Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss
Managing your food cravings and losing weight quickly is simple: Simply eat breakfast.
That’s according to a recent study from the University of Missouri in Columbia, which discovered that eating breakfast caused women’s brains to release dopamine, a feel-good hormone that aids in impulse control.
The researchers subjected a sample of overweight women between the ages of 18 and 20 who skipped breakfast on a daily basis to a battery of diet tests. They ate a high-protein breakfast one week, a moderate-protein breakfast the next, and a no-protein breakfast the third week. Blood samples revealed that eating breakfast resulted in increased dopamine levels, and questionnaires completed by the women revealed that eating breakfast resulted in reduced food cravings later in the day.
The simple question is whether or not to have breakfast. The more difficult question is: What should you eat? According to Eat This, Not That, here are the 42 best breakfast foods for weight loss.
A. BEST BREAKFAST PROTEINS
We’ve ranked these muscle-building foods from those with the least to most protein—they’re all terrific, but 1 will help tone your arms, legs, chest and butt fast.
11. Black Beans
Protein, per ½ cup: 7 g
Packed with soluble fiber—a powerful belly fat fighter—beans will not only fill you up for hours but also help slim you down. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber consumed daily, study participant’s belly fat reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. To eat the magical fruit for breakfast, make a Southwestern-inspired omelet filled with black beans, salsa (we like Newman’s Own Mild) and Colby-Jack cheese. And pair it with tea! White tea’s combination of caffeine and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) shrinks your fat cells. See for yourself on The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse—test panelists lost 10 pounds in one week!
10. All Natural Peanut Butter
Protein, per 2 tbsp: 7-8 g
While processed peanut butter is filled with sugar and waist-widening oils, the real stuff is made with just two ingredients: salt and peanuts. This legume is filled with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and genistein, a compound that down-regulates fat genes. Nutritionist and personal trainer Kristin Reisinger suggests using the healthy fat in an AM smoothie. Take 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk and blend it with 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder, 1/2 banana and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. “This drink is a simple way to start the day with a perfect balance of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and promote muscle growth, without an overabundance of calories for those seeking weight loss,” says Reisinger.
9. Almond Butter
Protein, per 2 tbsp: 7-8 g
“Almond butter is high in protein, fiber, antioxidants and monounsaturated fats,” says
Martha McKittrick, RDN, CDE. “Studies have also shown that people who eat nuts are less likely to become overweight than those who avoid them, likely because it helps you feeling fuller, longer” To reap the benefits at breakfast, McKittrick suggests spread some nut butter on whole grain toast or adding a tablespoon to oatmeal or smoothies.
Protein, per two large eggs: 13 g
“Eggs are an excellent source of protein and other healthy nutrients including fat-burning choline,” says McKittrick. Choline, also found in lean meats, seafood and collard greens, attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver, according to Zero Belly Cookbook. One test panelist, Morgan Minor, made its egg hash her go-to breakfast, and after just 3 weeks on the program, the female firefighter lost 11 pounds and 4 inches from her waist! The more eggs you eat, the less egg-shaped you get.
7. Greek Yogurt
Protein, per 6 oz: 17 g
“Green yogurt is one of the best breakfast foods because it has double the amount of protein compared to other yogurts,” says McKittrick. “It’s also extremely versatile. To create a healthy, filling parfet, top plain Greek yogurt with berries, chia seeds and canned pumpkin.” It also makes for a satiety-boosting smoothie addition. “Smoothies made from just fruit can cause a rapid rise and fall of blood sugar. Adding protein such as greek yogurt can keep blood sugar levels stable longer and ward off hunger,” explains McKittrick.
6. Wild Salmon
Protein, per 3 oz: 17 g
“The healthy dose of protein and omega 3 healthy fats found in salmon will keep you satisfied and energized all morning long,” says Kristen Carlucci Haase, RDN. “I love smoked salmon and smashed avocado on whole grain toast, or reheating leftovers of grilled salmon and vegetables for a quick, superfoods-packed start to the day.” Just make sure you avoid the farmed variety if weight loss is your goal.
5. Nitrite-Free Canadian Bacon
Protein, 3 strips: 18 g
Many brands of bacon contain nitrates, a preservative that interferes with the body’s natural ability to process sugar, which increases the risk for diabetes. However, if you stick with the nitrate-free variety, bacon can be healthy, slimming part of your morning meal. NutritionistJennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, says adding between 20-30 grams of protein at breakfast can aid weight loss, and tells us that nitrite-free Canadian bacon is an option she regularly suggests.
