Breakfast. There’s a right way to do it, and a 'please pass the waffle iron and whipped cream' way to do it. And nutritionists say there are lots of sneaky ways we’re turning arguably the most important meal of the day into a landmine for sugar, calories, and more. Below, five ways to eat your healthiest breakfast ever, along with breakfast saboteurs you should avoid.

1. Swap unhealthy “toppers” for nutrient-dense superstars

One common way you may be accidentally sabotaging your otherwise healthy breakfast bowl is by adding toppings like brown sugar and sweetened dried fruit to your oatmeal or smoothie bowl. Instead, Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, of Bucket List Tummy, urges clients to take breakfast up a nutrition notch with hemp seeds, chia seeds, or flax seeds.

“These nutritious little seeds are great sources of both protein and fiber, as well as omega 3 fatty acids, micronutrients like iron, magnesium, and B vitamins,” she says. “While they don't change the taste or flavor of your meal, they are amplifying the nutrition content and adding more protein without much work at all which may help modulate appetite and intake later in the day. A higher protein breakfast may help modulate appetite and control food intake later in the day,” she continues, citing this study as well as this one.  Try any of these seeds on oatmeal, in an açai bowl, or in a smoothie.

2. Add more color to your breakfast.

Just because it’s vegan bacon, egg, and cheese, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you. Ditto for plant-based pancakes in a sea of syrup. And all that brown and beige on your plate isn’t a harbinger of good health. Instead, try to diversify the color palette for your A.M. palate (and all your meals, for that matter). “Adding color to your breakfast is another way to add nutrition to your day. Vibrant-colored fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and pomegranate juice, are high in inflammation-fighting antioxidants and can help reduce the risk of chronic disease, while providing essential vitamins and minerals,” comments Schlichter.

3. Add more protein.

By eating a protein-rich breakfast, you not only give yourself the energy to greet the day, but you may also save yourself from giving into unhealthy vending machine-inspired cravings come mid-morning crashes. “Do play around with adding a plant-based protein at breakfast to improve blood sugar control and increase satiety,” says Katie Cavuto MS, RD, Executive Chef for Saladworks and Frutta Bowls, citing this research. “Add nuts and seeds to oatmeal. Smear almond butter (or any other nut butter) on toast, or add it to balance your favorite smoothie.” When it comes to healthy protein sources at breakfast, it’s best to reach for minimally processed or whole foods like tofu, quinoa, or nut butter, instead of packaged, heavily processed fare.

A fresh Ice Coffee
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4. Separate your coffee or tea from your meal.

Little did we know but pairing breakfast directly with coffee or tea may be bad for your meal’s overall nutrition profile. “An easy way to improve your plant-based breakfast is to separate breakfast from your coffee. The tannins and polyphenols in coffee and tea may inhibit and impair the absorption of some vitamins and minerals, namely iron and calcium,” comments Schlichter, reference both this study and also this one. “Those following plant-based and vegan diets and lifestyles need to be more diligent and aware of iron sources and pairings (pairing iron-rich foods with Vitamin C, for example),” she adds, noting that you should ideally allow at least 30-60 minutes between having your coffee and breakfast to ensure your body is efficiently absorbing micronutrients.

5. Embrace consistency.

Creatures of habit really do know best — at least come daybreak. “If you find a nourishing breakfast meal that is balanced and feels good to your body, go with it,” advises Cavuto. “Sometimes we over-complicate nutrition, putting pressure on ourselves to constantly create new and exciting meal options when in fact, monotony can be just as delicious and our bodies often thrive on consistency!” With that, I’m officially giving myself permission to enjoy this Kale and Mushroom Quiche with JUST Egg for the eighth morning in a row.

Want more healthy breakfast inspiration? Check out the 6 Best Breakfasts to Eat for Weight Loss, According to Nutritionists.

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