Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life
Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin'
Out on the streets the traffic starts jumpin'
And folks like me on the job from nine to five
—Dolly Parton, “9 to 5”
I think we can all agree that working nine to five (or for most of us these days, eight to five or six) makes for some busy mornings. Heck, Dolly Parton doesn’t even mention breakfast in the opening lines to her iconic song of the same name—it’s all coffee and commuting.
But breakfast is a good way to start the day. Filling up on nutritious foods can set the tone for eating well for the next two meals, since, when we skip breakfast, we may be so hungry by the time lunch rolls around that we’re past the point of making good decisions. Nearly 80 percent of the people listed in the National Weight Control Registry (a large ongoing research project at Brown University) who’ve lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least a year eat breakfast every day. Research has long shown that eating breakfast may be a key to weight loss.
With all the rushing involved in getting ready for work and school, however, it may make sense to hold off on eating breakfast until you get to your desk.
This doesn’t mean you should swing by the fast-food drive-through for a greased-up morning Croissan’wich. Instead, turn to whole-food ingredients like grains, fruits, nuts, and eggs to create delicious, portable meals that can be made ahead and put together at your desk almost as quickly as it takes your computer to boot up. Each of these six mini-recipes (really just techniques that allow you to get creative with whatever ingredients suit your own tastes) makes enough for a week’s worth of desk-fasts.
- Yogurt Parfaits
Buy a quart of your favorite unflavored yogurt (use Greek yogurt for extra protein and creaminess). Each morning (or the evening before to save morning time), fill a pint jar with a layer of yogurt, some berries or cut-up fruit, and, if you’d like, some homemade jam. Place granola in a small separate container. When you’re ready to eat, sprinkle the granola onto the yogurt and enjoy.
- Overnight Oats
If you haven’t tried overnight oats yet, what are you waiting for? Whole grains are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Research points to the fact that whole-grain eaters weigh less, suffer fewer heart risks, and are less likely to develop diabetes than their refined-grain-eating counterparts. Plus, the fiber in oats will help keep you feeling satisfied until lunchtime.
Overnight oats couldn’t be easier: Place rolled oats in a jar or other container. Toss in your add-ins, like dried fruit, nuts, sliced bananas, or frozen berries. Add milk or your favorite alternative milk, cover, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, the oats will have soaked up the liquid and softened. They’re delicious and refreshing straight from the fridge.
- Steel-Cut Oats
Maybe eating cold oatmeal in the morning isn’t your idea of a good time. As long as your office has a microwave, you can have yours hot. Just make a pot of steel-cut oats, portion it out all week long, and nuke it when you get to the office.
Simply measure 1¼ cup of steel-cut oats, combine with 5 cups water, bring to a boil, stir, cover, and remove from heat. Let the covered pot sit out overnight. In the morning, scoop out that day’s portion and refrigerate the rest.
The world of toppings is vast: Add a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt, or swirl in almond butter and chopped apples. Brown sugar and cinnamon are a classic combo, and so are maple syrup and walnuts.
- Breakfast Quinoa
Oats are not the only breakfast grains. Any whole grain can be part of a healthy breakfast. Quinoa, quick to prepare and the only seed that is a complete protein, is a great choice.
Quinoa’s slightly nutty flavor goes well with Middle Eastern flavors. Combine 1¼ cup quinoa with 1¼ cup water and 1¼ cup apple juice, a pinch of salt, and a few cardamom pods. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, until quinoa is done. Add 4 or 5 sliced dried apricots and a spoonful of honey. Bring shelled pistachios in a separate container to sprinkle on top after microwaving.
Sometimes you just want to keep things simple and old-school. You crave coffee and a doughnut for breakfast, like you used to eat before you realized that going down that path led to madness (and a larger pair of pants every year).
Satisfy that craving with a muffin instead. But not just any muffin—one packed with whole-food ingredients and low in sugar. These oat-carrot muffins fit the bill nicely. Plus, they’re easy to mix up on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
- Hard-Boiled Egg and Avocado Toast
For a rich and satisfying desk-fast every day of the week, hard-boil 5 eggs. Bring them to work, along with a loaf of 100 percent whole wheat bread (or a package of whole wheat bagels) and 5 small avocados.
Every day, toast 2 slices of bread. While they’re toasting, peel an egg and slice. Spread avocado on the toast or bagel and top with slices of hard-boiled egg and a sprinkle of salt.
Miriam Wolf is the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine. She lives in Portland.