4. Chicken Breast
Protein, per 4 oz: 19 g
Chicken may not be your average breakfast food, but maybe it should be. “Some mornings, yogurt or eggs just won’t cut it,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group. “To spice up my breakfast, I’ll pull out some leftover dinner which often contains plenty of fiber-rich veggies and hunger slashing lean protein. This perfect combination of nutrients keeps me full and energized for hours,” she says. And for a list of the purest proteins, don’t miss these 29 Best Every Proteins for Weight Loss!
3. Cottage Cheese
Protein, per 6 oz: 21 g
Less trendy than it’s dairy aisle cousin, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is often overlooked as a healthy breakfast option. It tastes great topped with fruits like pineapple and mango. Or you can go the savory route.Marisa Moore, RDN, suggests topping the protein-filled dairy with with fresh basil, grape tomatoes, black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
2. Ground Turkey
Protein, per 4 oz: 22 g
If you want to amp up your morning dose of protein, consider adding ground turkey (along with some onions, peppers and mushrooms) to your eggs. The combination is quite tasty and somewhat unexpected, making it a perfect choice for fatigued taste buds. Bonus: The meat is a primo source of DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve brain function and mood and prevent fat cells from growing.
1. Organic Protein Powder
Protein, 2 scoops: 34-48 g
Protein powder is the most versatile and nutrient-dense source of the muscle-builder nutrient, earning it a top spot on our list. Use it to make a smoothie or protein shake, add it to oatmeal to amp up the protein count, use it to make a homemade nutrition bar, mix it into pancake mix—the options are truly endless. Or follow Lauren Minchen RD’s lead and add a scoop into unsweetened coconut yogurt and top the duo off with some fresh fruit. “This is a great option for those who need a quick, filling non-dairy option that will also keep their appetite in check throughout the day.” Click here for the ultimate list of The Best Protein Powder For Every Goal!
B. BEST BREAKFAST FRUITS&VEGGIES
To rank each fruit and veggie, we looked at their fiber and sugar counts, granting points to produce packed with fiber and deducting points from those with more sugar than fiber.
Sugar, per medium fruit: 19 g
Fiber, per medium fruit: 4.4 g
Apples are one of the very best fruit sources of fiber, which, as we said about black beans, is key to blasting belly fat. Throw an apple in your bag along with a nutrition bar and a low-sugar yogurt for a simple, nutrient-filled breakfast on-the-go.
Sugar, per fruit: 14 g
Fiber, per fruit 3 g
“Not only are bananas superstars when it comes to potassium, but they also provide filling fiber and water,” says Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN. She suggests tossing slices of the yellow fruit into unsweetened oatmeal. Smearing slices with some nut butter is another fat-fighting combination worth trying.
Sugar, per ½ cup: 8 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 1 g
Think of grapefruit (one of the best fruits for fat loss) as your breakfast appetizer. “Even if you changed nothing else about your diet, eating half a grapefruit before each meal may help you lose up to a pound a week,” says Patricia Bannan MS, RDN, author of Eat Right When the Time Is Right. “Researchers found that when obese people ate half a grapefruit before each meal, they dropped an average of 3.5 pounds over 12 weeks,” she says. How’s it work? The tangy fruit helps lower insulin, a fat-storage hormone. It’s also 90% water, so it fills you up so you eat less, explains Bannan.
Sugar, per ½ cup: 3-7 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 2-4 g
Berries are one the best fruits for breakfast, hands down. Not only are they “rich in heart-healthy antioxidants, they also provide a generous amount of satiating fiber and vitamins C and K,” says Torey Armul, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Berries are also packed with polyphenols, naturally occurring chemicals that aid weight loss and stop fat from forming. Add them to cereal, oatmeal, weight loss smoothies, shakes, mash them onto peanut butter toast, or nosh on them plain.
8. Tart Cherries
Sugar, per ½ cup: 6.5 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 1.25 g
Tart cherries have been shown to benefit heart health as well as body weight, in a study on obese rats. A 12-week study by the University of Michigan found that rats fed antioxidant-rich tart cherries showed a 9 percent belly fat reduction over rats fed a “Western diet.” Moreover, the researchers noted that the cherry consumption had profound ability to alter the expression of fat genes. Nosh on them during breakfast to kick your morning off right.
