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How to Choose the Best Breakfast for Your Body Goals

It's the most important meal of the day for a reason: your morning munchies can help you banish cravings, replenish your spent energy stores, boost your brainpower, and ramp up your muscle gains—all while keeping your waistline in check.

Yes, there's even science to prove it! A study published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice found those who eat breakfast maintain steady blood glucose levels throughout the day, whereas breakfast skippers experience big surges and drops in blood glucose, regardless of how healthy their later meals are. Those peaks mean hunger pangs that can evolve into mind-numbing urges that overwhelm what's left of your willpower—putting you at risk of overindulging at your next meal.

Ok, so we get that we should be eating breakfast, but what should we be eating for breakfast? Nutrition isn't a one-size-fits-all science, and that's particularly the case when it comes to the free-for-all that is your morning—hence, these 20 Worst Breakfast Habits for Your Waistline. Different routines call for different meals. So while recommending sitting down to a plate of eggs, potatoes, and bacon might work for one person, that diet choice wouldn't work for someone who needs to pack lunches for the kids and then rush to a morning meeting. (And yes, we even have suggestions for those super busy people.)

Starting your day with the proper fuel ensures your brain has what it needs to be alert and focused and what your muscles need to perform at their best. Whether you're trying to lose those last five pounds or rip through an up-before-the-sun Soul Cycle class, one of these good-for-you breakfasts will help you start your day the right way. And once you know how much and what kinds of nutrients you need for your particular lifestyle, check out more inspiration to switch up the basics with these 15 Healthy Breakfast Ideas.

The Best Breakfast If You…

Are Trying to Lose Weight

Best breakfast for you tea

If you didn't already know, a grande skinny caramel latte with a double shot of espresso is not breakfast. For the same wake-you-up jolt of caffeine and healthful antioxidants—without the belly-busting calories and sugar—brew yourself a cup of green tea. When researchers studied the coffee habits of New Yorkers, they discovered that two-thirds of Starbucks customers opted for blended coffee drinks over regular brewed coffee or tea. But it gets worse: The average caloric impact of the blended drinks was 239 calories! If you made the simple switch to drinking tea just once a day, you'd lose 25 pounds this year.

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After your cup of fat-blasting green tea, poach a couple eggs. Some studies suggest cooked egg-white protein is more easily digested because it is already denatured, and others have found that a runny yolk contains up to 50 percent more fat-fighting nutrients than a cooked yolk, making poaching the perfect flat-belly solution. (Find out what the best way is to cook your food in our report, How To Prepare Your Food To Extract The Most Nutrients.) Pair it with an apple or a cup of raspberries and you'll be clocking in at a mere 200 calories, but a whopping 12 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber to provide staying power until lunch.

Are Happy With Your Weight

Best breakfast for you happy

If you're a happy, healthy, and active adult with a good weight, aim to get in around 350 to 400 calories in the A.M., depending on your body composition. (And if you're not really a breakfast fan, don't sweat it; No studies have shown that you'll balloon in weight if you don't eat the golden meal.)

Eat This!

Make yourself a two-egg omelet with an ounce of shredded cheddar cheese, sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and onions. Serve it with a slice of sprouted wheat toast swiped with a smidge of grass-fed butter (or nut butter) and a half a cup of mixed berries. That way, you'll hit all your macronutrients and food groups, including protein, quality carbohydrates, fruits, and veggies.

Have Meetings All Morning

Best breakfast for you omelet

If you know you won't be able to have lunch until late in the day, slow-digesting fiber, healthy fats, and protein will your best friends. This satiating trio will help you quash stomach rumblings with ease as they maintain levels of "I'm full" hormones, and each can act as a barrier to digestion of carbs, keeping your blood sugar from spiking. Not only does this reduce hunger, it wards off fat storage, improving overall body composition. In fact, a recent study of overweight young adults found that those who ate a breakfast comprised of 350 calories and 35 grams of protein, consumed 26 percent fewer calories at lunch than those who ate less protein.

Eat This!

Whip up a Southwest Omelet with black beans, spinach, chicken, two eggs, and salsa. Together, your meal will be under 350 calories but rings in with an astounding 38 grams of protein. To reap the most flab-incinerating benefits, be sure to consume the entire egg—not just the whites. The yellow is filled with choline, a nutrient that been proven to reduce body fat and BMI.

Your Stomach Isn't a Morning Person

Best breakfast for you smoothie

If you rise and shine and eating is often the last thing on your mind, we might have the right solution for you. For many, it's because your stomach just can't handle the food, so you won't want something that sits in your gut like a rock. That's why an easy-to-digest smoothie is the way to go. When fruit, veggies, and add-ins are combined in a smoothie, the blender actually helps to pre-digest the food for you, breaking down cell walls and fibers. Which can be a good thing—and a bad thing. You'll reap the rewards of more bioavailable antioxidants, but with fewer fibers, your body will be at risk of some serious spikes in blood sugar. What's the solution?

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Make our favorite banana bread resistant starch smoothie! Into a blender, throw in a frozen banana, ½ cup almond milk, ¼ cup uncooked old fashioned oats, ¼ cup 2% Greek Yogurt, ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and half an ounce (about 8) cashews. The protein and healthy fats from the yogurt and cashews along with the gut- and waist-friendly, resistant starches from the cashews and oats will help slow the rate at which your body absorbs sugar and simple carbs to keep you fuller longer. Be sure to sip slowly through the morning for a dose of essential vitamins and minerals.

Are Always On The Run

Best breakfast for you overnight oats

If your typical morning consists of rushing to drop the kids off at school, picking up dry cleaning, confirming your sitter is still coming tonight, and heading over to the office for your 10 A.M. presentation, we totally understand that you may not think you have time for breakfast. But you do! "Something like overnight oats are a great choice and prepping the night before decreases the chance that you will skip breakfast or opt for the unhealthy and easy options," says Jim White RD, ACSM. So get your Meal Prep Sunday on and throw together a mason jar of oats that will keep you satiated and energized.

