Breakfast: My best friend. My worst enemy.
December 28, 2009 10:31 AM   Subscribe

What low-GI, high-protein, portable food can I cook on Sunday night and then reheat for breakfast Mon-Fri?

To improve my health and diet, I need to be better about eating a good breakfast regularly. Lots of diet/exercise books and blogs recommend things like steel-cut oats, scrambled eggs, etc. The problem is... I hate getting up early, and will basically not do anything that adds any time to my morning routine, even 5 minutes. Even finding the time to eat a bowl of cheerios is difficult because I invariably wait until the last second that I could possibly get up and still get to work on time, then leap out of bed, get ready as fast as I can, and run out the door.

So, to combat this, what I thought would be nice is to create something ahead of time (the night before, or ideally Sunday night for the whole week), then refrigerate and brown-bag it. That way I could get up, grab my brown bag from the fridge as I run out the door, and then reheat (or whatever) the food at work and eat at my desk. I feel that if I could do this, I would be able to stick to a good breakfast routine.

So, finally getting to the point, what can I make ahead of time to eat for breakfast each day? I'm looking for recipes with step-by-step instructions. The ideal recipe will have the following traits:
  • Can be made at least 1 day, and ideally up to 5 days in advance
  • Can be prepared in roughly an hour or less
  • Involves no additional preparation on the day that it's eaten (other than microwaving or other simple things that can be done in an office)
  • Has a low glycemic index (GI)
  • Has at least 20% calories from protein (roughly 5g of protein per 100 calories)
  • Doesn't taste awful
  • Contains no artificial sweeteners
Does anyone have a good recipe that meets these criteria? I'm hoping to get at least 3-4 so I can make them in a weekly rotation. I have no food allergies, and I enjoy a wide variety of flavors. Other breakfast habit tips are also appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by Vorteks to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 148 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Not a traditional breakfast, but chili could work. It can take a while to cook (esp in a crock pot) but will make several servings (I usually get about 8 per crock) and freezes well.
posted by valadil at 10:36 AM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Bean chili meets all your criteria. We make a big pot on the weekend and eat the leftovers all week. Other bean soups should work too.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:37 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

My quick office breakfast is a faux-mcmuffin type thing: whole wheat english muffin, morningstar fake sausage patty, and laughing cow cheese. It's got a lot of protein and fiber and generally keeps me full until lunchtime.
posted by something something at 10:39 AM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd make a big batch of hot cereal (steel cut oats, 5-grain cereal, cream of wheat, quinoa, etc.)--recipe will be on the side of the box. Add some salt and dried fruit and cinnamon for flavor and then portion it off so all you have to do is grab a tupperware on your way out the door. Quinoa has protein but if you're doing a more straight-up grain, grab a Greek yogurt to go with--lots of protein, like tons, and thick and creamy and delicious. Throw a banana in (half in the yogurt, half to top the hot cereal) and you got yourself some whole grain, some protein, some fruit.

Other options for protein:
--Make the hot cereal with milk or add it when you're about to eat it
--stir your favorite nut butter into the hot cereal while cooking or when you're about to eat
posted by Rudy Gerner at 10:40 AM on December 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Egg "Muffins" can be a lifesaver for people trying to do a low-GI on-the-go breakfast.

You can freeze them and reheat them in the microwave.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2009 [18 favorites]

I have a crock pot and while I follow the paleo diet and do not consume grains or legumes, I often throw some ingredients into the crock pot for my boyfriend's breakfast. If he gets u p really really really late, then he can just ladle it into a thermos and eat it at work.

Here is one recipe

But don't hesitate to throw in other high protein slow cooking grains like amaranth and quinoa, or some nuts.
posted by melissam at 10:43 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, if soup is not your idea of breakfast food, maybe steel cut oats are better (GI 42, but only 13% of calories from protein). You can add milk, yogurt, and nuts for extra protein and to vary the flavor.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:44 AM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: Wasa crispbread with one or more of: hard boiled egg, laughing cow cheese, peanut butter.

This might be best as a back-up meal for when you've run out of your other food on a Friday. But you can keep the Wasa and peanut butter at your desk, even.
posted by cabingirl at 10:47 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Alton Brown's Protein Bar.
posted by electroboy at 10:52 AM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I make something like the egg muffins Sidhedevil linked to. I like to have a little side of cottage cheese with mine because I have a thing about dry eggs, or a little salad (salad and quiche is pretty much my favorite meal ever). Sometimes I also make it with a little nugget of ricotta dropped onto the top of the muffin before baking for moisture.