7. Sweet Potatoes
Sugar, per ½ cup: 7 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 2 g
The vibrant tubers are called superfoods for good reason: They’re packed with nutrients and can help you burn fat. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, which means they’re absorbed slowly and keep you feeling full longer. Minchen likes to use them to whip up a sweet potato hash. “I love any variation of this dish because it provides rich vitamins, minerals and fiber from all the veggies. It is very filling, which helps keep appetite and portions under control as the day goes on,” she says. For more weight loss hacks, click here for The 25 Best Nutrition Tips Ever!
6. Bell Peppers
Sugar, per ½ cup: 1 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 0.8
Green, red or yellow, fresh or frozen, peppers are never a bad companion for your eggs. Thanks to the veggies’ high vitamin C content, eating them can help burn stored fat and convert carbs into fuel. Studies also indicate that vitamin C helps muscles process a fatty acid called carnitine that’s essential to muscle growth and recovery. A mere quarter-cup of chopped peppers—about what you’d add to an omelet—provides 150 percent of the day’s recommended intake.
Sugar, per pepper: 0.6 g
Fiber, per pepper: 0.4 g
Registered dietitian Isabel Smith loves spicing up her morning meal—and with good reason: “Thanks to their capsaicin content, spicy peppers can rev the metabolism and may also help to promote satiety, ” she explains. “Try adding jalapeño or another spicy pepper to an egg dish or avocado toast,” Smith suggests.
Sugar, per ½ cup: <1 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 1 g
Starting the day with cooked or raw veggies is a great way to ensure you get a health dose of hard-to-consume nutrients, says Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN “Whether in a smoothie, an omelette or on an open-faced broiled low-fat cheese sandwich, veggies like broccoli, mushroom, tomato and onions are loaded with fiber, a nutrient that will help keep full throughout your busy morning hours,” explains Mills.
Sugar, per ½ cup: 5 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 5 g
Watermelon sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in sugar, but the fruit has some impressive health benefits. Research conducted at the University of Kentucky showed that eating watermelon may improve lipid profiles and lower fat accumulation. Better yet, a study among athletes by the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena in Spain found watermelon juice to help reduce the level of muscle soreness — that’s great news for any Eat This, Not That! warriors working on that six-pack!
Sugar, per ½ cup: <1 g
Fiber, per ½ cup: 2 g
“Spinach is low in calories but high in fiber, which helps to fill you up,” says Armul. It’s also a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. It’s also one of the Superfoods Healthier than Kale. Use it to amp up the nutrient density of your omelets, smoothies and egg sandwiches.
Sugar, per ¼ fruit: 0.33 g
Fiber, per ¼ fruit: 3.5 g
Avocados—one of the best weight loss foods on the planet— contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in every serving, says Mckittrick, including oleic fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce abdominal fat. Avocados are also a good source of fiber and fat, both of which keep you feeling fuller longer, she adds. “Use the green fruit to make avocado toast or bake an egg in half of an avocado,” Mckittrick suggests. See, not all fats are bad—click here to discover The 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss!
C. BEST BREAKFAST CEREALS
Here, we awarded points for high fiber and protein counts. We then deducted points from products that had a higher sugar count than the competition. Usual suspects like Tony the Tiger and the Trix rabbit didn’t even make the cut.
6. Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries
Fiber per cup: 3 g
Protein per cup: 2 g
Sugar per cup: 9 g
This cereal employs wheat bran to up its fiber count and freeze-dried strawberries for some natural sweetness. However, it’s higher sugar content lands it at the top of the stack.
5. Pacific Foods Organic Lightly Sweetened Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Fiber per cup: 3 g
Protein per cup: 5 g
Sugar per cup: 6 g
Steel cut oats are higher in fiber and have a lower glycemic index than other oat varieties, which helps keep bellies full and satisfied hours after eating. While standard steel-cut oats take longer to cook than most other varieties, this pre-cooked, cane sugar-sweetened variety comes in a convenient grab-and-go box and is ready to eat in just minutes. Just pour it in a bowl, zap it and eat it as is—there’s no need to add water.
4. Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice
Fiber per cup: 1 g
Protein per cup: 2 g
Sugar per cup: 1 g
Sure they may go “snap, crackle, pop” but these 100 percent whole-grain, gluten-free puffs are a more nutritious choice than the brand you’re likely thinking of. This low-sugar cereal carries a slightly nutty flavor and pairs well with both strawberries and raspberries. These fruits provide the hunger-busting fiber this otherwise nutritious cereal lacks, ensuring you’ll stay satiated until lunch. For more ways to banish your rumbling stomach check out Foods That Shut Off Your Hunger Hormones Fast.
3. Kashi GoLean Crunch!
Fiber per cup: 10.6
Protein per cup: 12 g
Sugar per cup: 17 g
Ten grams of heart-healthy, belly-filling fiber goes a long way toward making up for the higher-than-ideal sugar content of these hearty clusters. This cereal not only tastes delicious with milk, but also makes a sweet, crunchy addition to plain Greek yogurt. Just make sure you stay away from these Worst Yogurts for Weight Loss if you’re trying to trim down.
2. Plain Oatmeal
Fiber per cup, cooked: 4 g
Protein per cup, cooked: 6 g
Sugar per cup, cooked: 1.1 g
“Oatmeal-great source of complex carbohydrates to fuel the body and fiber to decrease the risk of heart disease,” says nutrition and fitness expert Jim White. He suggests pairing oatmeal with blueberries, walnuts and milk for a filling, nutrient-rich morning meal. And for more oatmeal mix-in ideas be sure to check out Fat-Burning Foods to Put In Your Oats.
1. Post Shredded Wheat Spoon Size Wheat ’n Bran
Fiber per cup: 7 g
Protein per cup: 4.8 g
Sugar per cup: 0 g
This healthy cereal is made with just whole-grain wheat and wheat bran—a base crying out for fresh fruit like berries and bananas. In addition to serving up a decent share of hunger-quelling protein and fiber in every bowl, Wheat ’n Bran also provides 20 percent of the day’s phosphorus, a mineral that plays an important role in how the body uses carbs and fats. The nutrient also helps the body make muscle-building protein.
D. BEST BREAKFAST CARBS
Breakfast carbs were awarded points for high fiber and protein counts. Then, to come to our final ranking, we axed points from the products that carried a high amounts of fat.
6. Nature’s Path Ancient Grains Frozen Waffles
Protein, 2 waffles: 4 g
Fiber, 2 waffles: 5 g
Fat, 2 waffles: 6 g
As a rule, waffles are lower in sugar than pancakes. Even so, not all waffles are safe bets for your belly. In fact, just one 7-inch homemade waffle made with traditional ingredients like eggs, flour, milk, oil, sugar and vanilla, has about 220 calories and a quarter of the day’s fat. Save calories and time behind the stove by digging into these store-bought waffles instead. They pack 30 grams of whole grains per serving and are made with superfood ingredients like quinoa, millet and amaranth, a gluten-free fiber-packed pseudograin.
5. Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins
Protein per roll: 5 g
Fiber per roll: 5 g
Fat per roll: 1 g
“Oroweat Sandwich Thins are my favorites. For just 100 calories, they provide 19 grams of whole grain, 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein to keep you feeling fuller, longer,” says Bannan. “Plus they’re free of high fructose corn syrup, which is hidden in many breads.” Use a sandwich thin as a base for an egg sandwich or fill one up with nut butterand berries.
Protein per cup, cooked: 8 g
Fiber per cup, cooked: 5.2 g
Fat per cup, cooked: 3.5 g
Though this trendy ancient grain isn’t traditionally thought of as a breakfast food, eating it in the A.M can help start your day off right. You can add the cooked grain to an omelet along with tomatoes, spinach, onions (a veggie that torches stored fat) and a sprinkle of cumin. Alternatively, use quinoa to make overnight oats. Here’s Reisinger’s go-to recipe: Combine 1 cup of cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Refrigerate overnight in a mason jar or covered bowl. In the morning top with a 1/2 cup of berries or half of a sliced banana. “This is terrific low sugar way to start the day for those looking to drop a few pounds,” Reisinger says. For alternative grains to quinoa with just as much protein.
3. VitaTops Wild Blueberry
Protein, 1 muffin top: 5 g
Fiber, 1 muffin top: 8 g
Fat, 1 muffin top: 2 g
On average, large commercially prepared muffins have 521 calories and 22 grams of waist-widening fat—and with 400 calories and 15 grams of fat, homemade varieties don’t fare much better. Ironically, if you want to avoid getting a muffin top, switching to VitaTops Wild Blueberry Muffin Tops is your best bet. We can’t deny it: It’s fiber and protein content is impressive.
