The 19 Healthiest Foods To Eat for Breakfast

From eggs to oatmeal, these healthy breakfast staples and mix-ins provide the energy and nutrients you need to start your morning.

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The next time you rush out the door in the morning without something to eat, consider this: Skipping breakfast can set you up for overeating later in the day, according to Johns Hopkins. A healthy morning meal, on the other hand, provides energy, satisfies your appetite, and sets the stage for smart decisions all day long.

"You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with protein," said Erica Giovinazzo, MS, RD, a nutritionist in New York City. Luckily, you've got plenty of delicious, easy-to-find options. Here's a look at the 19 healthiest breakfast foods, along with tips from nutritionists for making them even better for you.

RELATED: 5 Healthier Breakfast Choices at Panera Bread

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Oatmeal

The old-school breakfast option oatmeal is filled with nutritional benefits. Oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that's been shown to help lower cholesterol when eaten regularly, according to a review from 2019 in Frontiers. Need another reason to dig in? Oats are also rich in phosphorus, magnesium, thiamine, and zinc, according to Harvard Health.

Steel-cut oats, which take about 15 minutes to cook, contain less glycemic load than rolled oats or instant varieties, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Glycemic load is how much and how rapidly a carbohydrate food raises blood sugar levels, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Overall, oatmeal is a healthy choice. Just avoid the flavored kinds, which can be packed with sugar. Instead, sweeten your bowl with milk and a bit of honey, and top with fruit and nuts.

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Greek Yogurt

This tangy, creamy type of yogurt is loaded with calcium and boasts plenty of protein to keep you feeling full throughout the morning, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Your best bet: Choose a plain, nonfat variety, and add some fruit to give it some sweetness and flavor (and a dose of added nutrition).

"I love Greek yogurt because it's really quick and easy," said Giovinazzo. "You can always take it with you on your way out the door."

03 of 19

Grapefruit

Grapefruit made the healthy breakfast list because it's hydrating, filling, and packed with immunity-boosting antioxidants. According to Johns Hopkins, the high-fiber content of grapefruit breaks down the sugar slowly, making this fruit an excellent choice for those with diabetes who are monitoring their blood glucose levels.

"For a well-rounded breakfast, pair it with protein—such as yogurt or an egg," suggested Giovinazzo. But check with your healthcare provider first if you take any medications, as grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interfere with some prescription drugs, according to Johns Hopkins.

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Bananas

There's nothing like a banana at breakfast to keep those mid-morning cravings at bay. The yellow fruit—especially when they still have a touch green—are one of the best sources of resistant starch, according to a 2019 review from Nutrients. Resistant starch is a healthy carbohydrate that keeps you feeling fuller longer, according to the Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes.

"Slice it up and add it to cereal or oatmeal," advised Giovinazzo. "It will add natural sweetness, so you may not need additional sugar."

Thanks to a healthy dose of potassium, an electrolyte that helps lower blood pressure naturally, bananas are a particularly good choice for people with high blood pressure, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Eggs

Once shunned for being high in dietary cholesterol, eggs are now embraced as a healthy source of protein and nutrients like vitamin D. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), one large raw eggs contains 6.3 grams of protein and 2 micrograms of vitamin D, amoung other nutrients.

Eggs do contain cholesterol. However, this study from 2018 published in Heart, found that those who ate eggs did not have an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, they even had an 11% lower risk of developing heart disease.

"If, overall, you're choosing lean proteins and not eating a ton of fat and cholesterol, then eggs are a great thing to have in your diet," said Giovinazzo.

RELATED: Is It Really Okay to Eat Eggs Everyday?

06 of 19

Almond Butter

Don't eat eggs or dairy? Almond butter is an excellent alternate source of protein (at 20 grams per cup), according to the USDA. And it's filled with monounsaturated fat which is a good subsitution to saturated fat according to the American Heart Association. Plus, Giovinazzo pointed out that "it's really delicious spread on whole grain bread or paired with a banana or an apple."

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Watermelon

As its name suggests, watermelon is an excellent way to hydrate in the morning. One slice of watermelon contains about 9.2 ounces of water, according to the USDA.

This juicy fruit is also among the best sources of lycopene, averaging 9–13 milligrams in a cup and a half of watermelon, according to the USDA. Lycopene is a nutrient found in red fruits and vegetables that has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and prevent blood clots, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Flaxseed

Sprinkling ground flaxseed into a smoothie or bowl of cereal will turn your breakfast into a gold mine of omega-3 fatty acids. According to this article from 2019 in Nutrients, flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignan. These compounds are anti-inflammatory and antioxidative (prevents damage to your cells).

Flaxseed may also be helpful to people with diabetes as it can help with blood sugar levels, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. A word of caution: Don't eat raw or unripe flaxseed as it can contain toxic compounds.