Note: if you happen to have and use a Mr. Bento, use mini pie plates (Wilton makes some, and I see them in most grocery stores) to make your quichelets and they fit perfectly in either of the top two containers.

Whether you make them in a muffin pan or little pie pans, keep in mind that you don't have to make them all exactly the same. Frozen vegetables can be added as you like, you can vary your cheese and meat, you can make some spicy and some mild, etc, for a little variety.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:53 AM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: You can buy instant steel cut oats at Trader Joe's, which means you could have the jar on your desk at work and add hot water/microwave it in your office. Add a banana which you can leave in a bunch on your desk -- and voila! No need to do anything at home.
posted by melodykramer at 10:57 AM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: I make porridge in the microwave. I haven't tried it with steel cut oats, but I don't see why it wouldn't work with some timing adjustments. I just have to keep oats and milk and toppings at work.

With normal oats, I microwave for 2 minutes (to boil the liquid), stir, leave for as long as I can stand it (to cook the oats), stir some more and then microwave for another minute (to reheat).

When I make a big batch of soup, I make it with half the liquid content and then freeze it in half-sized portions in bowls lined with clingfilm. Once it's frozen I take it out of the bowls and stack the bowl shaped chunks in the freezer. In the morning, take out a lump of soup, put it in a bowl, transport to work (soup travels better frozen!). I leave the lumps to defrost by themselves by lunch time, but you could microwave to defrost. Then rehydrate. This trick means that I don't have to have the same soup every day.
posted by emilyw at 11:00 AM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hard-boiled eggs.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:02 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow. Great answers so far. Sounds like I need to buy a crockpot.

@mbrubeck - How do you recommend making steel cut oats ahead? My understanding is that they have a long cooking time and don't keep well.

@electroboy - That protein bar is interesting. According to the nutritional info posted by one of the commenters on that page, it only has about 15% calories from protein, but maybe reducing the sugar might fix that....

@valadil, @mbrubeck - Chili is a great suggestion. I'm not a huge fan, but I wouldn't mind it one week out of every 5 or 6. I'll look into other bean soups too.

@sidhedevil - Those egg muffins look great. Reheatable mini-omlets. I'll definitely try that.

@cabingirl - What's Wasa?
posted by Vorteks at 11:03 AM on December 28, 2009

You can easily cook steel cut oats in a microwave. Use a pyrex container rather than plastic, add water/milk, and cook. Note that it will froth up a lot as it cooks, so use a large container. You can then add nuts & other things for protein. Consider savory oatmeal as well as sweet, with cheese and veggies and such.
posted by judith at 11:07 AM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: If you like the idea of something savory, my old standby favorite is (self-link) breakfast lentils -- plain brown or green lentils cooked with peanuts, crispy onions, salt, pepper, and ground fenugreek. You can have them cold or hot, with a variety of garnishes for easy variety, or nothing at all. I realize that lentils are not everyone's idea of breakfast food, but if the whole notion doesn't immediately turn you off, you might enjoy them.
posted by redfoxtail at 11:19 AM on December 28, 2009 [8 favorites]

it's only 12% or so protein, but here's a staple I make in batches and then reheat
(makes 4 servings)
trader joe's multigrain cereal (2 cups dry + 3.75c. water)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 c chopped walnuts
bit o' cinnamon and salt (opt)
cook about 15minutes, serve with 1/2 cup of light plain soymilk (per serving)

I usually end up eating a hardboiled egg and a v8 for a bit more protein later in the morning
posted by snowymorninblues at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: I have the same breakfast requirements as you do, and I dislike eggs for breakfast, so things get complicated. I make those linked egg muffins for my husband though, and he likes them, so I definitely recommend it. However, most of the other options presented here wouldn't have enough protein for me. Here are some options for you.

1) Protein shakes always work and are very quick, and you can assemble them ahead of time and mix them right before you leave (unless you can bring a magic bullet to work). If you make the shake ahead of time, stick in an extra ice cube before you go (helps it remix later when you are ready to drink it).

2) Oatmeal is good, but I generally only can have 1/3 cup dry oats in order to keep the carbs low enough. I add in 1 TB of nut butter, cinnamon, rice protein powder.

3) There is this blueberry almond breakfast pudding, but I didn't care for it because it tasted eggy. I think I might try it again with just egg whites.

4) Finally, the quickest option of all is plain Greek yogurt and walnuts. Cottage cheese works well too (or actually, a blend of cottage cheese and yogurt). I'll usually add about 1/3c blueberries or strawberries to this one to sweeten it up, but it's not necessary.
posted by smalls at 11:31 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Vorteks, I make steel cut oats on the stove. It takes about 15–30 minutes (longer than rolled oats, but not that much). I keep them in a tupperware container in the fridge, and I reheat them in the microwave. (Just like you, I try to do all my cooking on the weekend.) The texture after the fridge is a little different compared to eating them fresh from the pot, but I still like it just fine.

