a health resource provided by the government of British Columbia.

Students agree. Seven out of ten of you eat breakfast at least several times a week, according to a Student Health 101 survey. “Eating a nutritious breakfast helps wake me up, gets me energized, and fills me up, allowing me to focus throughout the morning free from the distraction of hunger,” says Jemma G., a third-year graduate student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

What’s in a healthy breakfast?

Whole grains (whole-wheat toast or waffles) Complex carbs provide fibre and sustained energy. Protein (eggs, yogurt, lean meat, tofu, legumes, seeds) Protein and fat help you feel full longer. Fruits and vegetables (fruit and veggie smoothie, an orange, sliced tomatoes) Fruits and veggies provide energy, fibre, vitamins, and minerals

Our nutrition experts weigh in on some quick, easy, and nutritious breakfast ideas.

Egg, avo, and waffle open-face sandwich

Prep time: 15 minutes

  • ¼ ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 frozen packaged whole-wheat waffle
  • Dash of salt and black pepper
  • Cooking oil spray
  1. In a small bowl, mash the avocado. Set aside.
  2. Lightly coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat. Break the egg and slip it into the pan. Immediately reduce the heat to low.
  3. Cook until the egg white is completely set and the yolk begins to thicken but isn’t yet firm.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the waffle according to the package’s directions.
  5. Spread the avocado on the waffle and top with the egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Vegan? Just eliminate the egg or sub in tofu or mashed refried beans.

Expert voice

“This is a good recipe, as it includes a variety of foods from the different food groups and a good source of healthy fat from the avocado. The protein from the egg and the fat from the avocado will help you feel full longer. I suggest adding some vegetables to the sandwich, such as sliced tomato or fresh spinach.”
—Lori Smart, Registered Dietitian and Manager of Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC in British Columbia

“I appreciate the inclusion of avocado. We often think of breakfast as the same stereotypical foods, such as cereal, muffins, and bagels. Breaking free from these boundaries allows us to add variety to our regimented mornings.”
—Eric Williamson, Registered Dietitian and Fitness, Nutrition, and Exercise Coach in Toronto

Student voice

“I love eggs with avocado! That kind of breakfast makes me feel like I can do anything.”
—Madison H., second-year undergraduate, Arkansas Tech University

Green eggs and ham scramble with toast

Prep time: 15 minutes

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1­–2 handfuls fresh kale or spinach, chopped
  • 1 slice ham or ¼ block tofu (add spices and herbs to tofu for extra flavour)
  • 1 slice whole grain toast
  • Dash of salt and black pepper
  • Cooking spray or oil
  1. Preheat a pan on medium heat and coat with cooking spray or oil. Heat the ham slice or seasoned tofu on each side until warmed and slightly browned.
  2. Remove from the pan, chop, and set aside.
  3. Sauté kale or spinach just until wilted (1–3 minutes).
  4. Add the beaten eggs to the pan with the kale or spinach and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until the eggs are set and slightly firm.
  5. While the egg mixture is cooking, toast the bread.
  6. Remove the eggs from the heat. Add the chopped ham or tofu to the scrambled eggs and stir.
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Eat!

Expert voice

“From a nutrition perspective, this is balanced, provides a good source of protein for energy, and fibre from the whole grain bread and veggies. Those who don’t eat ham can add some grated cheese. Look in the vegetarian or vegan sections of the grocery store for nondairy varieties.”
—Lori Smart, Registered Dietitian and Manager of Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC in British Columbia

Green smoothie

Prep time: 5 minutes

Green smoothie

  • 2 generous handfuls spinach
  • 1 cup diced pineapple, mango, strawberries, or any fruit of your choice (fresh or frozen work)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (or dairy-free alternative if you’re vegan or intolerant to dairy)
  • 1 cup milk (or unsweetened almond, coconut, or soy milk)

Chocolate lover? Add some cocoa powder for a chocolaty flavour.

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth, and enjoy.

Expert voice

“This smoothie is a great source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, Vitamin C, and calcium. And it’s perfect if you’re on your way to school. If you don’t eat dairy, stick with the almond or soy beverage. Frozen fruit will help make the smoothie creamier without the yogurt.”
—Lori Smart, Registered Dietitian and Manager of Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC in British Columbia

“Blending fruit with leafy greens is a great way to moderate the strong taste of the greens. Smoothies are also a good answer for those short on time in the morning—put the ingredients together the night before, then in the morning you can just blend and enjoy.”
—Eric Williamson, Registered Dietitian and Fitness, Nutrition, and Exercise Coach in Toronto

Student voice

“I start every day with a smoothie and it makes me feel really good. It helps boost my metabolism and fuels me up for the rest of the day.”
—Danielle H., second-year undergraduate, Portland State University, Oregon

Breakfast parfait

Prep time: 5 minutes

  • 1 small container Greek yogurt (or nondairy alternative)
  • 1 cup fresh berries of your choice, such as blueberries or sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup low-sugar or no-sugar granola
  1. In a serving glass, dollop a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkle a layer of berries, followed by a spoonful of granola.
  2. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used.

