A question I get asked all the time: “Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?”
I’m always amused by this because on some level it’s, like, why does there have to be one that’s the MOST important? Having a balance of nutrients throughout the day keeps your energy and mood stable, but I guess that’s just not as sexy as “OMG THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL I WILL EAT TODAY.”
That said, I do believe that how we start the day sets the tone for what’s to come, so yes, breakfast matters. On a travel day or a day you’re running around, especially, you want to set off an stable footing with a solid breakfast. The good news is that there are lots of portable options too. Here’s how to make it happen and some of my top picks.
Even just five minutes spent planning what to buy en route or taking a little time to pack or prep something for the next morning can make a world of difference. If that sounds like too much time, think of all the other things you spend five minutes on without a thought—like, I don’t know, scrolling through social media? Sacrificing a few minutes of screen time is worth having a better day because you enjoyed a balanced breakfast.
Speaking of balance, you want a combination of protein (ideally at least 15 grams), fat, and carbs at your first meal. This helps promote stable blood sugar, which keeps your energy and mood balanced and keeps you satisfied so your stomach’s not growling an hour later.
Since I know transport can be an issue, if you’re packing stuff, it can be helpful to purchase single servings of items when available or invest in a few little containers. For example, I had no idea these little have these little OXO storage containers were for baby food, but they’re perfect for when you just want to bring a few tablespoons of something like hummus, nut butter, or seeds. 8 ounce and 12-ounce containers and jars are great for things like yogurt parfaits and overnight oats. You can also use a ziplock or similar resealable bag.
Also, safety matters. If it’s going to be a while before you eat and you’ve brought something that needs to be kept cold, use an insulated lunch bag (link to one) and bring a cold pack—even a ziplock with ice will do in a pinch. You might just want to double-bag it to guard against leaks as the ice melts.
10 Healthy On The Go Breakfast Ideas
Yogurt & Seeds
Plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt is your best bet for meeting those protein goals, but any unflavored yogurt will work. Chia seeds and ground flax are great ways to add fiber and heart-healthy fats. I like to buy these Hodgson Mill Travel Flax Chia Blend packets in bulk because they barely take up any space in my bag, but if I’m just out for the day I’ll use a little container. To make your life easier, know that you can 100% assemble this the night before. If you need more than just the yogurt and seeds, bring a piece of fruit to enjoy as a complex carb snack.
When I was a dietetic intern, my psych rotation was outside the city, so I had to catch a 7-am shuttle bus every day. Overnight oats packed in a mason jar were a total lifesaver. Here’s my basic recipe, but know that you can play with the ratio of oats to seeds and vary your add-ins. Just make sure to use rolled or instant oats, since steel cut won’t absorb the liquid fully. Also be sure to include protein, either by choosing a milk that has protein or including protein powder if you’re using a non-dairy milk with minimal protein like almond or coconut milk.
Plain instant oatmeal can easily be mixed with hot water and topped with nut butter or mixed with protein powder for a quick and easy breakfast. You can buy the packets or assemble your own in Ziplock bags (I like to add ground flax and cinnamon). There are also some healthier grab-and-go cups you can buy. I’d recommend stocking up at home so you can easily toss one in your bag when you leave the house or pack a few in your suitcase for a trip. I often recommend this one from Bobs Red Mill and Purely Elizabeth have some good options without insane sugar levels.
Baked Oatmeal Cups
For a grab-and-go oatmeal breakfast that doesn’t call for water, baked oatmeal like these Super Seed Berry Oatmeal Cups are a game-changer. You can enjoy them hot or cold, and they pair perfectly with nut butter or with a cappuccino or latte for added protein.
Latte Or Cappuccino
When you make it with cow’s milk, a latte or cappuccino can actually be a great source of protein (about 8-13 in a Starbucks grande). I generally recommend two-percent or whole milk to give it more staying power than skim. Just skip the flavored syrups to spare yourself the excess calories and energy crash from sugar. If you need something more, pair it with a piece of fruit or a one-ounce (1/4 cup) serving of nuts or seeds to enjoy mid-morning.
Hard Boiled Eggs
It doesn’t get much easier than hard-boiled eggs when you’re on the go. The combination of protein and fat (about 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 70 calories apiece) keeps you satisfied. They’re so easy to make a batch ahead of time. I’ll usually enjoy 2 and pair them with grape or cherry tomatoes or half an avocado if I know I need to keep going for a long time. I like to peel them the night before so that’s one less thing to worry about in the morning.One of my favorite options you can buy is the little Egg & Spinach Pot from Pret A Manger. I also love the Starbucks Sous Vide Egg Bites. Homemade egg and veggie cups like these mini-frittatas are a delicious DIY option.
PB&J For Grown-Ups
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a class for a reason—they’re delicious. Plus, they offer a balance of protein, fat, and carbs. They’re also pretty travel-friendly. Using whole grain bread ups the fiber so you stay full for longer, and swapping out the jelly for fresh fruit like apple, pear or banana slices also adds fiber and cuts out added sugar. You can also use berries. Choosing a nut or seed butter without sugar also helps keep energy crashes at bay. Want something a little different? My personal favorite spread to use is tahini.
Egg And Veggie Sandwich
I love a good egg sandwich when I’m doing breakfast on the go. If I’m bringing my own, I’ll do hard boiled egg with greens and hummus plus any veggies I might have handy. If I’m buying something, I love the Spinach Feta & Egg White Wrap from Starbucks. Panera also has a delicious Egg White Breakfast Sandwich that has avocado, tomato, and cheese. Yes, please! In general, look for something simple and keep in mind that many wraps are oversized (Starbucks is a weird exception), so if regular whole wheat bread or an English muffin is an option, go with that to keep portions realistic.
Nuts And Fruit
It doesn’t get much easier than nuts or seeds and a piece of fruit for a travel-friendly breakfast. To keep portions realistic, cap of nuts and seeds at 1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) and go slow with add-ins like chocolate or dried fruit, since these can quickly up the calorie level from sugar. Also easy? Try a nut-based bar. I generally recommend the KIND Nuts and Spices line because they have less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving, and my clients also love RxBars.
Cheese and Fruit
A one-ounce piece of cheese or a cheese stick paired with grapes, an apple, pea or other fruit you like is a great way to start your morning with a combo of protein, fat, and complex carbs. Plus, it feels kind of fancy. Cottage cheese also works if you’d rather use a spoon or if the idea of peeling a string cheese in public makes you feel like a kid.
What are your favorite on-the-go breakfasts?
This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.
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