Breakfast is the best meal of the day, and I will fight you over that, but when we think about health and diet, breakfast is often first on the chopping block. You see this in intermittent fasting schedules most often; only eat between 12pm and 8pm and you have your 16/8 split.
Breakfasts are also often eaten alone or on the go, and that lack of social pressure makes it easier to skip meals.
But what if you’re like me and want to enjoy a rich breakfast, complete with delicious proteins, but you also don’t want to sacrifice your health?
That’s where knowing which breakfast meats are healthy can help.
What makes a breakfast meat healthy?
Generally speaking, the leaner, less processed, lower sugar, and better-sourced a breakfast meat is, the healthier it will be. And if you need to watch your blood sugar levels, eating more protein in the morning can help stabilize blood sugars by blunting the absorption of carbs and sugars [*].
The problem is, many popular breakfast meats such as bacon and sausage are high in sodium, contain added sugar, and are highly processed. Studies consistently show a link between processed meat consumption, heart disease, and several types of cancer [*].
Cheap processed meats also suffer from the worst industrial practices of the meat industry. Low-grade beef and pork are sourced from animals packed in tight spaces, stuffed with antibiotics, and fed unnatural diets that include corn and grains. Many studies have shown the significant nutritional differences between grass-fed and grass-finished beef vs. grain-fed [*].
It’s no surprise that the healthier a cow or pig is during their lifetime, the healthier its meat is; we just have the science to support it now. Eating in moderation is also key for health, but that’s on you and not the meat.
7 healthy breakfast meats for a perfect morning
While not the most conventional, here are the healthiest breakfast meats to opt for next time you roll out of bed after a night of dancing but want to keep it healthy.
And keep in mind, how something is prepared also plays a large role in its health. Sliced grilled steak made with light oil? Not bad. Chicken-fried steak? Pretty unhealthy.
1. Turkey — best for low-fat and high protein
Sliced turkey, even if it’s processed deli meat, is low in fat, low in calories, and high in protein. This makes it an ideal option for anyone attempting to increase muscle growth while limiting calories. Turkey bacon is also a good and lean substitute for traditional bacon. Look for packaging that says pasture-raised, free-range USDA organic, or the Certified Humane certification for healthier options.
Healthy turkey breakfast recipe ideas:
- Sliced deli turkey alongside two fried eggs and sliced tomatoes.
- A turkey bacon, avocado, and egg sandwich on wheat bread.
- Turkey sausage in scrambled eggs with fresh salsa and corn tortillas.
Take a look at our incredible and healthy pasture-raised turkey sausage links.
2. Liver — best for overall nutrition and vitamins
If you are willing to be more adventurous in taste and smell, poultry or beef livers are nutritional powerhouses. Chicken liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world — if not the most. It is high in protein, low in calories, and filled to the brim with essential nutrients [*].
And if you venture into livers, then you open up the whole world of offal, which includes organ meats like kidneys, hearts, and sweetbreads. Offal is generally high in choline which promotes a healthy brain, protein, and iron. Offal is also thrown out and wasted more than typical cuts, so opting for offal can be cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Healthy liver breakfast recipe ideas:
- Scrambled eggs with bell peppers and chicken livers.
- Chicken livers, avocado, and a fried egg served alongside fresh fruit.
- Sauteed beef livers, fresh slices of tomato with salt and pepper, and two eggs.
Check out our real pasture-raised poultry livers. If you don’t like these, you don’t like liver.
3. Chicken — best for budgeting and weight loss
Chicken shares a lot of the same nutritional qualities as turkey (lean, high in protein, and so on) but non-fried options are less popular than turkey during breakfast. So keep an eye out for chicken sausages or pulled chicken, and skip the fried chicken and waffles.
Similar to beef, where you source your chicken matters. It’s the difference between eating sick chickens surrounded by disease to healthy pasture-raised chickens!
Healthy chicken breakfast recipe ideas:
- Grilled chicken tenders, avocado, and eggs served with fresh fruit.
- Sliced chicken, fried eggs, avocado, tomato, spinach, feta, and potato bowl.
- Chicken sausage, eggs, and fresh fruit.
See what real pasture-raised, no funny business chicken sausage tastes like.
4. Salmon — best for healthy fats
I know salmon is fish, but salmon is so common on breakfast menus I think it’s worth mentioning. Salmon, whether you’re eating lox or oven-roasted salmon, is a fantastic breakfast choice. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, packed with protein, a good source of B vitamins, filled with selenium, and may reduce the risk of heart disease [*].
The trick is to eat Lox without layering it on a huge everything bagel with capers and a copious amount of cream cheese.
Healthy salmon breakfast recipe ideas:
- Roasted salmon (easy to make in advance), sliced avocado, and scrambled eggs.
- Poached eggs, roasted salmon, and asparagus over sourdough bread.
- Salmon, lemon juice, red onions, cream cheese, chives, and capers over a single piece of bread.
Our salmon is never farmed and provided by Vital Choice — which means it is certified sustainable and wild-harvested. Once you try this salmon, you won’t go back.