Expert voice

“Choose plain Greek yogurt, as many yogurts have lots of added sugar. Some sweetness will be added to the parfait through the granola, or you can drizzle a little honey or maple syrup on top of the parfait.”
—Lori Smart, Registered Dietitian and Manager of Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC in British Columbia

“Protein seems to be the long-lost nutrient of many breakfast options. Greek yogurt is a delicious solution to this issue. To provide an even more nutritious punch, I suggest topping this off with a tablespoon or two of nuts or seeds. Some of my favourites for yogurt parfaits are chia seeds, hemp seeds, or pecans.”
—Eric Williamson, Registered Dietitian and Fitness, Nutrition, and Exercise Coach in Toronto

Student voice

“If I eat a heavy breakfast, I feel like a slob. Eating some yogurt with granola and a side of fruit gives me energy.”
—Keta S., fourth-year undergraduate, Northern Illinois University

Cereal with milk and fruit

Prep time: 2 minutes

Bowl of cereal with sliced strawberries and bananas

As simple as it sounds, a low-sugar or no-sugar whole grain cereal with milk and sliced fruit is a quick and satisfying breakfast that incorporates protein, complex carbohydrates, and nutrients.

Low-sugar cereal options (add fruit and nuts to liven them up):

  • Original Cheerios®: 1 gram sugar per serving (1 cup)
  • Rice Chex®: 2 grams sugar per serving (1¼ cups)
  • Quaker® Oatmeal: 1 gram sugar per serving (½ cup dry old-fashioned or quick oats)

Opt for cereal with 3 grams or less of added sugar per serving. Add fresh fruit for extra sweetness.

Sweet cereals might taste good, but they cram in more sugar than our bodies know what to do with. Research has shown that eating too much added sugar is linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. Because of this, the World Health Organization recommends we eat fewer than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day (an estimate based on a 2,000-calorie diet).

One bowl of a sugary cereal like Lucky Charms® could have us exceeding 25 grams before we’ve even had the chance to eat lunch! Just one serving packs in 10 grams of added sugar. That serving amounts to only three-quarters of a cup of cereal (which wouldn’t even half-fill your bowl). Realistically, you’ll probably eat more.

Expert voice

“Another suggestion for oatmeal is to add a tablespoon of any nut butter for extra protein. I often eat my cooked oatmeal with a half of a banana and some peanut butter.”
—Lori Smart, Registered Dietitian and Manager of Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC in British Columbia

“If you want a way to spice things up, try adding a flavour kick with unsweetened cocoa, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, or even cilantro. Remember that food is about both nutrition and enjoyment!”
—Eric Williamson, Registered Dietitian and Fitness, Nutrition, and Exercise Coach in Toronto

Student voice

“My favourite breakfast is oatmeal that’s loaded with toppings—apples, mango, walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It’s quick, filling, tasty, and a well-balanced meal that provides the carbs, fibre, and protein needed to get me through the day. I can also make overnight oats by putting my oats, toppings, and some milk in a jar the night before. In the morning my breakfast is ready to go, no cooking required.”
—Elliece R., third-year undergraduate, University of Regina, Saskatchewan

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Article sources

Lori Smart, BA, BSc, RD, Manager of Dietitian Services, HealthLink BC, British Columbia.

Eric Williamson, RD, CSCS, Fitness, Nutrition, and Exercise Coach, Toronto.

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Dietitians of Canada. (2014, November 27). Eating guidelines for vegans. Retrieved from https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vegetarian-Diets/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx

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General Mills. (n.d.). Lucky Charms product list. Retrieved from https://www.generalmills.com/en/Brands/Cereals/lucky-charms/brand-product-list

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Quaker Oats. (n.d.). Quaker® Oats. Retrieved from https://www.quakeroats.com/products/hot-cereals/old-fashioned-oats.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_ter m=quaker+oatmeal+nutrition&utm_campaign=rlsa-sqo-brand_oldfashionedoats_brand&gclid=CjwKEAjwt_isBRDuisOm1dTQqGISJAAfRrEAagmWOt6FI8WALGXZbAEgxuAZYe–k8XvSaA1IU33RoC2Cjw_wcB

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Student Health 101 survey, January 2016.

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