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Blueberries

Fresh or frozen, these tiny superfruits pack a big antioxidant punch. According to this 2017 study from the New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station at Rutgers University, eating blueberries regularly can help improve your brain function, including memory and motor skills.

Bluberries have high concentrations of the powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins, according to the study. Anthocyanins help protect brain cells from damage and disease.

10 of 19

Strawberries

"Berries are superfoods because they're so high in antioxidants without being high in calories," Giovinazzo said.

In addition, one cup of strawberries contains 85 milligrams of vitamin C, along with 3 grams of fiber, according to the USDA.

Strawberries are good for your heart, too. One study published in 2013 in the journal Circulation found that people were less likely to have a heart attack over an 18-year period if they ate more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries per week. Strawberries, like blueberries, are a good source of anthocyanins.

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Coffee

Coffee can provide a variety of benefits. As a coffee drinker, you may live longer, have healthy liver enzyme levels, process sugar better, and have stronger DNA, according to Johns Hopkins. In addition, you are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, heart failure, colon cancer, Alzheimer's disease, or a stroke.

Coffee also contains antioxidants and other compounds that can reduce inflammation and protect against disease, according to Johns Hopkins.

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Tea

Not a coffee person? Tea has a pretty impressive resume of health benefits, too. According to this 2013 study from Current Pharmaceutical Design, tea can reduce the risk of developing diseases like cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. It's also a rich source of the immunity-boosting antioxidants known as catechins, which may reduce the risk of cancer, according to the study.

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Cantaloupe

"Any fruit is a good addition to your breakfast," said Giovinazzo, and cantaloupe is no exception. A 1 cup serving contains 11 milligrams of vitamin C and 232 micrograms of vitamin A, according to the USDA. Like most melons, cantaloupe has a high water concentration—at 90 grams—which means it will help you stay hydrated and keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

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Kiwi

This fuzzy little fruit has about 134 milligrams of vitamin C per cup, according to the USDA. It's also rich in potassium (at 356 milligrams) and fiber (5.4 grams), which makes it a super aid to digestion.

Kiwis are slightly tart. They're delicious by themselves, but if you prefer a sweeter flavor, try mixing them with strawberries and bananas in a smoothie or fruit salad.

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Orange Juice

Fresh squeezed OJ is a classic (and tasty) morning beverage, but that doesn't mean it can't be made even healthier. For more nutritional benefit, opt for a store-bought variety that's fortified with vitamin D.

Along with fatty fish and fortified milk, fortified OJ is a dietary source of vitamin D, according to the USDA. 1 cup of fortified orange juice has 100 units of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to reduce cancer cell growth, control infections, and reduce inflammation, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"Whichever OJ you prefer, stick with one small glass a day," advised Giovinazzo. "Fruit juice is high in calories and sugar," Giovinazzo said, "and shouldn't replace whole fruit in your diet."

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Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice, which may help limit bacterial growth, is best known for warding off urinary tract infections (UTIs), according to Stanford Medicine Children's Health. Cranberry juice can also prevent stomach ulcers and may decrease dental plaque.

Cranberry juice may also prevent kidney stones by lowering the calcium levels and pH of the urine (high levels of calcium and pH have been associated with kidney stones), according to Stanford Medicine Children's Health.

As with OJ, though, you're better off sticking with small servings. Cranberry juice—not to be confused with cranberry juice cocktail—isn't as sugary as other fruit juices.

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Cereal

"Cereal can be tricky, because there are so many different kinds out there," warned Giovinazzo. "Something with at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar is probably your best bet."

You'll find this winning combo in many whole-grain or bran cereals (such as shredded wheat varieties). Whole grains have fiber, vitamin B, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and many other nutrients, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Top off your bowl with skim milk and fruit for the complete package: whole grains to fill you up, protein to supply all-day energy, and antioxidants to keep your immune system humming.

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Raspberries

Raspberries contain ellagitannins, a type of antioxidant that is thought to have cancer-fighting properties, according to a 2019 article from European Food Research and Technology. They also have 23 milligrams of vitamin C.

Although you can buy fresh raspberries year-round, during the off-season you'll find them cheaper (and with equal nutritional value) in the frozen foods aisle. They're perfect as an addition to cereal or yogurt, or mixed into a smoothie for a quick, drink-on-the-go breakfast.

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Whole-wheat Bread

Carbohydrates are a breakfast mainstay, but the type of carbs you choose can make a big difference in the overall health of your meal. The simple rule to remember is that whole wheat and other whole grains—whether they're found in bread, toast, or English muffins—contain more fiber and nutrients than their white, refined counterparts, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

What you put on your bread matters, as well. "Slathering your toast with butter or jelly just adds empty fat and calories," said Giovinazzo. "Instead, get some protein by adding an egg or some almond butter."

There are a variety of breakfast staples that you can eat to provide you with nutrients, staying-power, and protein. Whether you choose to eat eggs, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal—any of these breakfast foods will start your day off on the right foot.

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