Wondering what actually constitutes a "healthy" breakfast? 5 nutritionists explain, plus share what they eat first thing

The experts explain, plus share their favourites, from porridge to protein pancakes.

What's a healthy breakfast? Smoked salmon on toast
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The experts explain, plus share their favourites, from porridge to protein pancakes.

You've heard time and time again that starting your day with a nutrient-dense meal is key to a good metabolism, satiety, heart health and more. But ever wondered - what is a healthy breakfast, and how do the experts start their day?

Healthy looks different on everyone, and what works for you might not work for the next person. Whether you prefer following a plant-based diet, opt for gluten free foods, or just eat a bit of everything in moderation, know that there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health - rather, a set of guidelines that you should test until you workout what works for you.

Alongside our round-up of the best healthy breakfast ideas, we've asked five of our go-to nutritionists for their favourite meals, plus a breakdown of what a nutrient-dense start to the day actually looks like. Don't miss our expert's take on what to eat after a workout, too.

What's a healthy breakfast? 5 experts share their go-to's 

"Making sure you eat some protein, fat and fibre with your carbohydrates helps balance blood sugar and regulate your insulin levels, preventing a mid-morning energy crash," shares nutritional therapist Maria Mekhael.

Experts at the British Dietic Association (BDA) agree, sharing that a balanced breakfast should aim to include:

  • A fibre-rich carbohydrate source for energy
  • A protein source for satiety, growth and repair
  • At least one portion of fruit and vegetables
  • Fat source optional.

Did you know? Research has shown that making sure to get a good meal in early doors can stave off hunger signals and help you to make more informed food choices throughout the day. You know the feeling of being too hungry, or like you're absolutely famished? That normally comes from not eating nutritionally-balanced meals throughout the day.

Studies have also shown that eating breakfast is key for boosting concentration levels in the morning.

That being said, every body is different, and what you like will be different to your best friend. Listen to your body and respect your hunger queues - they'll normally tell you when it's time to eat and when you're full.

Below, five experts share their go-to's.

1. Overnight oats with berries, almonds and sunflower seeds 

Mekhael loves a breakfast she can prepare the night before and often makes overnight oats by layering oats, unsweetened Greek yoghurt, mixed berries, some flaked almonds and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds in a bowl and then leaving it in the fridge overnight. The oats absorb the yoghurt, making a thick, creamy texture.

Nutrition win: ‘The yoghurt provides protein and probiotics, the oats give a healthy dose of complex carbohydrates and fibre, plus you have some antioxidants from the berries and a sprinkle of essential fats thanks to the nuts and seeds," the therapist explains.

What's a healthy breakfast? Overnight oats

2. A banana, almond and spinach green smoothie 

Nutritionist and best-selling author Amanda Hamilton opts for a smoothie made with baby spinach, almond milk, a chunk of banana, a drizzle of maple syrup, and some kind of boost from powdered greens.

Nutrition win: She loves the kick that comes from the green veggies, while bananas are a great probiotic to help nourish the gut, she shares. "If I get hungry around 11am, I’ll have slow-release oatcakes with a protein topping, such as nut butter."

Our round ups of healthy smoothie recipes, protein powders (or vegan protein, if you're vegan), and healthy snack ideas might help, too.

What's a healthy breakfast? A smoothie

3. Protein pancakes 

Nutritional therapist Sandra Greenbank loves making protein pancakes in the morning - a simple healthy breakfast idea made from bananas, eggs, coconut flour and a little protein powder if you'd like. Top with whatever you like, but she goes for blueberries and Greek yoghurt.

Nutrition win: "I like to make sure my breakfast is high in fats and protein, but slightly lower in carbohydrates, like this recipe," she explains. This is to avoid any unnecessary insulin crashes throughout the day.

What's a healthy breakfast? Protein pancakes

4. Porridge with berries, PB, and cinnamon 

Dr Michelle Braude opts for a hearty bowl of porridge with fresh or frozen blueberries, a dollop of peanut butter, a sprinkling of cinnamon and a drizzle of agave syrup for sweetness most mornings.

Nutrition win: ‘This combination is bursting with nutrients and provides a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals," she shares.

What's a healthy breakfast? Porridge

5. Eggs on rye bread

And finally, Marie Claire UK Health Editor Ally Head loves eggs to start her day, normally paired with sourdough or rye bread and some greens, too.

Nutrition win: "Eggs are my go-to because they're nutrient-rich but also delicious. They're a source of protein and high in vitamin D, while the toast will offer slow-release energy. My favourite greens are avocado, spinach, or rocket."

What's a healthy breakfast? Eggs on toast

Worried that the above recipes sound like they'll take a lot more time than you normally have in the morning? Meal prep is your friend - fail to prepare, prepare to fail, after all.

Plus, recipes like overnight oats and even smoothie mixes are super easy top prep the night before and take on the go. Happy cooking.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.