As adults, we’ve heard the rhetoric one million times; “breakfast is important, a healthy breakfast keeps you energized all day.” But the little kid in us will always crave something warm, sweet and satisfying when cold weather hits, even if we know a bowl of oatmeal piled high with brown sugar (much less a big bowl of sugary, fluffy chocolate puffs) isn’t the right answer. Enter: breakfast grain bowls.
Sweet breakfasts don’t have to be “bad for you.” In fact, adding nutritious, sweet ingredients to your breakfasts is appealing to mind and body so long as you’re choosing the right sweet sources and a whole-grain base packed with nutrients. We’ve wrestled up some of our favorite warm and sweet breakfast bowl combinations to get your creative juices flowing.
WARM AND HEALTHY BREAKFAST GRAIN BOWLS, STEP-BY-STEP
1. THE WHOLE-GRAIN BASE
When it comes to a warm, healthy whole-grain base, we like whole oats or a combination of whole oats, chia and quinoa (sometimes with a little bit of millet or buckwheat thrown in). As a general rule, use 1/3 cup of oats plus 1/4 cup quinoa and 1 tablespoon chia per bowl. We use 1 1/2 cups of liquid for each cup of grains, plus a small spoonful of olive oil or coconut oil (about 1 tablespoon per 2 cups of grains) and then adjust by adding more or less liquid if you like your grains more loose or lumpy. (Both are delicious.) If you have a rice cooker, you can cook your grains in it, but cooking the grains on the stovetop is awesome, too.
READ MORE > 3 GREAT WHOLE GRAINS, 3 FRESH WAYS
2. COOKING LIQUID
Any liquid can be used to cook grains: water, milk, almond milk, water, apple juice … even steeped tea! Choose a liquid (or a combination of liquids) that imparts a flavor you prefer. We like a combination of water and almond milk because it easily pairs with other ingredients we put on top of the grain bowl — but oats cooked in Earl Grey tea are delicious!
There is no “perfect” grain bowl when it comes to texture; some like very soft or mushy grains, while others like their grains to be al dente. Experiment with the grains in your kitchen and trust your intuition and preferences. If the grains end up too lumpy, loosen them by adding more liquid. If the grains are too loose, you can make them more firm by stirring in a tablespoon of almond butter, or simply adding more grains and cooking a smidge longer.
3. ADD ONS
The recipes below suggest you stir in 1/2–1 tablespoon of heart-healthy fat into your grains. This addition not only makes the bowl more tasty, but also helps your body absorb the nutrients in your breakfast. Don’t skip the healthy fats!
The suggestions below are for a single breakfast bowl, but you can scale them for a crowd with the simple quantities mentioned:
- Coconut + Goji + Date + Rose: Stir 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil or coconut butter into grains. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of coconut shreds + and 2 chopped medjool dates + 1 tablespoon dried goji berries over grains cooked in almond milk. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon honey. Add a pinch of dried, culinary-grade rose petals (available online or at a well-stocked spice or grocery store) or add 1 or 2 drops of rose water. Stir to combine. (Note: Rose water is very potent — use sparingly for an earthy, floral flavor!)
- Pear + Cardamom + Raisin: Stir 1 tablespoon almond butter into grains. Arrange sliced fresh pears and a couple of tablespoons of raisins atop grains cooked in water and coconut milk. Sprinkle with ground cardamom and 1 teaspoon of raw hemp seeds. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of honey. (Breakfast bonus points: Poach whole, peeled pears in water and add 4 tablespoons of honey, a pinch of salt and your favorite herbal tea for extra flavor before slicing atop your grain bowl!)
- Apple + Pumpkin + Pecan + Cinnamon: Swirl 1–2 tablespoons of pumpkin pureé and 1 tablespoon maple syrup into grains cooked in water and apple juice, then top with fresh chopped apples and chopped pecans (Breakfast bonus points: Lightly toast pecans in a hot skillet, shaking all the time to prevent burning, before chopping coarsely and adding to your grain bowl.
Originally published January 2018, updated September 2022
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