Best Breakfast Foods to Start Your Day

Conventional wisdom says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but when you're on a diet it can be difficult to make the right choice. Check out the foods you can eat on the TNT diet.

The TNT Diet: What's for Breakfast?

We believe the best breakfast food is eggs—any way you like them, whether that means scrambled, poached, fried, hard-boiled, or made into an omelet. That's because eggs are loaded with healthful nutrients, including high-quality protein and fat, both of which keep you full after you've eaten. What's more, a recent study in our lab at the University of Connecticut found that when low-carb dieters ate three real eggs a day for 12 weeks, their good HDL cholesterol increased by 20 percent, yet their bad LDL didn't budge. Interestingly, those who ate egg substitutes instead of the real thing experienced no changes in good (or bad) cholesterol.

So your best option for your first meal comes from an egg carton. You can add cheese to your eggs, as well as any number of toppings for variety. For example, fresh dill adds an all-new flavor to scrambled eggs, as does a spoonful of salsa with a few slices of avocado. And don't forget a slice or two of bacon or sausage is perfectly acceptable, too. Your options are only as limited as your imagination.

Make the Perfect Omelet

Directions: Crack three eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add 1 Tbsp of milk and a pinch of salt to the eggs. Heat an 8-inch nonstick omelet pan over medium heat. Add a pat of butter to the pan and when it melts and begins to foam lightly, add the eggs. As the eggs settle and solidify, use a wooden spoon or spatula to move the cooked egg up from the pan, allowing the raw liquid to slide beneath (just like when you scramble eggs). When nearly all of the egg has cooked, and a uniform layer of egg has settled on the bottom, add your ingredients, beginning with your cheese. Shake the pan to loosen the omelet, then use a spatula to fold it carefully in half. Slide the omelet onto a warm plate.

Our favorite omelet combinations:
Chicken sausage, marinated artichoke hearts, crumbled goat cheese
Sautéed mushrooms and spinach, roasted red peppers, Parmigiano Reggiano
Sliced apple, sharp Cheddar, and crispy bacon. Sound weird? Just try it.

An Instant Hot Breakfast: Sliced Ham with Melted Cheese

In a hurry? Simply take a few pieces of sliced ham, top with a slice of Swiss cheese, and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds.

NexGen: The Ultimate Breakfast Muffin

This ready-to-eat muffin, created by our friend Keith Berkowitz, M.D., contains just 80 to 100 calories, 5 to 6 grams of protein, no sugar, and 11 to 12 grams of fiber. Remember, although fiber is a carbohydrate, it's non-digestible, so in effect, it doesn't count. That makes these muffins a great low-carb alternative to eating scrambled eggs or omelets. How do they do it: Instead of using wheat flour, Berkowitz and his team substitutes a blend of six natural fibers that have been ground into a fine powder. And since eggs provide the protein, each muffin contains all of the essential nutrients that your muscles need for growth. They're available in wild blueberry, banana walnut, and cran-orange pineapple at carbsmart.com, under the brand name NexGen Foods. Two muffins are guaranteed to fill you up.

Protein Power Almond-Pecan Waffles

These high-protein waffles are courtesy of Mary Dan Eades, M.D., author of Protein Power. (Check out her recipe-packed blog at proteinpower.com.) To boost the protein and fat while dialing back the carbs, she recommends a combination of pecans, whey-protein powder, and almond flour, which is a high-fiber, low-starch alternative to wheat flour.

You can make almond flour simply by chopping slivered almonds in a food processor, or you can purchase it preground at bobsredmill.com. (For all the recipes found here, choose a protein powder that's nearly all protein—that is, one that has little carbohydrates or fat—such as Designer Whey Protein or Optimum Nutrition 100 percent Whey.)

1 cup almond flour (you can find this in the health food section of most supermarket, or just chop up a bag of slivered almonds in your food processor). ¼ cup finely chopped pecans ½ cup whey-protein powder 1 tsp baking powder 4 ounces regular cream cheese, softened 6 eggs ¼ cup heavy cream

While your waffle iron preheats, combine the almond flour, pecans, whey-protein powder, and baking powder in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the cream cheese and two eggs until smooth. Add the remaining eggs one at a time and whisk thoroughly after each. Mix in the cream, then stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter onto the hot waffle iron and cook for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Put the waffle on a serving plate, and top with sugar-free syrup, peanut butter, or fresh fruit. Or let it cool, place it in Tupperware or a ziplock bag, and freeze. When you're ready to eat one, just pop it in the toaster. (Make a big batch on Sunday and you can eat waffles on demand during the week.) Makes about six 7-inch waffles Per waffle: 382 calories, 27 grams (g) protein, 12 g carbohydrates (3 g fiber; 3 g sugar), 29 g fat (9 g saturated)

More Breakfast Options

These recipes have a few more carbs than a classic low-carb breakfast, but one serving of either won't overload you with sugar and starch and will provide you a healthy dose of protein. (A key nutrient that's lacking in cereal, bagels, and pastries.) So when you want a break from eggs, these are solid choices that will keep you satisfied and on track.

Toast with Tuna

Why spread sugar on your toast when you can spread protein? Sure, we know this isn't typical breakfast fare. But remember, typical breakfasts aren't ideal in the first place. Think of it this way: You're simply trading the high-sugar jelly you normally use for high-protein tuna salad. It's easy to make ahead of time, and convenient enough that you can eat it on the run. And by tweaking the conventional recipe to include cranberries, you'll add a hint of jellylike sweetness.

1 6-ounce can solid white tuna, drained (We like omega-3 packed Wild Planet tuna; 1wildplanet.com.)
2 Tbsp dried cranberries, roughly chopped
¼ yellow onion, minced
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together. Serve a scoop on a piece of toasted whole-grain bread.
Makes 2 servings

Per serving (on a slice of whole-grain toast): 230 calories, 22 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates (6 g fiber; 9 g sugar), 6 g fat (1 g saturated)

Cottage-Cheese Pancakes

These pancakes are not only packed with high-quality protein, they're lighter and fluffier than the classic version. Serve with a bit of butter and sugar-free syrup.

1 cup cottage cheese
2 eggs
½ stick butter, melted
½ cup milk
¾ cup 100 percent whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cheese, eggs, butter, and milk. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt, and blend lightly (don't beat—it will make your pancakes tough) until just mixed together. This batter will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Grease a skillet or griddle with a bit of butter or cooking spray and put over medium heat.

Add a large scoop of batter to the pan and use the back of a spoon or spatula to spread it out evenly. The pancake is ready to flip when you begin to see small air bubbles form in the raw batter facing you, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute or 2. Eat immediately, or keep warm in a 225°F oven while you finish the rest of the pancakes. Serves 4 (about 3 4-inch pancakes per person

Per serving: 290 calories, 15 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates (3 g fiber; 5 g sugar), 16 g fat (9 g saturated)