Whether they're made at home or from your favorite coffee shop, muffins are almost the perfect breakfast. There's no need to fuss in the kitchen last minute to try and scrape something together.
We say "almost" because muffins are typically made with ingredients that don't serve you nutritionally — think refined flour, sugar and butter. The average coffee shop blueberry muffin has 467 calories and 39 grams of sugar, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
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But you can still have your grab-n-go, no-fuss breakfast and have it be healthy, too. The key is using the muffin tin itself to create self-contained — we'll call them "portion-controlled" — breakfasts made with better-for-you ingredients, which provide a more balanced option.
To help you on your way to a better breakfast, we're sharing six muffin tin breakfast recipes — all under 400 calories per serving. They're crafted with healthier ingredients and provide a more balanced option than your typical breakfast muffin.
But first, you'll need to have a muffin tin on hand. Here are a few we love.
Muffin Tins to Buy
- Pampered Chef Non-Stick Steel Muffin Pan ($22, Pamperedchef.com)
- Non-Stick Silicone Muffin Pan ($19.99, Amazon.com)
- 6-Cup Muffin Cake Pan ($10.99, Amazon.com)
1. Kale and Sweet Potato Baked Frittata Cups
- Calories: 321
Getting veggies regularly at breakfast may seem challenging — until now. And since you'll use sweet potato, red onion, baby kale and basil in this recipe, consider pairing these finger-food-size frittatas with a side dish using these ingredients, such as sweet potato hash or baby kale salad.
Beyond the plant-based nutrients, eggs are still the highlight here. Egg yolks are packed with choline, which is essential for cells to function normally and is especially important for pregnant and lactating women, according to the National Institutes of Health.
2. Vegan Mexican Breakfast Taco Cups
- Calories: 322
These breakfast cups are like mini taco bowls. You can stuff them with scrambled eggs or, if you're vegan, sub in tofu instead. To transform tofu into a scrambled egg-like delight, start with firm organic tofu. Saute the tofu cubes along with scallions, turmeric (which makes it yellow!) and sea salt.
We recommend using a whole-grain tortilla (like whole-wheat or corn) for the base in place of a regular flour tortilla. We overdo it when it comes to refined grains: A September 2019 paper in Journal of the American Medical Association found that 42 percent of our calories are from low-quality carbs like refined grains, sugary drinks and beverages and other highly processed foods.
3. Chorizo and Hash Brown Egg Muffins
- Calories: 161
These egg muffins combine chorizo, eggs, bell pepper, hash browns and cheese, along with a healthy mix of herbs and spices for more flavor. While chorizo is far from being the leanest meat available, each serving provides less than one ounce. For vegetarians, a plant-based sausage would work well, too.
Each muffin is just 161 calories so we recommend having two muffins for a full breakfast. The best part is they can last up to five days in the fridge (perfect for workweek meal prep) or, can be stored in the freezer for up to two months.
Get the full recipe at The Gourmet RD.
4. Granola Bar Bites
- Calories: 108
What we love most about these granola bar bites is that they call for just three ingredients: dates, coconut oil and granola, along with olive oil spray for the pan.
The key is picking a healthier granola cereal. Many options on the market are high in added sugar, which defeats the purpose of skipping the muffin altogether. Look for a granola or muesli product with 5 grams of added sugar or less.
5. Monterey Breakfast Muffin
- Calories: 358
This recipe is inspired by savory flan, but it looks like a muffin or perhaps a baby crustless quiche. Call it whatever you like, just as long as you take a bite! The body of these muffin-style flans is whole-wheat couscous and eggs. Red bell pepper and fresh cilantro provide natural pops of plant-based color.
Enjoy these after a morning workout — they're an excellent mix of carbs and protein for refueling. Protein is crucial after a workout for rebuilding broken down muscles while carbs replenish your glycogen stores, which are also in your muscles, as explained by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
6. Breakfast Turkey-Apple Sausage Mini Patties
- Calories: 146
These appealing muffin-tin sausage patties are made of ground turkey, oats, red onion and apple. Apple provides a sweet balance to the savory ingredients. And the soluble fiber found in apple (called pectin) and oats (called beta-glucan) both have the ability to lower "bad" cholesterol, as outlined by a December 2012 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism.
Although these contain oats and apples, they're still light on the carbs.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Blueberry Muffin Battle"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Choline: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- Journal of the American Medical Association: "Trends in Dietary Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat Intake and Diet Quality Among US Adults, 1999-2016"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition"
- Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: "Beta Glucan: Health Benefits in Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome"