Photos by Deborah Ory

Few of us would dream of leaving the house in the morning without brushing our teeth, but many people don’t take time to eat before starting their day. This is a mistake. Upon waking, your body has been fasting for 6, 8, or even 10 to 12 hours and needs nourishment.

According to numerous studies, a balanced breakfast helps to maintain health. Nutrients found in a healthy breakfast—including protein, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, and complex carbs—improve concentration, mental performance, mood, and memory. Breakfast is also linked to reduced risk for diabetes or excess weight gain, both by kicking your metabolism into gear and by decreasing the chance that you’ll grab a high-calorie snack. By eating first thing, you give your hungry body the chance to replenish blood sugar levels, burn calories effectively, and maintain more consistent energy all day long.

Some people skip breakfast because they don’t have time to prepare a meal. If this applies to you, no worries: Each of these nutritious and tasty recipes can be made in five to ten minutes—that’s less time than it takes to stop at a coffee shop for a latte and a pastry. It’s a small investment that will make a healthy difference in your day.

Maple-Pecan Quinoa
Serves 1 / Quinoa contains 11 protein grams per half-cup—up to 50 percent more than other grains—and supplies all of the essential amino acids. Its complex carbohydrates also give you an energy boost to start your day. Plus, it’s a snap to make—especially if you opt for quinoa flakes, which cook in 90 seconds.

1 cup water
Pinch of kosher or sea salt (optional)
1/3 cup quinoa flakes
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, divided
2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In small saucepan, bring water to boil. Add salt, if using, and quinoa flakes. Stir and cook for about 1-1/2 minutes or until cereal starts to thicken.

2. Mix in 1/2 tablespoon syrup, most of the pecans, and vanilla extract. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Top with remaining 1/2 tablespoon syrup and remaining pecans. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 288 calories
% fat calories: 37
Fat: 12g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 5g
Carbohydrate: 42g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 13mg

Green Tea–Berry Smoothie
Serves 1 / When you absolutely need breakfast to go, try this super-powered smoothie. Green tea’s antioxidants help prevent cancers, blocked arteries, and even tooth decay; flax provides healthy omega-3 fats; and berries offer fiber and vitamin C—all served up in a tasty, easy-to-carry form.

1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1 green tea bag
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil
1-1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
6 ounces low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup cranberry juice
Honey, to taste (optional)

1. Microwave water on high until boiling. Add tea bag and steep for 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine ground flaxseed, berries, yogurt, and juice. Blend until smooth.

3. Squeeze and remove tea bag. Add tea to berry mixture and blend until smooth. Adjust consistency with additional water and sweeten with honey, if desired.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 338 calories
% fat calories: 20
Fat: 8g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 14mg
Protein: 11g
Carbohydrate: 59g
Fiber: 13g
Sodium: 127mg

Orange-Buttermilk Pancakes
Serves 2 / Substituting rich-tasting, low-fat buttermilk for whole milk and butter is an easy way to reduce cholesterol and fat intake. This recipe also uses whole-grain pastry flour, which adds fiber and protein. Make and refrigerate the batter the night before to save time during the morning rush.

1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 egg whites
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola spread, melted
1/2 tablespoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel, or 2 teaspoons dried
Butter-flavored cooking spray
Fresh fruit, orange marmalade, or maple syrup (optional)

1. Sift together flours, sugar, and baking powder; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, lightly beat egg whites. Add buttermilk, melted canola spread, extracts, and orange peel. Beat until combined. Add to sifted ingredients and beat.

2. Coat a large nonstick frying pan with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Spoon approximately 1/4 cup batter into pan for each pancake. Cook until top appears bubbly and bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook until other side is golden brown.

3. Serve topped with fresh fruit, marmalade, or maple syrup, if desired.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 242 calories
% fat calories: 24
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 5mg
Protein: 10g
Carbohydrate: 36g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 248mg

Breakfast Banana Split
Serves 1 / A kid-friendly favorite. Rich in potassium and magnesium, bananas may help prevent heart attacks, high blood pressure, and even ulcers. Yogurt is an excellent source of bone-strengthening calcium and is easier to digest than milk.

1 small, ripe banana
4 ounces low-fat vanilla, chocolate, or coconut yogurt
1/3 cup low-fat granola or other crunchy cereal
2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted

1. Cut banana in half lengthwise and place both halves in a shallow bowl. Spoon yogurt evenly over the middle two-thirds. Top with cereal and toasted coconut. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 385 calories
% fat calories: 17
Fat: 8g
Saturated Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 9mg
Protein: 10g
Carbohydrate: 72g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 84mg

Fiesta Shrimp Omelet
Serves 1 / When you crave a gourmet breakfast, try this simple dish with fresh herbs and low-fat, quick-cooking shrimp. Shrimp, like other shellfish, contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart and help lower blood pressure. Shrimp is also high in vitamin B, which is needed for a daily brain boost; vitamin B deficiency can result in memory loss, confusion, slow reflexes, and fatigue.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
3 ounces raw, large, peeled, and deveined shrimp, chopped
Cooking spray
4 large egg whites (or 1/2 cup egg substitute), lightly beaten
Pinch of kosher salt (optional)
1/2-1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup low-sodium pico de gallo or salsa, drained

1. Add 1/2 teaspoon oil to a small nonstick frying pan and place over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add garlic and shrimp. Turn shrimp frequently until bright pink and cooked through, 2–3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, coat a large, nonstick frying pan lightly with cooking spray and heat remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil. Add egg whites and season with salt, if desired. When egg is set—there should be no liquid remaining in the center—spoon cooked shrimp evenly over one half. Sprinkle with cilantro. Fold empty half over shrimp. Carefully transfer to a serving plate and drizzle with salsa.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 213 calories
% fat calories: 27
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 130mg
Protein: 33g
Carbohydrate: 4g
Fiber: 0g
Sodium: 613mg

Sprouted-Wheat Breakfast Sandwich
Serves 1 / Do you think eating a bagel for breakfast means too many carbs and calories? Nutritious sprouted-grain bagels contain complex carbs, essential for brain function. Long-lasting carbs also help prevent dips in blood sugar, averting cravings and hunger pangs. If you can’t find prosciutto, substitute shaved Canadian bacon or soy bacon.

1/2 sprouted-wheat bagel
1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg white or 1 whole egg
3/4 ounce (about 1/4 cup) shredded
low-fat mozzarella or cheddar cheese
1/2 ounce prosciutto
A few fresh arugula leaves

1. Toast the bagel half. Meanwhile, place a small nonstick pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add oil, then egg white or egg. Fry until set.

2. Immediately top warm bagel with shredded cheese, followed by hot egg. Top with prosciutto and arugula leaves. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 238 calories
% fat calories: 21
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 25mg
Protein: 19g
Carbohydrate: 28g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 728mg

When chef Devin Alexander isn’t hosting cooking segments on TV, she creates healthy recipes in her Los Angeles kitchen. She also makes time to enjoy the California sunshine while kayaking or playing tennis.