They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at American eating habits. Because of morning commutes, 41 percent of Americans skip breakfast every morning, according to a report by The NTD Group.
But having somewhere to be doesn’t mean you have to skip breakfast entirely. There are plenty of meals you can take to go and munch on at the office. Here are the five breakfast options I go to most often and how you can use them to get some real grub in the morning.
English muffins, bagels and even sweeter stuff like banana and pumpkin breads have long been a staple of American breakfasts. With some sweet jam or even simple spreads like butter and cream cheese, a slice of bread can become a suitable breakfast to last until lunchtime. Of course, going a step further than white bread with jam is always preferable, and if you can get a bagel topped with cheese and seeds, or packed with fruit, it’s even better.
If you have the time in the morning, you can take bread to the next level by making a breakfast sandwich. You can use anything from an English muffin to bagels or even just ordinary sliced bread here, and you can add breakfast foods like fried eggs, bacon, ham and cheese if you’re in the mood. It can also be super-simple and easy to make. My go-to when I’m running late is the time-honored peanut butter and jelly sandwich, though I’ve been known to skip the peanut butter and reach for Nutella instead. You can give yourself bonus points if you toast the bread beforehand.
Fruit might seem boring, but there’s something to be said for simplicity. There’s no need for plates or utensils, and there’s no cooking or preparation to be done. There’s also no shortage of options, from light fare like apples and pears to sweet citrus fruits. If you’re looking for something more filling, bananas are the perfect treat. Another benefit to fruity meals is that you can have as many apples or bananas as you like, without worrying too much about making more.
But if that’s not enough to convince naysayers, there’s also versatility to consider. Adding toppings like brown sugar, peanut butter or ground chili can add entirely new dimensions to your breakfast. Fruits can also be added to other foods, like oatmeal or yogurt. My personal favorite is mixing fresh strawberries into strawberry yogurt, or doing that with bananas.
Fresh fruit and tasty pastries are good choices no matter the occasion, but there’s definitely times when you just want a hot meal. For most people, that’s the realm of home cooking, but when you’re running late, nothing beats the convenience of popping something in the microwave. There are lots of ready-made meals to choose from, but they generally fall into a few categories. Most are some kind of sandwich, usually on an English muffin or croissant. Jimmy Dean is the king here. A more unconventional choice are pocket-type meals, like Breakfast Pockets. These can come packed with egg and cheese, and maybe either ham or bacon.
Of course, these aren’t necessarily the healthiest kind of breakfast. Since it has to survive months in the freezer, microwave food is often chock-full of preservatives that no amount of heating can make entirely safe to eat. There’s also the high sodium and fat content to contend with. Health site Eat This, Not That! suggests sticking to organic stuff whenever in doubt.
Full course meals usually come on plates, but wrapping it all in a delicious tortilla is one way of transforming homestyle cooking into something you can take to the office. Invented here in California by Spanish missionaries, the humble burrito was originally packed with beans, rice and meat. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that burritos packed with eggs, potatoes and other breakfast foods started popping up, but now they are served in burger shops across America. The best part of breakfast burritos is the variety of foods that fit inside. Hungry enough to eat a horse? Pack it with potatoes and bacon! Trying to eat healthy? Try spinach and egg whites for a meal that’s light on calories but just as filling as any other. The possibilities are endless.
Burritos are perfect for breakfast on-the-go on every level, down to its construction. The cylindrical shape fits snugly into the average cup-holder, making this meal easy to transport. You won’t have to worry about anything sliding around in the passenger seat, but don’t take this mean we’re endorsing eating while driving, which could be dangerous. Save that burrito for the office.
Of course, for all too many Americans, even these quick meals are too much hassle in the morning. When you’re running late and have to get out the door as soon as possible, coffee is often the only thing you have time for. It’s been known for years that chugging a cup of joe on an empty stomach will lead to increased production of stomach acid, and release of cortisol, known as the “stress hormone.” Drinking coffee on an empty stomach can also lead to anxiety, irritability, and an inability to focus, according to Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center quoted in PopSugar last December.
But there are plenty of ways to lessen that impact if you’re part of the growing population of people who think caffeine addiction is desirable. Doctors recommend that doing something as simple as having a glass of water before your first cup of coffee can prevent anxiety symptoms and a good idea to have coffee with other food. There are plenty of recipes out there for coffee-based smoothies and shakes, and any of these will wake you up without giving you the jitters.