July 27, 2020

How to Build a Healthy Breakfast for Weight Loss

Make the most of your morning meal

woman making a breakfast smoothie

Even if you’re trying to cut calories to lose weight, that doesn’t mean breakfast has to be a measly, dry piece of toast and a hard-boiled egg.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Instead, you should break the overnight fast with a hearty meal that will fill you up and fuel your day.

“I like balanced meals that focus on high-quality nutrition,” says dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.

Here’s what you need to know to make good choices in the morning.

Does eating breakfast help you lose weight?

Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day, but its specific role in weight loss is up for debate. Some studies have found that people who eat a big breakfast burn more calories throughout the day, while others show that people who skip breakfast end up eating fewer calories in a day.

So your best bet, Zumpano says, is to follow your hunger cues. If your appetite is revved up and ready to go first thing in the a.m., then you should have breakfast. If you don’t get hungry until later, don’t stress about it.

Advertisement

What not to eat for breakfast

If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s best to steer clear of heavy, refined carbohydrates, especially first thing in the morning. Baked goods like donuts, muffins and scones are high in sugar, bad fats and overall calories, Zumpano says.

“Also, if you start your day off with something sweet, you’re more likely to crave sweets all day,” she says. “Sugar is very addicting and difficult to control.”

Speaking of sugar, don’t forget about your drinks. Orange juice and sugary coffee creamers can set you back a lot of calories and sugar. Avoid them, or make sure you factor them into your daily plan.

The building blocks of a healthy breakfast

Zumpano recommends structuring your breakfast to include plenty of protein and fiber to maximize on fullness. Doing this might also continue to pay off later: In one study, young women who ate more protein at breakfast were less likely to snack on high-fat foods and feel cravings later in the day.

She recommends including those components in your breakfast:

  • A source of protein, which could be animal-based or plant-based.
  • A whole grain.
  • A fruit or vegetable.
  • A healthy fat (optional).

How many calories should you eat for breakfast? Everyone’s ideal calorie intake will be a little different, depending on what your total daily calories needs are. But if weight loss is your goal, Zumpano recommends aiming for 300 to 500 calories for breakfast. More important than counting calories, though, is making sure your breakfast is a balanced, high-quality meal.

Advertisement

Weight-loss breakfast ideas

Zumpano gives these examples as good options:

  1. Plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and nuts or seeds.
  2. Cottage cheese topped with bruschetta, sliced tomatoes, olive oil, olives and fresh or dried basil.
  3. Chia seed pudding topped with sliced banana and a scoop of natural peanut butter.
  4. Veggie omelet with mixed veggies with two or three whole eggs or egg whites, topped with ¼ c. feta or low-fat shredded cheese.
  5. Protein smoothie made with low-fat milk or unsweetened milk alternative, 1 cup of frozen fruit, 1 cup of frozen spinach or kale, 1 scoop of low-sugar protein powder or ½ cup of Greek yogurt or silken tofu.

If you find that you’re rushed in the morning, try meal-prepping your breakfasts in advance. That way you can get out the door quickly but still get your nutrition first thing in the morning.

While breakfast probably isn’t the magical key to your weight-loss strategy, it can set the tone for the day and is an important component of your overall nutrition plan.

Related Articles

Meal prepping various dishes for snack, lunch and dinner
January 29, 2024
75 Healthy Meal Prep Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

No more scrambling to figure out what to eat during your busy week

Person eating healthy bowl of noodles with fitness items floating around head
January 17, 2024
How To Shed 10 Pounds — For Good!

Actively choose healthy habits not only when it comes to food and nutrition, but also physical activity and your mental health

Hand holding bowl of oats with honey, strawberries, blueberries and walnuts
January 16, 2024
Recipe: Nutty Steel-Cut Oats With Fruit

Delicious and heart-healthy, this breakfast is sure to get your morning off to a good start

Display of various types of foods prepped in individual containers
January 15, 2024
A Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Meal Prep

Set yourself up for success by carefully choosing your recipes, storage containers and prepping day

male with beer belly on treadmill, with giant mug of beer next to
January 1, 2024
Does Beer Really Cause a ‘Beer Belly’?

Getting rid of excess abdominal fat will take more than just cutting back on cold ones

person in wheelchair lifting weights in gym
December 26, 2023
7 New Year’s Resolutions To Improve Your Heart Health

Resolve to move a little more, drink a little less, eat a little healthier, sleep a little better and destress a lot

plated Mediterranean egg scramble with avocado on top
December 25, 2023
Recipe: Mediterranean Egg Scramble With Greens

Jumpstart your morning with this delectable dish

Overhead view of Spanish omelet
December 19, 2023
Recipe: Spanish Omelet With Veggies and Cheese

Enjoy this one-skillet breakfast for dinner!

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery

Ad