Eat This!

Hot or cold, you can enjoy your overnight oats with chia seeds, fruit, nuts or blood-sugar-stabilizing cinnamon! This meal offers the perfect combo of carbs to kick your brain into gear, and fiber to slow down the digestion and subsequent release of sugar into the bloodstream, which ultimately translates to more consistent energy levels throughout the day—unlike that crash you would have felt after indulging in a donut your coworker brought to the meeting. Ready to prep? Try one of these 25 Metabolism-Boosting Overnight Oats Recipes!

Are Hungover

Best breakfast for you huevos

When your head is still pounding after having one too many drinks while you caught up with friends, there are three things most people need, says Rebecca Lewis, RD: "For most, what we need to fix to feel better is: to rehydrate; to [replenish] our electrolytes (potassium and sodium); and to rid ourselves of the toxins." So curating a meal from these Best Foods to Cure a Hangover—Ranked!, we've come up with the perfect solution: Huevos rancheros topped with a dollop of guacamole and a banana smoothie made with coconut water, greek yogurt, and honey

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How does this combination work its magic? A study in The Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry found that avocados were the most effective fruit at minimizing liver damage, cilantro—the savory herb that gives guac its distinctive flavor—contains a unique blend of oils that send a "simmer down!" message to a nauseated stomach, and eggs are a rich source of cysteine, an amino acid that helps break down alcohol's leftover toxins. As for the smoothie? Bananas and coconut water will replenish your electrolytes while rehydrating you, the yogurt will be easy on your stomach, and the honey is a source of fructose, which research has found to compete with the digestion of alcohol, forcing your body to rid itself of the remaining alcohol faster.


And You're Trying To Lose Weight

Best Breakfast for you

If you're hitting the gym in an attempt to slim down for bikini season, you'll want to consume a carb-laden snack an hour before beginning your workout, says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN. Yes, carb-laden can be a good thing. We know, totally shocking, but here's why: "Eating carb-rich foods before hitting the gym aids weight loss because your body burns this nutrient first. Once the carbs have been used up, the body can start using stored fat for fuel." And while you might think you could just forgo the early morning meal to begin burning fat, Kaufman assures us this isn't safe or any more effective.

Eat This!

An hour before your workout, throw a slice of sprouted grain bread in the toaster. Or if you're eschewing gluten, you could also carb up with a piece of fruit.

Get Your Sweat On With Cardio

Best breakfast for you granola

Very few things make you feel as accomplished as getting your workout done while most of the world is still asleep. But fueling up beforehand can be a bit tricky. "I typically recommend that people wait an hour or two after eating to exercise. However, when you workout in the morning this can be unrealistic," says Katie Cavuto, M.S., R.D., dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Flyers. "I recommend sticking with a small, easily digestible snack like 6-ounces of yogurt and a half cup of fruit." The fruit provides a source of carbs, which are essential for providing fuel for your muscles and allowing them to maintain higher intensity exercise, and the protein will help with muscle repair.

Eat This!

Post-workout, be sure to rehydrate with water and enjoy a mix of easily-digestible carbs to shut down fat-inducing cortisol levels and protein to help you build muscle mass—rather than break it down. Think: eggs and toast, oatmeal with nuts, or chocolate milk. Ideally, you should aim to eat within 30 minutes of your cooldown as this is the window of time your muscles most easily absorb all those powerhouse nutrients.

Pump Iron

Best breakfast for you

If you're looking to tone, muscle-building protein should be your priority within thirty minutes of waking up. And while you may have heard doing cardio in a fasted state is a good way to burn fat, you should always plan to pre-fuel before a weight workout. You might be able to push through on an elliptical depleted, but your body needs the energy to get through an intense lifting session. Kaufman recommends eating around 30 grams of carbohydrates before a workout. "Without carbs, you'll get tired in the middle of your workout, and it won't be as effective," she says.

Eat This!

Because you're working out in the morning, you most likely won't have the two to three-hour window many dietitians and trainers recommend when it comes to eating before the workout. So to get in the right amount of carbs in a rapidly-digested form, make yourself a smoothie. Blend together ½ cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup of fruit, and enough milk-alternative to make it a drinkable consistency. The carbs from fruit will break down quickly to provide energy and the protein in the yogurt will be used later to prevent muscle damage. After you leave the gym, the perfect post-weight fuel has about 400 calories, with 20 grams of protein (to repair and build new muscle) and 50 grams of carbohydrates (to repair old muscle). What fits that criteria? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Namaste Before Noon

Best breakfast for you yogurt

Yogis know how varied their classes can be. One day you're in a mediation-heavy class, and the next you've signed up for an intense, Vinyasa flow. Whichever the case, you'll want to eat something that gives you a jolt of energy, but is still light on your stomach. (You don't want to feel that food baby of pancakes, eggs, and bacon come back up during your down dog.) If you're undertaking a more mild meditation, you'll most likely be burning fewer calories, so you won't need as much fuel.

Eat This!

Pre-samastitihi, keep your munchies small and full of simple carbs so your body has a source of energy. Apples are a great option because they give you a bit of a sugar jolt, but also contain fiber to help hold you over until the end of your class. Another option is a banana; it, too, provides a source of sugars, but also comes with electrolyte-balancing potassium, a mineral which will help maintain your hydration—perfect for those who are about to sweat it out in a heated Bikram experience. After your class, recharge your body with a refreshing cup of protein-rich, 2% Greek yogurt, fiber-packed granola, and energy-store-replenishing chopped fruit.

Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is the Managing Editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more about Olivia
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