Rolled oats cook even faster, and have similar GI and protein content. (I eat steel cut oats because I prefer the texture, not for nutritional reasons.)
posted by mbrubeck at 11:33 AM on December 28, 2009

Oh, and one other thing I am considering but haven't gotten around to making yet is miso soup.
posted by smalls at 11:34 AM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: Try egg bites. They're easy to make, adaptable to whatever ingredients you want to add, and freeze well. Pop as many as you want in the microwave for a few seconds and you've got something to eat as you head to work.

Steel cut oats in the crockpot are really easy: one part oats, four parts water. Cook on low overnight. They reheat well, though I haven't tried freezing them.
posted by Aleen at 11:35 AM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wasa is a whole-grain rye cracker/"crispbread." Wasa is one brand, but there's also Ryvita, Ry-Krisp and a few other brands. It's rather dry without anything on it but it's nice with cheese or some other topping.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:38 AM on December 28, 2009

According to the nutritional info posted by one of the commenters on that page, it only has about 15% calories from protein, but maybe reducing the sugar might fix that

Yeah, I'd probably axe the apple juice and the brown sugar, although you might want to keep a little of both just for flavor/consistency. I suppose you could use more protein powder as well.

Their nutritional info seems kinda low. The standard soy protein powder is like 90% protein, so I would think the total content would be higher what with the eggs and peanut butter and everything.
posted by electroboy at 11:46 AM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: Try a breakfast quiche or frittata! I go the frittata route, as the pastry crust of the quiche gets soggy if (when) I microwave it. Its a bit of work getting all the ingredients ready, but reheats really really well, is infinately variable/customizable, and is a nice, solid, filling, portable breakfast.

Take a bunch of eggs - 6? 8? 10? it will depend on your casserole dish. beat them in a bowl until thoroughly blended
grease said casserole dish - butter, pam, whatever.
fry or bake enough potatoes to mostly fill the casserole dish - add them to the dish

I like to have it with chicken sausage, red peppers, and spinach - sautee those each separately, and add it to the casserole dish. You can use whatever you want - chunks of cheese? bacon? breakfast patties? (the morning star ones are really good) kale? tomatoes? zucchini? its great for using up leftovers, and the eggs keep it feeling breakfast-y.

grate a good handful of cheese into the eggs that you beat.

Pour the beaten cheesy eggs over the stuff in your casserole dish. Not enough eggs, just beat a few more and pour them over. The eggs should be just covering the stuff, not swimming over. Add more cheese on top for a crust if you want.

Bake at 350ish until the eggs are set - if you jiggle the pan the eggs shouldn't shake and be runny. Cut out a square every morning and microwave! You can also put it in the oven, or portion it out the night before to put in little to go containers. Delicious, high protien, and easy after the initial time.
posted by foodmapper at 11:55 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could make a frittata (sp?) on Sunday night and eat slices throughout the week for breakfast. If you make one with a dozen eggs and then portion it out (maybe the last two portions should be frozen to be on the safe side) you'll have breakfast for a week. I was intimidated by the idea of frittatas for a long time but they're actually pretty easy. The key is a cast iron pan.
posted by lunasol at 12:01 PM on December 28, 2009

This is what I do: I have a few packs of instant oatmeal at my office, and microwave it for lunch, sometimes for a late breakfast at work. About once a week, I buy some fruit, vegetables and yogurt and store it at the office fridge.
posted by iviken at 12:25 PM on December 28, 2009

Response by poster: @redfoxtail - That was a most unexpected suggestion, which makes it all the more welcome. That you.

Tons of good suggestions in this thread. A lot of egg-based suggestions too. I like eggs a lot, but I would probably get sick of eating eggs day after day, so I'm still looking for maybe one or two more options.

I was wondering if someone would mention a seafood/fish option. But maybe that sort of thing doesn't lend itself to being made ahead?