Take a look at our incredible wild-harvested salmon.
5. Steak — best for iron and vitamin B
While not as broadly healthy as liver, a small to moderate portion of steak can be a good way to start the day. Eat it alongside some eggs and fresh fruit, and voila, you have a lovely breakfast. Try to avoid using too much oil or sauce to keep the calories lower, and you should opt for cows that are raised outside of factory CAFO conditions — look for grass-fed, organic, and grass-finished suppliers.
This is because beef sourcing has a big impact on nutrition. Grass-finished beef contains 2-4 times more Omega 3 fatty acids than grass-fed beef, and omega-3s are good for cognitive function, healthy skin, cardiovascular health, and regulating the body’s anti-inflammatory response. Grass-finished beef also tends to have higher levels of E and B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium [*].
Regardless of sourcing, however, steak is a great source of vitamin B12, iron, protein, and zinc, but it is also high in saturated fat, which can increase bad cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease [*]. Again, the trick is limiting your portion size and opting for grass-finished for the best results.
Healthy steak breakfast recipe ideas:
- Skillet-fried steak alongside avocado, two eggs, and some sauteed bell peppers.
- Sliced steak, egg, and avocado lettuce wraps.
- A diced steak, tomato, onion, spinach, and feta omelet.
See what beef from cattle raised on the healthiest grass in the world tastes like.
6. Heritage pork bacon — good for vitamin B and selenium
I know what you’re thinking — bacon? Healthy? Well, it felt wrong to not talk about the giant pancake in the room — all of the options above are not typical breakfast meats. Or at least they aren’t as popular as sausage and bacon. That’s because bacon and sausage are processed, packed with sodium, and generally less healthy than the options we listed, but there are ways to eat bacon that make it leagues more healthy than the cheapest slices you can find.
Here are the golden rules to eating healthier pork for breakfast:
- Buy heritage pork free from antibiotics, hormones, nitrates, nitrites, gluten, and MSG.
- Skip the added sugar by eating sugar-free bacon.
- Combine your bacon consumption with a diet like keto.
- Eat in moderation.
In other words, aim to buy healthy bacon and sausage that doesn’t have any additives, and fit that into a balanced diet.
US Wellness Meats’ sugar-free bacon is just heritage pork and salt, making it Whole30 compliant. All the flavor comes from the hickory smoke and the incredible meat from pigs raised on open pastures. That means no white sugar, brown sugar, honey powder, MSG, nitrates, or nitrites.
Sure, you have to pay a premium for grass-finished and heritage meats, but the taste and nutritional quality you get make the extra cost worth it. I’d rather buy good, healthy bacon and eat less of it than eat more bacon that is bad for my body and tastes worse!
Healthy pork bacon breakfast recipe ideas:
- Heritage pork bacon, blueberries, eggs, and plain grits.
- Heritage pork bacon, eggs, fresh corn tortillas, and pico de gallo.
- Avocado egg bake with bacon bits.
Order heritage sugar-free pork bacon you can trust for a healthy breakfast.
7. Heritage pork sausage — good for iron and niacin
The same thinking applies to sausage. The cheaper, more processed, and more packed with additives your sausage is, the worse it will be for you. Skip the sugar in sausage, buy from good sources, eat only a few links, and make sure it fits within a larger diet plan that works for you.
Sure, sausage’s niacin is good for hair health, it is high in protein, and it has a lot of Vitamin B, but if you eat a ton of it you outshine those benefits with too much sodium, saturated fat, and potential additives [*].
Healthy pork sausage breakfast recipe ideas:
- Sauteed button mushrooms and tomatoes, scrambled eggs, and two heritage pork sausage links.
- Greek yogurt bowl with fruit, two egg whites, and one pork sausage link.
- Spinach and pork sausage frittata with feta cheese (or no cheese at all).
See how these sugar-free heritage pork breakfast patties are breakfast, perfected.
Where to buy healthy breakfast meats
You can find higher quality meat at your local grocery store, local butcher, or meat companies that can deliver to your door by looking for phrases like grass-finished, pasture-raised, and heritage.
This is the right time to say that the team at US Wellness Meats has thought about healthy breakfast meat a lot, and they’ve made it a point to develop a bunch of tasty options that are as healthy as they come.
For example, some of my favorites include:
- Grass-Fed & Finished Polish Beef Sausages
- Sugar-Free Heritage Pork Canadian Bacon
- Sugar-Free Heritage Pork Sausage Patties
And many more. You can skip all the research and just order the healthiest and tastiest meat straight to your door. You won’t find a better producer, I promise.
The bottom line
How much you eat and how the meat is prepared plays a big role in a breakfast’s general health and caloric content, but generally speaking, turkey, liver, salmon, chicken, and grass-finished steak are fantastic proteins to opt for during breakfast. And if you’re going to eat bacon and sausage, opt for poultry versions when you can and always source it from good producers.
But whatever you decide, plate it alongside some fresh veggies, opt for fresher and more organic food, and limit your intake of fried foods. Happy breakfasting!
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.