37 Breakfast Foods for Optimal Weight Loss
One of the best ways to get lean and start your day on the right foot is to eat a healthy breakfast for weight loss. That's an indisputable fact, according to a study from Cornell University. When researchers surveyed 147 slender people who said they'd never had to struggle with their weight, they found that a whopping 96 percent of them ate breakfast nearly every day. (Among the general population, about 28 percent of men and 18 percent of women ages 18 to 34 skip breakfast every day, according to a study by the NPD Group.)
We even witnessed it for ourselves! When test panelists ate a breakfast from Zero Belly Breakfasts every day for just two weeks, they lost up to 16 pounds!
But it's not just eating breakfast that makes slender people's bods seem effortless. People who manage their weight well tend to eat similar foods for breakfast. Fifty-one percent of the slim people surveyed said that on a typical day, their breakfast included a serving of fruit. Forty-one percent said they ate dairy; other popular choices were cold cereal (33 percent), bread (32 percent), eggs (31 percent), and hot cereal (29 percent). And, in one very interesting finding, only 26 percent of slim people said they started their day with coffee.
Best Breakfast Proteins
We've ranked these muscle-building foods from those with the least to the most protein—they're all terrific, but #1 will help tone your arms, legs, chest, and butt fast.
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 participants' 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 non-dairy cheese.
All-Natural Peanut Butter
Protein, per 2 tablespoons: 7–8 g
While processed peanut butter is filled with sugar and waist-widening oils, the real stuff is made with just two ingredients: peanuts and salt. This legume is filled with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and genistein, a compound that downregulates fat genes. Nutritionist and personal trainer Kristin Reisinger, MS, RD, CSSD, suggests using the healthy fat in an a.m. 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.
Protein, per 2 tablespoons: 7–8 g
"Almond butter is high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and monounsaturated fats," says Martha McKittrick, RD, CDN, 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 feel fuller, longer." To reap the benefits at breakfast, McKittrick suggests spreading some nut butter on wholegrain 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 attack the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver.
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 wholegrain 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. For more weight loss tips, don't miss these best-ever ways to boost your metabolism.
Nitrite and Nitrate-Free Canadian Bacon
Protein, 3 strips: 18 g
Many brands of bacon contain sodium nitrate and nitrite to keep the meat free from harmful bacteria. Under certain conditions, sodium nitrite and nitrate react with amino acids to form cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines. And sodium nitrate has been shown to interfere with the body's natural ability to process sugar. However, if you stick with the right variety, bacon can be a healthy, slimming part of your morning meal. Go with Canadian.
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, RD, CDN, CPT, founder of the New York 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 best proteins for weight loss!
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, bell 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 prime source of DHA omega3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve brain function and mood and prevent fat cells from growing.
Organic Protein Powder
Protein, 2 scoops: 34–48 g
Protein powder is the most versatile and nutrient-dense source of the musclebuilder nutrient, earning it a top spot on our list. Use it to make a Zero Belly Smoothie, 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. Want to grab a tub? Luckily, we tested 10 protein powders and found the best one!
Best Breakfast Fruits and Vegetables
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 a high sugar to fiber ratio.
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 1⁄2 cup: 8 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 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 dietitian Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN. "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 percent water, so it fills you up so you eat less, explains Bannan.
Sugar, per 1⁄2 cup: 3–7 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 cup: 2–4 g
Berries are one of the best fruits for breakfast, hands down. Not only are they "rich in heart-healthy antioxidants, but they also provide a generous amount of satiating fiber and vitamins C and K," says Torey Armul, MS, RD, LD, 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 shakes, mash them onto peanut butter toast, or nosh on them plain.
Sugar, per 1⁄2 cup: 6.5 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 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 cherry consumption had a profound ability to alter the expression of fat genes.
Sugar, per 1⁄2 cup: 7 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 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. Dietitian Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN 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.
Sugar, per 1⁄2 cup: 1 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 cup: 0.8 g
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 bell 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, MS, RD, CDN 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 1⁄2 cup: < 1 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 cup: 1 g
Starting the day with cooked or raw veggies is a great way to ensure you get a healthy dose of hard-to-consume nutrients, says Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND. "Whether in a smoothie, an omelet, 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 you full throughout your busy morning hours," explains Mills.
