According to a survey that polled more than 14,000 people, the majority of Americans believe that breakfast is important (and nutritionists agree), yet only 34 percent of adults actually take the time to eat a morning meal. So where’s the disconnect? While we understand the importance of starting the day with a nutritious meal to fuel our brains and our bodies, the reality of hectic mornings, jam-packed schedules and the mystery of what actually constitutes “healthy” may be overwhelming and confusing. Here nutrition experts sound off on their top picks for quick, healthy packaged breakfasts to add to your shopping list.
1 CHIA POD OATS
Whole-grain oats, sun-ripened chia seeds, real fruit and virgin coconut oil: Sounds like a mix of good-for-you deliciousness. Chia Pod Oats make it easy to enjoy a healthy breakfast while on the go, and it has a short list of ingredients that you can actually pronounce. They’re also packaged in BPA-free containers, so you can “heat and eat” them at home or at work. Available in Apple Spice, Banana & Mango, Mixed Berry and Blueberry & Lemon flavors, these portable oats provide eight grams of protein, one to two grams of omega-3s and eight to nine grams of fiber per serving, which is great because Americans are only meeting about half of their needed fiber every day and are lacking in omega-3s too. Chia Pod Oats can be purchased at major retailers, including GNC, Walmart, Whole Foods and online.
2 VEGA ONE NUTRITIONAL SHAKE
Twenty grams of protein, six servings of greens, 25 percent of the Daily Value of fiber and omega-3s, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals all rolled into one — and for just 160 calories. Vega One Nutritional Shake is one of the most efficient and hardest-working protein powders on the market. Shaken with water or milk (or a milk alternative of your choice) and paired or blended with a piece of fruit and a tablespoon of nut butter, this quick-and-easy shake becomes a balanced meal. Available in five flavors — French Vanilla, Chocolate, Natural, Berry and Vanilla Chai — the protein powders are also sold in individual packets that you can keep in your desk or bag. The shakes are all gluten-free and non-GMO.
3 KASHI 7-GRAIN ALL-NATURAL WAFFLES AND SUNBUTTER
Waffles, like pancakes and French toast, seem to have a bad rap as unhealthy breakfast fare. A refined grain slathered with butter and syrup or topped with sugared fruit and whipped cream doesn’t have many healthy redeeming qualities. But Kashi 7-Grain Waffles are made with whole grains that offer seven grams of fiber per serving (two waffles). If prepared intelligently, such as pairing them with a healthy nut or seed butter (with no added sugar), these waffles can be a convenient and healthy choice for your morning meal. “When nut butter isn’t an option, enjoy the rich taste of sunflower-seed butter. Sunbutter is a healthful choice for anyone looking to increase their intake of poly- and monounsaturated fats, says registered dietitian at Guiding Stars, Allison Stowell. “Paired with these Kashi waffles, you have a fiber-rich breakfast (11 grams of fiber; just about 50 percent of your daily needs), not to mention a total of 11 grams of satisfying protein.”
4 BLUE ISLE MEDITERRANEAN YOGURT SPREAD WITH FRUIT
Think Greek yogurt meets cream cheese. Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spread offers the best of both worlds: the thick creamy taste you love from cream cheese, but with the healthy probiotics found in yogurt and about 40 percent fewer calories. More and more research is being done every day on the health benefits of probiotics: Current research suggests that they help improve digestion, immune function and the side effects of antibiotics. For a speedy breakfast, add the yogurt spread to fruit or a slice of whole-grain bread. Another option is to make no-cook oatmeal ahead of time, combining old-fashioned oats, Blue Isle Honey Yogurt Spread, milk, chia seeds, vanilla extract, maple syrup and fruit. Letting it set overnight allows the mixture to soften and gel so it can be enjoyed in the morning without any cooking required. Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spread is available in five flavors: Original, Honey, Blueberry, French Onion and Spicy Vegetable.
5 LOVE GROWN FOODS SUPER OATS
Most of the quick-cooking, conveniently packed breakfast oats found on supermarket shelves fail taste tests or include added sugar. Love Grown Super Oats are the exception, with a three-minute cook time and a simple, no-sugar-added ingredient list that reads: gluten-free oats, chia seeds, almonds, quinoa flakes and amaranth flakes. They even have a Nuts & Seeds variety, which includes pumpkin seeds, walnuts and flaxseed for added healthy fats and protein. They’re a perfect food to keep at your desk for a quick breakfast when your mornings are rushed. Top with fresh fruit and nut butter and it will last you until lunchtime. The Super Oats are Non-GMO Project verified and gluten-free.
