9 healthy grab-and-go breakfasts
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but sometimes in all the hustle and bustle of getting out the door, it's easier to grab a latte on the road or skip breakfast entirely.
Here's a better way: Plan ahead and stock up on homemade, healthy items that you can just grab and eat on busy mornings.
Here are nine quick and healthy breakfast ideas that can help start the day off right.
Breakfast Idea #1: Muffins and quick bread
Surprised to see muffins on a list of healthy breakfasts? Homemade muffins aren't anything like the flavorless sugar bombs at some coffee shops and grocery stores. If you make them yourself, you control what goes in them -- which means you can load them up with healthy fruits, protein-packed nuts, and whole-grain flours that will help you feel satisfied till lunch.
There are hundreds of quick bread and muffin recipes out there, from apple-cinnamon to peanut-butter-and-jelly. Not a fan of sweet food in the morning? Look for savory recipes, like spinach-pesto muffins, cornbread with jalapeños, or bacon and cheddar muffins.
Quick breads and muffins use baking soda and baking powder for leavening (hence "quick," as opposed to the slow rising of yeast bread). Since quick breads and muffins use the same leavening, the recipes are pretty interchangeable. If you love the single-serving style of muffins, pour your quick-bread batter into muffin tins. If you hate washing a muffin pan, feel free to make your muffin recipe as one big loaf of quick bread. Just be sure to adjust the baking time, since muffins bake faster than quick bread.
Tip: Both muffins and slices of quick bread freeze and reheat beautifully: While they're still fresh (but cooled), store them in a zip-lock bag or a Tupperware container in the freezer. On a busy morning, pull out as many as you need, pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds or a minute, and enjoy.
Breakfast Idea #2: Smoothies
Need more ways to get in those servings of fruit and vegetables? Try making a smoothie for breakfast.
"Smoothies are probably my favorite easy breakfast because you can get so much in there, including carbs, protein, and healthy fat," says Beth Reardon, director of nutrition for Duke Integrative Medicine, part of the Duke University Health System.
At their core, smoothies are just blended fresh or frozen fruit -- but that doesn't mean you have to stop there. Try adding Greek yogurt for extra creaminess and a protein boost, soy or almond milk for nondairy smoothness, or even a big spoonful of peanut butter.
It's easy to get out the blender on a weekend, blend up a big batch, and pour the smoothies into individual cups (bonus points if you use travel coffee cups that you can shut between sips). Then stick them in the fridge or freezer and pull them out on busy mornings. After a quick stir or shake, they'll be ready to enjoy.
Or invest in an immersion blender -- most models come with a plastic cup to blend in, which makes it easy to make a couple of smoothies without getting out a big appliance.
Tip: Add a big handful of washed spinach to your smoothie -- you'll get all of the nutrition (and all of the color!) of the greens with none of the taste.
Breakfast Idea #3: Quiches and Frittatas
Want eggs for breakfast but don't have the time? Bake a quiche or frittata (the Italian, crustless version of a quiche) on the weekend and eat slices for breakfast all week.
Baked eggs reheat just fine -- and they're also great cold if you're out running errands and don't have easy access to a microwave.
There are plenty of recipes out there, but you may not even need one. For an easy frittata, just preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat some oil or butter in an oven-safe skillet. Then crack eggs into a large bowl and add any mix-ins you'd like (chopped bell pepper, green onions, spinach, cooked sausage, salt and pepper, goat cheese, etc.). You can even cook bacon or sauté onions in the skillet before adding the eggs for an extra burst of flavor. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, cook on the stove until the bottom is starting to set, and transfer to the oven until it's cooked all the way through. Then let cool, cut into individual serving sizes, and store in the fridge until you're ready to eat.
Tip: Like the idea of muffins but want the protein of eggs? Instead of cooking the eggs in a skillet, pour the egg mixture into muffin tins and bake until cooked through. Then let cool and pop the mini-frittatas out for great individually sized breakfast dishes.
Breakfast Idea #4: Oatmeal
Oatmeal is creamy, warm, delicious, packed with fiber to keep you full -- and way too slow for really busy mornings. Rather than turning to the instant variety (or skipping breakfast altogether), make a big batch of old-fashioned or steel-cut oats on the weekends to eat throughout the week. You can even store the oatmeal in small microwave-safe containers that you can heat and eat without getting a bowl dirty.