Sugar, per 1⁄2 cup: 5 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 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.
Sugar, per 1⁄2 cup: < 1 g
Fiber, per 1⁄2 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 our superfoods healthier than kale. Use it to amp up the nutrient density of your omelets, smoothies, and egg sandwiches.
Sugar, per 1⁄4 fruit: 0.33 g
Fiber, per 1⁄4 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. "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.
Best Breakfast Carbs and Grains
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.
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, Pacific Foods offers a precooked, cane sugar-sweetened variety that comes in a convenient grab-and-go box and is ready to eat in just minutes. Just pour it into a bowl, zap it, and eat it as is—there's no need to add water.
Crispy Brown Rice
Fiber per cup: 1 g
Protein per cup: 2 g
Sugar per cup: 1 g
Sure they may "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. While crispy brown rice should be a staple in your kitchen, make sure your pantry is clear of the unhealthiest cereals on the planet.
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 goto recipe: Combine 1 cup of cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup of 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 1/2 cup of berries or half of a sliced banana. "This is a 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, check out this list of best superfoods you've never heard of!
Sprouted Grain Toast
Protein, 2 slices: 8 g
Fiber, 2 slices: 6 g
Fat, 2 slices: 1 g
Not all bread loaves 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 such as barley and millet. To boost the flavor of her slices, Marisa Moore, RD, 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.
Fiber per cup, cooked: 4 g
Protein per cup, cooked: 6 g
Sugar per cup, cooked: 1.1 g
"Oatmeal— a 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, RDN. He suggests pairing oatmeal with blueberries, walnuts, and almond milk for a filling, nutrient-rich morning meal.
Best Breakfast Toppings
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.
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 your 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.
A mere tablespoon of these ultra-powerful seeds serves up nearly 3 grams of belly-filling fiber for just 55 calories. Not to mention, flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega3 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.
"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.
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 eating just 2 teaspoons of coconut oil half an hour before each meal every 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.
Best Drinks for Breakfast
Imagine going an entire workday without drinking a thing. That's what's happening after a good night's sleep—you wake up dehydrated, making what you drink the first most important decision of the day. Here are our top four picks for what to imbibe.
One reason slim people stay slender is that they avoid the Frappuccino—which is an exotic way of saying you're drinking two ice cream cones' worth of calories while catching a caffeine buzz. If you absolutely must have your morning buzz, perk yourself up and pair your healthy breakfast for weight loss with unsweetened coffee instead. And if your sweet tooth must be satisfied, ask your barista to add two pumps of your favorite flavored syrup to your cup instead of the Frap's four (we like caramel). This simple swap will save you more than 400 calories and a whopping 53 grams of the sweet stuff—that's more sugar than you'll find in three Starbucks chocolate croissants.
It's no secret that chugging plain H2O can be less than stimulating, but there are fun ways to make this healthy habit less of a chore. Certain fruits—such as grapefruit, lemon, and cucumber—have detoxifying properties in their flesh and peels; slice them whole into your water to reap the benefits and hit your water intake quota with an infusion of flavor.
We've discovered the most effective weight loss tool in the world—a weapon that works for everyone, costs just pennies a day, is available at any grocery store, requires no sweat or stress, and can be done at home, at work, or anywhere it's convenient. A plethora of studies have been carried out to document the health benefits of catechins, the group of antioxidants concentrated in the leaves of tea plants. And the most powerful of all catechins, a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is found almost exclusively in green tea. Studies have linked this antioxidant to promoting weight loss.
Zero Belly Smoothies
Trim people love their protein shakes—and it's easy to see why: Thanks to their high protein content, they aid weight maintenance by boosting calorie burn and satiety and preserving lean muscle mass. But when getting a flat belly is your goal, choosing the right protein powder is key. Make sure you're picking one of the best protein powders for you—and avoiding the worst. Blend these easy and delicious smoothies for a simple and healthy breakfast for weight loss.