That's exactly why pre-packaged breakfast items you can stock in your pantry or fridge can be helpful to save you time. Even though processed foods tend to get a bad rep in the wellness world, they aren't inherently unhealthy; it all comes down to how they're made. "I look at ingredients because the ingredients list contains a list of what's in the product, from greatest content to lowest [amount]," says Melissa Rifkin, RD. It can also give you a sense of how processed something is—if there is a short ingredients list, primarily of whole ingredients that you recognize right away, you can consider it "minimally processed."
"If sugar is one of the first four [ingredients] listed, I generally avoid that product," Rifkin adds. Regardless of where sugar falls on the ingredients list, Rifkin says she still checks the nutrition panel to see how much is in it, aiming to keep it under six grams per serving.
Next, she checks out the nutrient density. "In terms of nutrients, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber are all important to get at breakfast," Rifkin says. "Protein and fat provide satiety while carbs—ideally complex carbohydrates—provide energy." The fiber is key for digestion and Rifkin says she looks for minimally processed breakfast foods with at least three grams.
Want an even faster cheat? Stock up on the pre-packaged breakfast items on this list. They not only meet Rifkin's nutritional benchmarks, but they can also be made in 60 seconds or less. Breakfast is served.
5 minimally processed pre-packaged breakfast foods
1. Atoria's Family Bakery Cauliflower and Coconut Flatbread ($30 for a pack of 4) with almond butter
Rifkin says this is one of her go-to breakfasts. The flatbread has four grams of fiber and six grams of protein per serving. Slathering it with a couple of tablespoons of almond butter ups the protein even more while adding healthy fats.
Buy it now: Atoria's Family Bakery Cauliflower and Coconut Flatbread ($30 for a pack of 4)
2. Vans Power Grains Waffles ($2.99)
"This is another one of my favorite quick breakfasts," Rifkin says, adding that she likes to put peanut butter and banana on top to boost the protein and fiber. Unlike some of the waffles you'll find in the freezer section, these don't have any artificial ingredients, preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup.
Buy it now: Vans Power Grains Waffles ($2.99)
3. Purely Elizabeth Vibrant Oat Cups, Blueberry Lemon ($34 for 12)
Made with gluten-free oats, quinoa, flax, and chia, this oatmeal cup has seven grams of fiber and eight grams of protein. Cinnamon and coconut sugar add just enough sweetness while keeping the sugar content low.
Buy it now: Purely Elizabeth Vibrant Oat Cups, Blueberry Lemon ($34 for 12)
4. Birch Benders Classic Maple Pancakes Cups ($24 for 8)
Add water, microwave for 60 seconds, and you have a breakfast that takes just like syrup-coated pancakes—with only two grams of sugar. One serving has 10 grams of protein and four grams of sugar. Bonus: they're gluten-free, too.
Buy it now: Birch Benders Classic Maple Pancakes ($24 for 8)
5. Aloha Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Bars ($22 for 12)
If you need a breakfast you can truly eat on the go, Rifkin says this is her number one pick as far as protein bars go—and that's saying a lot considering how many there are to choose from. It has 14 grams of protein as well as a whopping 13 grams of fiber, which is more than 50 percent of what's required for the whole day. And even with the chocolate chips, there are only four grams of sugar.
Buy it now: Aloha Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Bars ($22 for 12)
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