Rooftop happy hours, baseball games, and the beach are what summer is all about, sure, but they can also leave you completely wiped. Beat summer at its own game by fueling your season with high energy breakfast foods to keep you active way past those 9 p.m. sunsets.
“There are immense benefits to consuming a nutrient-dense breakfast and some real consequences for those who either skip breakfast or don’t properly fuel their bodies in the morning,” says Kristin Kirpatrick, M.S., R.D., manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. “Eating breakfast is linked to maintaining constant blood-glucose levels [read: keeping you like the Energizer Bunny], as well as preventing hunger later.” Of course, it’s not just eating breakfast in the summer that matters—what you eat is also key.
“Your morning coffee may give you a burst of quick energy, but it does not sustain energy levels and satiety quite like a nourishing breakfast does,” says Kirkpatrick.
When seeking out the best energy breakfast items, you'll want to put together a morning meal that contains both fiber and protein—but not a lot of refined carbohydrates (we’re looking at you, added sugar).
Look for: Fiber
It does more than just keep you regular. This nutrient is key in regulating your blood-sugar levels, which keeps you energized and prevents mid-morning crashes. Since you want 25 to 38 grams spread more or less evenly throughout the day, you should aim for at least 10 grams in your first meal of the day. Fruit is a great source of fiber, as are nuts and some cereals—although you’ll want to look at the nutrition info and make sure a whole grain like brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, sorghum, whole oats, or whole wheat is in the first three ingredients.
Look for: Protein
“Protein not only energizes us throughout the day, but it keeps us satisfied for longer,” Kirkpatrick says. “After a full night of sleep, it is important that the first meal of the day is proper fuel for your body.” You’ll want to get 46 to 56 grams of protein throughout the day, so try to get 15 to 19 grams at breakfast. Eggs are a great way to load up on protein, and protein powder can help you add the nutrient to a smoothie or bowl of oatmeal.
If you want a high energy breakfast, we've got bad news for your sweet tooth: “Doughnuts, pastries, and sugary cereals will quickly spike your blood sugar and eventually lead to a mid-morning crash,” Kirkpatrick says. “This extreme up-and-down leaves you hungry soon after your breakfast—and you’ll crave more refined carbs.” It’s a vicious, vicious cycle.
“Keep in mind it is key to maintain a balance of nutrients in your breakfast,” Kirkpatrick says. “An apple alone may seem like a healthy choice, but pairing it with peanut butter with stabilize your blood sugar throughout the duration of the day.”
Here are ten of the best energy breakfast foods that Kirkpatrick says will keep you going for hours.
1. Smoothie: Get your protein from Greek yogurt or protein powder. If you’re in a rush in the morning, Kirkpatrick recommends filling your blender with all of the produce the night beforehand, storing it in the refrigerator, and simply adding any juice/water/ice/yogurt you want to use in the morning.
2. Vegetable omelet: Kirkpatrick recommends using a 3:1 ratio of egg whites to eggs to amp up the protein and reduce the cholesterol content. The veggies give you fiber and vitamins—and you officially have permission to add cheese (extra protein!).
3. Greek yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and nuts/seeds: The combination will help you hit your protein and fiber quota—and give you some B vitamins and calcium in the process.
4. Quinoa with cinnamon: Yup, quinoa counts as your serving of protein—and it makes a great hot cereal. While the quinoa gives you some fiber, it’s a smart idea to add in fruit so you get even more.
5. Whole-grain English muffin with nut butter: Just make sure that the English muffin is actually whole-grain (labels can be tricky) by looking for terms like brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, sorghum, whole oats, or whole wheat in the first three ingredients.
6. Overnight oats: Put the oats of your choice in a jar, add milk or almond milk and protein powder, and let them soak overnight. When you wake up, they’ll be ready for you.
7. Apple slices and peanut butter: Your favorite childhood snack also doubles as a nutritious, energy-boosting breakfast.
8. Steel-cut oats: Cook them in milk, and add a tablespoon of peanut butter to get your protein fix.
9. Hard-boiled eggs with a handful of nuts or fruit: It doesn’t get much easier than this. Your excuses to have a healthy breakfast have officially gone out the window.
10. Whole-grain cereal with milk: This classic a.m. option is great as long as you go for an option that is loaded with fiber, not sugar.