2. Thomas’ Light Multi-Grain English Muffins
Protein, per muffin: 5 g
Fiber, per muffin: 8 g
Fat, per muffin:1 g
Outside of green vegetables, you’ll find very few foods that pack 8 grams of fiber into 100 calories. The best part? These lightened-up English Muffins taste nearly identical to the original, higher-cal variety, making them an unbeatable foundation for breakfast sandwiches. White likes to smear his with almond butter for a meal that’s filled with complex carbs, filling fiber, heart-healthy omega 3s, protein and energizing B-vitamins.
1. Sprouted Grain Toast
Protein, 2 slices: 8 g
Fiber, 2 slices: 6 g
Fat, 2 slices: 1 g
Not all breads are carb bombs waiting to shatter your weight loss goals, and sprouted grain toast is the very best example of that. This nutrient-dense bread is loaded with folate-filled lentils, protein and good-for-you grains and seeds like barley and millet. To boost the flavor of her slices, Moore likes to top hers with smashed avocado and smoked salmon—two other foods that made this best breakfast food list! “The healthy fats in the avocado and salmon nourish the heart while the fiber and protein help keep hunger at bay,” explains Moore.
E. BEST BREAKFAST TOPPINGS&MIX-INS
Unlike the other categories on this list, we’ve ranked the things here by their versatility and overall nutrition and health benefits. Foods that had multiple uses earned extra points, as did things that have been shown to supercharge weight loss efforts.
7. Black Pepper
Piperine, the powerful compound that gives black pepper its characteristic heat and taste, has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine to treat multiple health conditions including inflammation and tummy troubles. And recent animal studies have found that the compound may also have the ability to block the formation of new fat cells—a reaction known as adipogenesis, resulting in a decrease in waist size, body fat, and cholesterol levels. Season your omelets, breakfast sandwiches and avocado toast with a few grinds; your waist will thank you.
Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine, and packing half as much muscle-building protein as chicken, the walnut sounds like a Frankenfood, but it grows on trees. Other nuts combine only one or two of these features, not all three. Zied likes to add them to cold cereal bowls, oatmeal and yogurt. “A small amount provides lots of flavor and texture to meals,” notes Zied. A one-ounce serving (which is about seven nuts) is all you need.
“Ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties and for some, may help to promote weight loss and overall health,” notes Smith. She suggests combining an inch of ginger with carrots and apples to make a refreshing fresh breakfast juice. If juicing isn’t you thing, add ginger root to smoothie, pancake, muffin or oatmeal recipes.
Not only does it taste great, but studies show that cinnamon may help ward off the accumulation of belly fat. “Research also shows that this comforting spice can help with high blood sugars and blood pressure,” adds Moskovitz. She suggests adding it to oats, yogurt or hot coffee. It also fares well in smoothies and homemade pancakes. Just make sure you’re making one of these 12 Best Protein Pancakes for Weight Loss.
A mere tablespoon of these ultra-powerful seeds serves up nearly three grams of belly-filling fiber for just 55 calories. Not to mention, flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation, ward off mood swings and help prevent heart disease and diabetes. They make a welcome crunchy addition to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal or toast topped with avocado or nut butter, says McKittrick.
2. Chia Seeds
“Chia seeds contain soluble fiber that forms a gel in the stomach,” says Smith.” This gel slows digestion and promotes satiety, which can help dieters decrease their overall calorie consumption, she explains. Add chia seeds to your A.M oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie. Or, better yet, use them to make some of these 50 Best Chia Seed Recipes on Instagram!
1. Coconut Oil
What smells like an exotic vacation and can shrink your waist faster than almost any other food? Coconut oil! The tropical fat is filled with the medium-chain saturated fat lauric acid, which converts into energy more easily than other types of fat, ultimately aiding weight loss. Don’t believe it? Consider this: A study of 30 men in the journal Pharmacology found that just 2 tablespoons per day reduced waist circumference by an average of 1.1 inches over the course of a month. Smith suggests using it to grease your egg’s frying pan or adding a teaspoon or two into a smoothie. It can also be stirred into oatmeal recipes, like any of these 14 Overnight Oat Recipes for Weight Loss.