I Wish I Had Time for Breakfast

By Patrice Barber, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Ever think that? As a registered dietitian nutritionist at the ESHC, I hear students say those words every day.

We all know it’s an important meal. When we eat breakfast we feel better, we have more energy, and we remember, process and create more effectively.

So why skip? It can be a real challenge when the competing goal is to sleep as long as possible. Also, we know we need to grocery shop before we can cook, and of course there are those dirty dishes to deal with.  Those are formidable, but I’ve known many breakfast skippers who moved past all that and agreed to experiment with “having a little something” at the beginning of their day, every day for a week.  They come back to me with a similar story, “I feel so good, I had no idea what I was missing.”

Before what to eat, here’s a question, “what is breakfast?” Very simply, breakfast is food you eat within an hour of waking up to start your day.  In addition to energy, it provides a metabolic boost and helps to smooth potential spikes in the hormones that regulate your appetite all day. The best breakfast meals combine carbs for energy right away, and protein and healthy fat that keeps you energized, satisfied and focused for several hours.

Here a few ideas you might like to try.

Prep once, eat all week

Egg cups

This is the muffin tin approach to eating breakfast.  Basically you load up the cups of a muffin tin with delicious mixtures, bake, remove and refrigerate, to enjoy warm or cold for up to four days.

It is a 5-10 minute job to:

  1. Lightly wipe your non-stick muffin cups with a paper towel dipped in a little olive oil (or non-stick spray, your choice)
  2. Add a combination of 1-2 tbsp chopped veggies like asparagus, broccoli, spinach or bell pepper with a high flavor protein like cheese or ham to the bottom of the muffin cup.
  3. Top each with a whole egg, a fork-mixed egg or egg whites
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes
  5. Advice from someone who does this regularly: muffin cups that are filled more than 2/3 will spill over while cooking, the spilled part will overcook and STICK to the muffin tin

You can find many recipes for this, my favorite is at http://www.superhealthykids.com/breakfast-egg-cups-recipe/


Overnight oats

This is not the mush from your roommate’s packets, this is the darling of the modern meal prepping crowd.

Get started the evening before by combining about equal parts of old fashioned rolled oats and any combination of milk (dairy, soy, almond, etc) and yogurt. You are going for the consistency of a loose smoothie.  During the night the liquid with hydrate the oatmeal and the oatmeal will make the liquid creamy.  In the morning you can adjust the consistency and add anything you like:  fresh or dried fruit, nuts, seeds, nut butter, coconut, cinnamon, citrus zest, all sorts of things.

From here you can sit down and enjoy a bowl or pack it into a plastic container or jar to take with you for anytime during the day.  Google will give you inspirational pictures and exact recipes. I like the variety of ideas at http://www.quakeroats.com/cooking-and-recipes/overnightoats


Pre-boiled eggs

A pre-boiled egg is the ready protein piece to complement your quick, easy carb.  Boil a half dozen over the weekend and they are good to go with toast, English muffin, toaster waffle, a bit of rice or even a granola bar. Hard boiled eggs in their shells last in the refrigerator  safely for one week.

If this is your first time or you want a complete collection of hints, check out http://www.incredibleegg.org/recipe/easy-hard-boiled-eggs/


Great grains

This might feel a bit more exotic than other breakfast ideas, but bulgur wheat, wheat berries, buckwheat, quinoa, black rice and farro are a delicious reward for an open mind.  Most grains that you prepare with water of broth for a savory dinner side dish can be made with fruit juice, dried fruit and nuts for a comforting morning meal.  A recipe that starts with a cup of grain will give you 3-4 meals.




Breakfast bars

If you’d like to carry your oatmeal in your hand, try this website for breakfast bars that you really can make yourself.  Take the recipe to the grocery store to get everything, plan for 15-30 minutes of prep time and you’ll be very impressed with the results.  After you’ve made them once you’ll know enough about how they work to improvise and personalize with your favorite flavors.  Pack an extra bar for a pre-workout snack.



No prep?  No worries!

Recyclable Cup

You might already have some of these, so why not use them in the morning?  Make a yogurt parfait by layering yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit and cereal. Aim for about 1/3 cup of each, grab a spoon and go. This easily become very sweet, so if you are using fruit or vanilla yogurt, go with an unsweetened cereal.  A semi-sweet cereal like granola will add enough sugar to your cup even with plain yogurt. When you’ve eaten, recycle the cup.

Cereal and milk, but not the kiddie kind

Cereal and milk will always be a staple, but not the kiddie kind.  If you would like to upgrade to a USC level cereal, here are a few things to look for:

5 grams of fiber per serving

At least 3 grams of protein of serving

No more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, the lower the better because you can sweeten with fruit

A whole grain as the first ingredient


Top this with a milk choice that adds about 8 grams of protein and no more than 5 grams of fat


Still love your sugar bombs?  A bowl of frosted favorite and milk compares favorably to most cakes, cookies and ice cream, so how about saving that for dessert, and leaving for school with something better.


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