6 GOOD FOOD MADE SIMPLE BREAKFAST IN A BOWL
“Like the name says, this breakfast bowl is just good food (egg whites, potatoes, avocado, beans, cilantro, etc.) prepared simply. Enjoy it straight out of your microwave on a busy morning, and the protein and heart-healthy fats are sure to hold you over until lunch,” says registered dietitian at Guiding Stars, Allison Stowell. Available in four varieties — Southwestern Veggies, Uncured Bacon & Turkey Sausage, Canadian Bacon and Chicken Apple Sausage — these bowls serve up good, whole foods free of artificial or chemical preservatives or additives and no fake colors, sweeteners or hydrogenated oils. All bowls provide less than 300 calories and have 14 to 21 grams of protein in each serving. The company’s product line also includes 100-percent steel-cut oats, egg patties and breakfast burritos — all ideal for a healthy breakfast on the go.
7 POST SHREDDED WHEAT CEREAL
A bowl of cereal and milk is the quintessential American breakfast and may seem like an obvious choice for a quick morning meal. But with so many options available on the market it can be hard to know how to shop healthy. First, peruse the ingredient list and make sure “whole” grains are among the first items mentioned. Check out the nutrition facts panel too. A good option is one that offers three or more grams of fiber per serving and is low in sugar like Post Shredded Wheat, which provides six grams of fiber, five grams of protein and no sugar. “This breakfast provides a high dose of fiber and protein in a quick-and-easy bowl. Topping with one to two tablespoons of nuts will help you feel fuller longer and improve the overall glycemic effect,” says Amanda Kirpitch, RD, CSSD, CDE, nutritionist for Joslin Diabetes Center.
8 FLAPJACKED PROTEIN PANCAKES
Pancakes tend to be reserved for weekend mornings when there’s more time to whip together the necessary flour, sugar, milk, oil and egg, but FlapJacked Pancakes make it possible to enjoy hotcakes during the week too. Requiring only added water and about three minutes on the griddle, you can enjoy a sit-down breakfast before rushing out the door. These 200-calorie pancakes work hard to keep you satiated, boasting 17 grams of protein from added whey protein isolate. “These high-protein pancakes are great topped with a bit of healthy fat — one to two tablespoons of nut butter — for a hearty breakfast that tastes great and carries you through to lunch,” says Amanda Kirpitch, RD, CSSD, CDE, nutritionist for Joslin Diabetes Center. FlapJacked Protein Pancake Mix is available in Buttermilk, Banana Hazelnut and Cinnamon Apple flavored varieties.
9 STONYFIELD ORGANIC PLAIN GREEK YOGURT AND BEAR NAKED GRANOLA
Plain yogurt is a great base for any breakfast, thanks to its protein and calcium offerings and the added benefit of live active cultures (aka probiotics). Adding a touch of sweetness from fruit or cereal helps balance out the tart taste. “Stonyfield Plain Greek yogurt topped with wholesome Bear Naked granola is an incredibly satisfying combination, offering almost 20 grams of protein and 20 percent of your calcium for the day — all for only 200 calories,” says registered dietitian at Guiding Stars, Allison Stowell. Granola is calorie-dense, so if you’re managing your weight, keep your portions in check.
10 PJ’S ORGANICS
Packaged breakfast burritos may seem like they belong on the opposite end of the spectrum from “healthy,” but PJ’s Organics wraps it all into one. “PJ’s breakfast burritos are a quick-and-easy organic breakfast option made with quality ingredients. The balance of macros (carbohydrates, fat and protein) make this a satisfying breakfast that will keep you full for hours,” says Amanda Kirpitch, RD, CSSD, CDE, nutritionist for Joslin Diabetes Center. The breakfast burritos ranges from 300 to 340 calories and are available in four flavors: Turkey & Eggs, Skinny (egg white, feta, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes), Denver Style (eggs, cheddar and peppers) and Surf’s Up (eggs, ground beef, jalapenos and cheddar cheese). The sodium content provides about 20 to 25 percent of daily needs, so it’s important to balance it out during the day. They’re perfect for heating up at work if you’re especially crunched for time in the morning.