On a busy morning, warm up some of the refrigerated oatmeal, add milk or soy milk and some fresh fruit and brown sugar, and enjoy. Or try Reardon's favorite flavor combination: oatmeal with ground flaxseed, cinnamon, almond butter, and tart or sweet cherries.
Worried that yesterday's oatmeal won't reheat well? "It actually tastes better later, after the flavors have melded," says Reardon.
If normal oatmeal sounds too boring, try cooking quinoa or brown rice with milk and water and heating up the leftovers as hot cereal in the morning. Or if you can't be bothered with watching a pot of oatmeal on the stove, find a recipe for baked oatmeal, which just involves mixing, baking, and cooling.
Tip: If you have a rice cooker or slow cooker with a timer, you can set up your oatmeal before bed, turn on the timer, and wake up to fresh, delicious oatmeal in the morning.
Breakfast Idea #5: Yogurt Parfaits
If you've ever found yourself salivating at those pretty pink-and-white cups of yogurt and fruit while waiting in line for your latte, you'll be happy to know that they're easy -- and way cheaper -- to make at home.
Just buy some yogurt (Greek yogurt is a great choice, since it's creamy and has plenty of protein), some granola, and whatever fruit is in season. Then, in individual cups or bowls, layer the fruit and yogurt, plus some honey or other sweetener if your yogurt is unsweetened. You can layer the granola in with the fruit and yogurt if you don't mind it getting soft, or leave some room at the top to pour in the granola later.
In the morning, just grab a container and a spoon, and you're ready to go.
Tip: If you have a favorite fruit that's not in season, buy the frozen variety at the grocery store.
Breakfast Idea # 6: Homemade Granola Bars
If you're a fan of wrapped cereal bars for their convenience but not their nutrition, try whipping up a batch of homemade granola bars. Just as with muffins, making granola bars at home means you control what goes in them.
There are tons of granola bar recipes out there -- crunchy ones, chewy ones, fruity ones, nutty ones, and even chocolaty ones. Many of them don't require baking -- just measure out ingredients, stir well, press into a pan, and chill.
Once the granola bars are ready, cut them into slices, put them in plastic bags or food storage containers, and stash in the fridge or freezer. Then pull a few out on your way out the door.
Unlike some other breakfast options, most granola bars keep just fine at room temperature -- though if you'll be keeping them for days or weeks, they'll taste better if they stay cool -- so they're good to have in your bag or car for snacks as well as breakfasts.
Tip: Granola bars make great gifts -- especially if you get creative with wrapping them.
Breakfast Idea # 7: Breakfast Sandwiches or Burritos
You don't have to limit sandwiches and burritos to lunchtime. Eggy sandwiches and wraps are super-satisfying in the morning -- especially when you can just reheat frozen ones.
Take an hour or two on a weekend to scramble or fry a bunch of eggs and add them to tortillas, English muffins, or bagels. Top with other delicious ingredients (cooked bacon or sausage, cheese, salsa, etc.), wrap tightly in saran wrap or aluminum foil, and freeze. Then just pull one out in the morning, take off the wrapper, and microwave for a minute or two for a hearty, protein-packed breakfast.
Tip: If you find that your burritos get a little dry when reheated, try wrapping them in a damp paper towel before microwaving them, or plan to eat with extra salsa.
Breakfast Idea #8: Eggs
If frittatas and breakfast burritos are too fussy, how about some simple hard-boiled eggs? They're portable, nutritious, and full of protein, and they come naturally individually wrapped.
Celebrity chef Alton Brown suggests cooking hard-boiled eggs in an electric kettle. Just put the eggs in the bottom, fill with water, and turn on. When the kettle boils and turns itself off, set a timer for 12 minutes. Then pull the eggs out, cool in a bowl of ice water, and transfer to the fridge. Easy, fast, and no extra pot to wash.
Tip: Be sure not to make your coffee with the same water (and kettle) you use for your eggs -- by the time the eggs are cooked, the water will be too cold.
Breakfast Ideas #9: Banana Wraps
Presto: an instant, portable, nutritious breakfast, in about a minute flat.
Tip: For a touch of sweetness, add a drizzle of honey.