Changing My Definition of ‘Breakfast Foods’ Completely Upgraded My Healthy Eating Routine

Photo: Getty Images / OlgaMiltsova
When I was a kid, my favorite thing in the entire world was eating breakfast for dinner. Pancakes are delicious at basically any time during the day, but there's something extra special about eating them at a time when people are normally eating grain bowls or sheet-pan chicken.

But now that I am an adult who has to prepare her own meals, I've discovered that breakfast foods are among some of my least favorite things to cook. There is something particularly soul crushing about dirtying an entire pan (my only pan!) and spatula for two scrambled eggs that I eat in approximately two minutes. Anything that oatmeal, my other favorite breakfast, touches, has to be cleaned immediately after eating—otherwise you're never going to get the hardened oat chunks off of your bowl and spoon. So despite the fact that "always eat breakfast" is the "always wear sunscreen" of the healthy eating world, I recently fell into a bad habit of skipping breakfast altogether because I don't want to deal with the aforementioned egg mess.

This went on for a while, until one morning when I was rummaging through my fridge and saw my little container of meal prepped zoodles with a meat sauce made with Primal Kitchen marinara. I stared at it longingly, then remembered a piece of advice from my nutritionist: breakfast doesn't have to be just breakfast foods. He recommended that I look at breakfast like lunch or dinner, and encouraged me to eat things like chicken breast with sweet potatoes and plenty of green veggies—foods I would normally reserve for later in the day. It's the breakfast-for-dinner concept, but flip it and reverse it.

There are so many delicious food options that open up when you expand your breakfast horizons beyond eggs, oatmeal, bacon, and other "breakfast foods."

I pulled out my dish of zoodles, zapped it in the microwave, and voilà, breakfast—one that I both enjoyed eating and found super easy to make. The world, suddenly, was my oyster. Yes, it is totally bizarre at first to eat a dinner food during the morning hours. But I'd fully eat cold pizza for breakfast, so why not a grain bowl or zoodles or leftover tacos? It makes prepping and planning easier, too: I only have to prep and store one type of meal, not a dinner food and a separate breakfast food. If I'm making a healthy meat sauce to throw over zoodles, for example, I can save some of it and eat it for other meals, like breakfast. Meanwhile, breakfast foods like eggs just don't hold up as well, IMO (and day-old eggs gross me out, anyways). Eating breakfast didn't seem like such a Sisyphean feat anymore.

Changing the way I think about breakfast has helped me eat breakfast again, which has transformed my entire day. I've been better focused in the morning because, shocker, eating breakfast means I'm not hungry. Sure, chicken breast is pretty meh regardless of what time of day you eat it. But getting in a serving of lean protein in the morning helps keep me full until lunchtime, so I have more mindful snacks instead of ending up eating shredded cheese out of the bag in front of my refrigerator at 11:45 a.m. It's also helped me eat more veggies; before, when I was making oatmeal or eggs, I wouldn't really include vegetables. Now, my breakfasts typically contain a couple servings of vegetables. And that's certainly a nutritional win.

The one downside is that none of these things pair particularly well with coffee (an essential a.m. beverage). But, as established with the shredded cheese anecdote, I am a monster so I just power through the weird flavor pairing.

There are so many delicious food options that open up when you expand your breakfast horizons beyond eggs, oatmeal, bacon, and other "breakfast foods." Trader Joe's frozen turkey meatballs right after morning spin? Sure, why the hell not. A cauliflower rice stir fry from the night before? Sold. It's all yours for the taking, no matter if it's 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.

Here, an ode to spaghetti squash (which would make an excellent breakfast food, just saying). Also, are carbs really all that bad for your brain health

Loading More Posts...