I don't know what Greek yogurt is, but I'm looking it up now. Sounds promising.
posted by Vorteks at 12:28 PM on December 28, 2009

Response by poster: @iviken - A good idea. But! Unbelievably, our office manager is so strict that she throws out anything left in the fridge overnight. Every. Single. Day. Anything I bring in to work has to be eaten same day.
posted by Vorteks at 12:30 PM on December 28, 2009

Best answer: Ok, ran the numbers for AB's protein bar. I come up with (per serving):

8.5 g protein (27% protein)
4.8 g fat (35% fat)
14.8 g carbs (47% carbs)

135 cal/serving.
posted by electroboy at 12:31 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Apple-cinnamon-vanilla oatmeal has changed my (digestive) life-- and as a general rule I detest oatmeal:

--Cut 3-4 apples into small pieces, put in a pot with 4 cups of water and a TON of cinnamon (I add about 1.5 tablespoons)-- bring to a boil.
--Add 2/3 cup EACH regular and steel-cut oats and stir well. Reduce heat to simmer.
--I cook it until quite thick (about 15-20 minutes, you can cook it for a shorter period if you prefer your oatmeal a bit thinner). Stir occasionally.
--Remove from heat. Add vanilla to taste (I add some almond extract as well).
--I also add a scoop or two of vanilla protein powder and a handful of dried cranberries. You can add a sweetener of your choice if you like (my protein powder already contains one so I don't usually add anything more).

Prep + cooking time is about a half-hour and I get four days out of this-- I eat one portion, put one in the fridge, and two in the freezer. You could bulk it out with another low-GI fruit to get that fifth day covered.
posted by mireille at 12:37 PM on December 28, 2009 [9 favorites]

Best answer: How about this? Vegetable quiche to go.
posted by elisebeth at 12:37 PM on December 28, 2009

About as simple as you can get but remarkably good:

In separate pots with a carton of beef broth each, boil one package of lentils and one box of quick barley (both should take approximately 20-25 minutes on medium heat). After cooking combine with your choice of salt, pepper, garlic, and/or chopped onions to taste, and a bit of salad oil for mouth feel.

Excellent on the spot but equally good microwaved throughout the week. Very high protein; very good at balancing blood sugar. Added bonus: total cost of about $4 for at least 3-4 days' worth of breakfasts. I live on the stuff.
posted by 5Q7 at 1:01 PM on December 28, 2009

Response by poster: @Lyn Never - Thanks for introducing me to Mr. Bento, I've gotta get one of those!
posted by Vorteks at 1:09 PM on December 28, 2009

We add ground flax to oatmeal to pump up the protein content. Works well, adds a slight nutty flavor.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 5:27 PM on December 28, 2009

Check out Elana's Pantry and her book The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook. She uses agave (if any sweetener at all) which is low GI and almond flour which is both low GI & high protein. I love everything I've made of hers.
posted by healthyliving at 5:35 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

You've never heard of greek yogurt? That is definitely what you want. Trust me, if you are as lazy as I am about breakfast (and it sounds like you are) it is so much easier to just spend the money, buy 5 pre-packaged servings (I like Fage 2% with the fruit on the side, a touch sweet with a great protein kick), and not worry about it.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:26 PM on December 28, 2009

Sausage, maybe, if you have access to any that's not mass-produced. My butcher shop makes delicious fresh sausage that's actually very lean. I grill a couple weeks worth at a time and stick it in the freezer.
posted by sgass at 9:38 PM on December 28, 2009

I've been doing jook- or chinese rice soup in the crock pot. You can use one of the lower GI (50) brands of rice (like Mahatma), you cook the rice normally, then put about 2 cups of the cooked rice in the crockpot with chicken, pork, turkey, whatever, and a little bit of salt. Other things that can go in: a couple of slices of ginger, chopped bok choy/zucchini, a raw egg or two.

You let it stew overnight, and you've got hot jook in the morning. I hate cooking in the morning but it's been my lifesaver.

Because it's rice soup, it also cuts down the amount of glucose you're taking in for the amount of fill in your belly. Basically: just add water.
posted by yeloson at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2009

Response by poster: @yeloson - Thanks for the tip. Is it really just rice + meat in a crockpot? You don't have to add water or some kind of broth? That doesn't sound like it'd be very soup-like as you describe it, but maybe I'm wrong.
posted by Vorteks at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2009

This might sound a little gross but I make 1/2 a cup of oatmeal (which surprisingly has a lot of protein), and then smoosh and mix in 3 oz of tofu (compare the protein and carbs in silken vs non silken version).
posted by metakiwi at 9:24 AM on January 3, 2010

By the way, steel cut oats can be soaked overnight, they cook in about 5 minutes (the time it takes for them to get hot) and apparently soaking them makes them more nutritious - neutralizing phytic acids and things of that sort...

I put a cup in my fridge, with the oats and water, before I go to bed, then in the morning, I pour it into a pan and it cooks up right away.
posted by Locochona at 7:42 PM on January 9, 2010

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