Linda Ohr

Linda Milo Ohr


Eggs are a nutrient-dense source of high-quality protein. © LauriPatterson/E=/Getty Images


Eggs are a nutrient-dense source of high-quality protein. © LauriPatterson/E=/Getty Images

Do you eat breakfast on the go, grabbing something convenient as you run out the door? Or do you like to sit down to eat breakfast, easing into your morning? No matter what type of breakfast eater you are, there are likely to be breakfast foods and drinks that cater to your lifestyle. From traditional cereal and yogurt to frozen or ready-to-eat (RTE) meals, smoothies, bars, and bites, breakfast has evolved with changing consumer trends.

“With many people returning to their pre-pandemic morning routines, we’re seeing a trend toward convenient breakfast formats as well as a desire to eat with intention,” says June Lin, global vice president, marketing, health & wellness, ADM. “Purposeful choices can include functional foods and beverages that support goals for weight management, immunity, sustained energy, and more.” In addition, Lin adds that consumers are proactively seeking offerings with less sugar and added protein and fiber, as well as whole food ingredients like beans, pulses, and ancient grains.

Benefits of Breakfast

“If someone has had a full night of sleep, then breakfast helps to ‘break the fast’ and get your day started,” says Amy Reed, pediatric dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Eating a breakfast that contains protein, whole grains, and a fruit and/or vegetable will help a person to start meeting their needs for not only energy, but vitamins and minerals for the day.”

Protein, high-quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats can be part of a nutritious breakfast, says Reed. “Someone can get protein from meat, beans, eggs, milk, yogurt, and nuts and nut butters. A high-quality carb is one that has vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” she explains. And to further improve breakfast satisfaction, a person may want to consider including a healthy fat at breakfast from items like avocados, nuts, natural nut butters, and olive oil.

Although some consumers say they function or feel better by skipping breakfast, continuing research supports the importance of a healthy breakfast for all ages. In a review and meta-analysis of 14 studies, Zahedi et al. (2020) looked at the association between skipping breakfast and mental health. In the total sample size of 399,550 individuals ranging in age from six to ≥ 65 years, the authors concluded that skipping breakfast was positively associated with odds of depression, stress, and psychological distress in all age groups and anxiety in adolescence. Other recent meta-analyses associated skipping breakfast with an increased risk of heart disease (Takagi et al. 2019) and overweight/obesity (Ma et al. 2020).

For children, breakfast has recently been shown to benefit cognition. Adolphus et al. (2021) compared the effect of eating a RTE cereal and milk with no breakfast on cognitive function and subjective state in healthy adolescents aged 11–13 years. Results showed that consuming breakfast had a positive acute effect on cognition, reaction time, and visual sustained attention. In a six-year longitudinal study of children in China, Liu et al. (2021) demonstrated that regular breakfast habits were associated with higher IQ in children. In addition, in the study’s cross-sectional analysis at age 12, consuming grain/rice or meat/eggs 6–7 days per week was significantly associated with higher verbal, performance, and full-scale IQs, compared with consuming 0–2 days per week.


“Protein provides sustaining nutrition to help a person be satisfied until their next meal,” says Reed. Eggs, meat, beans, dairy, and nuts are whole food sources for morning protein.

One of the most common breakfast foods is also a nutrient-dense source of high-quality protein, containing all essential amino acids. One large egg contains 6 g of protein and is a good or excellent source of eight essential nutrients: protein, choline, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12, biotin (B7), pantothenic acid (B5), iodine, and selenium. Papanikolaou and Fulgoni (2021) recently demonstrated that the addition of eggs at breakfast can contribute to nutrient intakes and overall dietary adequacy and play a role in public health initiatives aimed at increasing the intake of under-consumed nutrients and nutrients of concern in children, including pantothenic acid, riboflavin, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin A, protein, and choline.

Consumers are proactively seeking offerings with less sugar and added protein and fiber, as well as whole food ingredients like beans, pulses, and ancient grains.

In addition to eggs, dairy can provide an additional source of protein at breakfast in beverages, smoothies, yogurt, and cheese. Dairy is a source of a complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids. Milk is a good source of protein, with 8 g in one cup. Like eggs, nutrient-dense dairy also provides 13 essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and vitamin A.

