August 25, 2019/Nutrition

Are You Ready to Take Your Breakfast to a New Level? Here’s How

Breaking the mold of traditional American breakfast

Father and daughter enjoying a healthy breakfast together

By: Dr. Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, MS


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Let’s talk about the typical American breakfast: namely toast, bagels, muffins, waffles, pancakes, “cereal,” biscuits and bread. Basically just white flour and sugar. Stripped carb. For example, “cereal” really means grain (like oatmeal, millet, kasha, bulgur wheat), and not boxes of sweetened, dyed, highly processed products of limited nutritional value.

Even people who have made the switch to real food and who have rid their kitchens of items from that list of typical American breakfast foods above (at least most of the time) can still be strongly influenced by the list.

Here’s the thing — you don’t have to stick to that list. You don’t have to eat pancakes and bagels. You can eat leftover salmon, carrots with hummus, slices of avocado or cheese on a bed of arugula or in a wrap. You could heat up a bowl of lentil soup, crack an egg into a small bowl with a scoop of pesto and bake it in the toaster oven for 10 minutes, or cook a sweet potato in the microwave and add a generous spoonful of peanut butter.

There are a few reliable ways to tell if you’re still being influenced by the food industry’s list of acceptable breakfast items: You might have decided once and for all to stop buying high sugar cereals for your kids and replace it with a different “breakfast cereal” product that seems a little less sweet. Or you might decide to see if your kids like grain granola bars for breakfast. Maybe it’s still toaster waffles, but a version that contains whole wheat.


I’m not against buying whole wheat versions of processed products. That counts as a step in the right direction, no question about it. Real oatmeal can be an inspiration. But there’s no need to limit yourself to that list at all.

Let your imagination run wild! Grilled cheese on whole-grain bread? Why not? And what about yogurt? You can ratchet up the nutritional value of high-sugar conventional “yogurt desserts for breakfast” by switching to plain yogurt to which you’ve added your own fruit, vanilla extract, cinnamon. Artificial sweeteners are to be excluded from that list — if that’s the only way you can tolerate yogurt you need another plan.

But who says it has to be sweet at all? Another delicious way to eat yogurt is to mix it with cucumbers and tomatoes, diced small. Yet another somewhat more ambitious strategy is to wrap yogurt tightly in cheesecloth and leave it to hang by a string from the kitchen faucet for eight to 12 hours until sufficient liquid has dripped out to form a firm ball of cheese within the cheesecloth. Try this unbelievable yogurt cheese with some fresh herbs and olive oil and you will wonder whatever made you think it had to be eaten sweet at all.

Don’t eat dessert for breakfast. At least most of the time.


This article was adapted from Dr. Roxanne Sukol’s blog, Your Health Is On Your Plate.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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