You may have heard that September is Whole Grains Month. Did you know it’s also Better Breakfast Month? That makes it the perfect time to experiment with whole grains, which are often associated with breakfast foods like oatmeal, bagels, toast, and cereal. However, there are a lot more interesting, healthy, and delicious ways to start your day oﬀ right with whole grains. We invited our experts to serve up exciting tips to enjoy whole grains for breakfast, from new spins on classic dishes to adding grains to traditionally grain-free meals. Read on for ideas to invigorate your morning spread.
Ask the Experts, Whole Grains for Breakfast Edition
Jazz up traditional granola with amaranth! Not only is this grain a complete protein, it’s also packed with ﬁber. Having a few tablespoons of this over your morning yogurt bowl will leave you satiated, satisﬁed, and ready to take on the day!
– Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, Nutrition Communications Consultant at Shaw’s Simple Swaps, Fertility Nutrition Expert at BumpstoBaby.com, Co-Author of Fertility Foods.
Not surprisingly, whole grains feature prominently at my breakfast table. But to weave some extra vegetables into an otherwise sweet bowl of porridge, I like to add freshly grated parsnip to my oatmeal (image below). It melts beautifully into the oats while cooking, and pairs well with other autumn ﬂavors, like cinnamon and dried cranberries.
– Kelly Toups, RD, Oldways Director of Nutrition
Starting your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal is a great way to enjoy a satisfying high-ﬁber whole grain that can help lower cholesterol levels. Make oats for breakfast easy by preparing the night before: Combine oats with an equal amount of your favorite milk and/or yogurt; toss in fruit, nuts, chia seeds, and any other ingredient you enjoy; and let it sit over night for a ﬁlling, super nutritious grab-and-go breakfast. Another quick favorite: I make a batch of steel cut oats on the weekend and top it with a fried egg or yogurt, fruit, and nuts or stir in a tablespoon of nut butter — the combinations are endless and a super satisfying, delicious way to start the day.
– Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Director of Nutrition for WebMD, webmd.com/kathleen-m-zelman
When it comes to breakfast, the combo of foods you choose counts. A review of over 20 studies suggests that habitually eating a high quality (providing at least 3 diﬀerent food groups), nutritious breakfast may have a positive eﬀect on a child’s academic performance in school. Here is a picture-perfect way to visualize what this would look like:
Pack whole grain crackers (grain group), cheese (dairy group), and a handful of grapes (fruit group) in a vinyl “lunch” bag the night before and store it in the refrigerator. Grab it in the morning for healthy, on-the-go breakfast snack for your body and brain.
– Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, Clinical Associate Professor, Boston University and author of Nutrition & You
Mounting evidence links a nutritious breakfast to weight management and long-lasting energy, as well as better memory, critical thinking skills, creativity, and mood. A balanced meal to start the day, including whole grains (WG) ups the health beneﬁt ante even further: In addition to improved digestion and satiety that curbs overeating, studies suggest that eating ﬁber-rich WG instead of reﬁned grains can help decrease risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and may reduce risk of asthma, some inﬂammatory diseases, and certain cancers.
Give your body the healthy fuel it needs to stay energized throughout the morning with my Garden Glut Succotash with Barley, Basil and Poached Eggs (courtesy image below) — swapping in any of your favorite frozen or in-season fresh veg for those featured. This hearty, antioxidant-rich breakfast provides tons of ﬂavor, plus 12 grams of satisfying protein and 6 grams of ﬁlling ﬁber, all for less than 300 calories!
– Heather Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN, nutrition consultant and food blogger at Heather Goesch Nutrition, and contributing author to Food & Nutrition Magazine; www.heathergnutrition.com
My Savory Steel Cut Oats with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Tofu is a new spin on a classic dish — people usually think of oats (a healthy whole grain food) in context of sweet breakfasts with fruit and brown sugar. However, you can turn your bowl of oats into a hearty, rustic, savory option with vegetables, spices, herbs, and even healthy protein options.
– Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life, SharonPalmer.com
People often say that they don’t have time to eat breakfast, so having a grab-and-go option is a smart idea. You can buy store-bought granola bars or muﬃns, but they are often high in sugar and lacking in whole grains. These easy-to-make Peanut Butter Banana Muﬃns (courtesy image below) contain whole wheat ﬂour, peanut butter, peanuts, Greek yogurt, honey, and bananas. With 9 grams of protein and 3 grams of ﬁber, they will keep you satisﬁed all morning long!
– Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Culinary Nutrition Consultant and Author at www.JaniceCooks.com
Oldways — and I — are all about the pleasures and beneﬁts of heritage cuisine, so I’m glad to share a new spin on a Middle Eastern favorite: belila. Wheat’s out, barley, an ancient whole grain, is in. How ancient? Dating back to the Bible. But what barley oﬀers in terms of wellness and ﬂavor appeal feels brand new. Barley grains retain their shape after cooking and out-ﬁber all other whole grains for pleasing chew and super satisfaction. With a subtle nutty ﬂavor, barley pairs beautifully with nuts, cinnamon, and dates, which impart plenty of natural sweetness.
This breakfast barley is comfort in a bowl, perfect for Better Breakfast Month and Whole Grains Month, plus a sweet start to the Jewish New Year. Dates and barley are two of Judaism’s seven sacred foods. Barley can require plenty of time and water to prepare. Presoaking helps cut to the chase.
Bonus Recipe: Breakfast Barley (courtesy image at top)
Serves 2. Doubles and triples like a dream.
⅔ cup barley
2 cups water
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
6 Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
¼ cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
A shake or two of cinnamon
- Pour barley into a generous bowl, cover with water, and let it soak for a few hours or even overnight.
- Drain barley, rinse and pour into a large saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, until the barley has plumped and absorbed most of the liquid.
- Pour in the almond milk and add the chopped dates. Continue cooking, giving the occasional stir, for another 10 minutes or until the barley starts to incorporate the almond milk and dates.
- Add chopped nuts, top with a dusting of cinnamon, and enjoy.
– Ellen Kanner, Huﬃngton Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner and Oldways Vegetarian Network advisor
The breakfast bowl: I am a huge fan of hot cereal topped with fresh berries for breakfast (courtesy image below). While most of us usually turn to oatmeal, which is a nutritious — and delicious — choice, there are other tasty and diﬀerent whole grain options just as healthy. For a change of pace, I recommend experimenting with a hot cereal made with quinoa, farro, buckwheat, amaranth, or millet. You can even make a combo bowl with 2 whole grains, add water, some low-fat milk (or your favorite milk substitute such as almond milk), and top with your favorite fruit and a tablespoon or two of nuts and seeds, and you are good to go! Full of ﬁber and the many other health beneﬁts of whole grains. In a rush? No worries. You can make it the night before and just reheat it in the morning.
– Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD; Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at New York University, www.portionteller.com
Nobody thinks donuts are good for you, but these Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts are diﬀerent. They are completely whole grain, are baked rather than fried, and supply several diﬀerent nutrients such as ﬁber, protein, and vitamin A. They are rich in potassium and low in saturated fat, too. Overall, Maple Walnut Pumpkin donuts oﬀer a better-for-you twist on a traditional favorite food!
– Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, www.betteristhenewperfect.com
Adding whole grains to the breakfast meal can be a challenge. Many common foods enjoyed at the start of the day tend to lack the nutrient-dense grains. So, what is my favorite way to suggest incorporating whole grains at breakfast? Smoothies! This grab-and-go breakfast typically falls short of whole grains. Adding grains to smoothies adds a thicker consistency and packs in great taste and nutrients, too. Enjoy this season’s inspired breakfast, Pumpkin Smoothie (courtesy image below)!
– Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, CDN Nutrition Consultant at TriadtoWellness.com