Whey protein is a popular ingredient option for boosting protein content. Increasingly, this is also being done with plant proteins. For example, pea protein is used in pancake mixes as well as frozen breakfast foods and smoothies.

Whole Grains

“Starting the day with a breakfast that includes a serving of whole grains is an excellent way to boost energy levels and keep the body fueled until lunch,” says Laurie Scanlin, R&D Director, Ardent Mills. Many whole grains can be a good source of dietary fiber, B vitamins (niacin and thiamin), and minerals like manganese, selenium, iron, and phosphorus. The USDA’s 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that half of all grains consumed daily should be whole grains.

“Ancient grains are gaining popularity in breakfast foods because they can support many of the label claims consumers are looking for, including whole-grain, gluten-free, organic, and plant-based,” says Scanlin. Ancient grains, including sorghum, millet, amaranth, and teff are starting to appear in RTE breakfast cereals. Quinoa, which has paved the way for consumer interest in ancient grains, can be found in cereals, bars, granola, and inclusions and toppings for breads and bagels. Sorghum’s neutral flavor profile makes it an ideal whole grain option for a variety of baked goods applications, including muffin and waffle mixes. Several ancient grains, including quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, and millet, are gluten-free, making them an excellent wheat alternative in gluten-free foods.


Walnuts provide a wholesome source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo courtesy of California Walnut Commission


Walnuts provide a wholesome source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo courtesy of California Walnut Commission

“Our research finds 68% of U.S. consumers believe ancient grains are healthier and more nutritious, which they associate with claims such as natural, high fiber, no additives or preservatives, and high protein,” adds Lin. “At ADM, we offer well-known and emerging ancient grains, including amaranth, chia, farro, millet, and teff. Plus, our range of wheat and specialty flours, such as sorghum, malted barley, and corn flour, meet every baking need.”

Making whole and ancient grains more accessible and versatile, Ardent Mills has recently launched a keto-friendly and low net carb flour blend to replace traditional flour in various baked applications, including waffles, pancakes, muffins, bagels, and batters. Its Net Carb Flour Blend is made from uniquely blended grains, allows for seamless integration into production lines, is non-GMO certified, vegan, has no added sugar, and can be used as a fiber source. Ardent Mills also introduced a gluten-free 1-to-1 all-purpose flour for baking applications. It allows bakers to substitute, cup for cup, conventional all-purpose wheat flour for a gluten-free option for breakfast items like pancakes, muffins, and more.

Dietary Fiber

Those who skip breakfast or don’t eat a balanced breakfast may not be getting enough dietary fiber, says Reed. With dietary fiber’s benefits, (cardiovascular, weight, digestive, satiety), it is an important nutrient that should be part of breakfast.

King and Xiang (2021) found that regular daily intake of breakfast appeared to be associated with lower overall and cardiovascular mortality, particularly when consuming fiber >25 g/day. Their analysis showed breakfast eaters were older, had lower body mass index, and ate more calories and fiber daily than non-breakfast eaters. For the breakfast eaters, fiber intake >25 g/day was associated with 21% reduction in all-cause mortality after multivariable adjustments.

In addition to whole food sources of fiber like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, dietary fiber ingredients can help breakfast formulators create fiber-rich breakfast bars, bites, smoothies, and yogurts. These include inulin, oligofructose, polydextrose, arabinoxylan, resistant starch, mixed plant cell wall fibers, and guar and locust bean gum. These and other dietary fibers have physiological effects beneficial to human health, such as lowering blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and/or blood pressure, increasing mineral absorption in the intestinal tract, improving laxation, and reducing energy intake.

One example, Fibersol (ADM) is a prebiotic fiber that can promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut and has been shown to reduce the rise in blood glucose levels following a meal. “Moreover, research has found that 10 g of Fibersol with a meal stimulates production of satiety hormones for delayed post-meal hunger in healthy adults,” says Lin. The digestion-resistant maltodextrin has been shown to aid in healthy digestion and the development of a diverse gastrointestinal microbiome.


“A study by the Harris Poll found that 24% of Americans reported eating more breakfast foods in the last year, and 79% have eaten breakfast food outside of the traditional breakfast time,” says Jennifer Triem, sales manager-western U.S., Chaucer. She points out that as consumers snack on breakfast foods more frequently throughout the day, manufacturers have an opportunity to reinvent breakfasts to meet new demands for convenience and nutrition. “Fruits that can provide a functional benefit to consumers will be more popular than ever with the current trend toward health and immunity-focused products. Consumers looking for a holistic alternative to defend against illness often opt for a healthy berry, so expect fruits like blueberries, cranberries, and oranges to be used more often in vitamin-rich and antioxidant-packed breakfast foods.”

freeze-dried fruit smoothie

Whether used in powder, piece, or whole form, freeze-dried fruits add a pop of color, sweet natural taste, and a boost of antioxidants and nutrients to a wide variety of breakfast innovations. Photo courtesy of Chaucer

freeze-dried fruit smoothie

Whether used in powder, piece, or whole form, freeze-dried fruits add a pop of color, sweet natural taste, and a boost of antioxidants and nutrients to a wide variety of breakfast innovations. Photo courtesy of Chaucer

Chaucer offers a wide range of freeze-dried fruit ingredients that can help create more nutritious breakfast offerings. Ingredients range from strawberries, pineapples, and raspberries to lesser-known fruits such as wolfberries and red currants. “The natural nutrients, flavor, color, and structure of our fruit ingredients are retained during the freeze-drying process, making them a wholesome and nutritious addition to functional breakfast foods,” says Triem. Chaucer also has a line of “smoothie” squares made from pure fruit purees that are freeze-dried and cut into small bites, which are great for snacking. The variety of flavors include strawberry-banana, banana-mango-passionfruit, banana-pineapple-kale-chlorella, and banana-raspberry-beetroot and chia seeds.


Almonds and walnuts are popular nuts found in breakfast cereals and baked breakfast items. According to Innova Market Insights, almonds comprised more than 41% of nut products introduced globally and are the No. 1 nut for global new product introductions. With more people working from home in 2020, cereals experienced 27% sales growth and joined confectionery, snacks, bakery, and bars as one of the top five product categories for new almond product introductions (Almond Board of California 2021). Almonds offer 6 g of plant protein, 4 g of fiber, unsaturated fats, magnesium, and antioxidant vitamin E.

Walnuts provide texture as well as a nutritional source of healthy fats. Walnuts are the only nut significantly high in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. One ounce of walnuts provides 2.5 g ALA, 4 g protein, 2 g fiber, and 45 mg magnesium.

From nuts and whole grains to proteins, dietary fiber, and fruits, the opportunity is open to create nutritious breakfasts for every type of consumer.


Adolphus, K., A. Hoyland, J. Walton, et al. 2021. “Ready-to-eat Cereal and Milk for Breakfast Compared with No Breakfast has a Positive Acute Effect on Cognitive Function and Subjective State in 11–13-Year-Olds: A School-based, Randomised, Controlled, Parallel Groups Trial.” Eur. J. Nutr. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02506-2. Online ahead of print.

Almond Board of California. 2021. “Almonds Prove Essential as #1 Nut in New Product Development.” Press Release, July 19. Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif.

King, D. E. and J. Xiang. 2021. “A Relationship Between Mortality and Eating Breakfast and Fiber.” J. Am. Board Fam. Med. 34(4): 678–687.

Liu, J., L. Wu, P. Um., et al. 2021. “Breakfast Consumption Habits at Age 6 and Cognitive Ability at Age 12: A Longitudinal Cohort Study.” Nutrients 13(6): 2080.

Ma, X., Q. Chen, Y. Pu, et al. 2020. “Skipping Breakfast is Associated with Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Obes. Res. Clin. Pract. 14(1): 1–8.

Papanikolaou, Y. and V. L. Fulgoni. 2021. “Increasing Egg Consumption at Breakfast is Associated with Increased Usual Nutrient Intakes: A Modeling Analysis Using NHANES and the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program School Breakfast Guidelines.” Nutrients 13(4): 1379.

Takagi, H., Y. Hari, K. Nakashima, et al. 2019. “Meta-Analysis of Relation of Skipping Breakfast with Heart Disease.” Am. J. Cardiol. 124(6): 978–986.

Zahedi, H., S. Djalalinia, O. Sadeghi, et al. 2020. “Breakfast Consumption and Mental Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Observational Studies.” Nutr. Neurosci. Dec. 14: 1–15.

About the Author

Linda Milo Ohr is a food scientist and writer based in Highlands Ranch, Colo. ([email protected]).
Linda Ohr