What’s the Best Thing to Eat on an Empty Stomach?

Does eating something in the morning make you feel a bit nauseous? I have talked to many people that just don’t feel like eating when they wake up, but that doesn’t mean that skipping breakfast is the best answer. 

The best thing to eat on an empty stomach in the morning is lemon water, smoothies, dry cereal, toast, bananas, and yogurt. Liquids, simple carbohydrates, and small amounts of food are a good place to start if you struggle with eating on an empty stomach in the morning. Hopefully you can work your way up to eating a balanced breakfast of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Breakfast is an extremely important meal because after not eating all night, you need to put fuel in your body in order to function at your best during the day.

Read on for more information about the importance of eating breakfast, nutrition tips for breakfast, the best breakfast foods, information about eating before morning workouts, and the best foods to eat after fasting.

Why Is Breakfast Important?

You have probably heard your whole life that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you are a chronic breakfast skipper, you might not understand the hype, and you might think you are just fine without it. In fact, you might avoid eating breakfast because it makes you feel sick or sluggish!

If you have skipped breakfast for a long period of time, you might need some time for your body to adjust to eating in the morning, but it is doable and super important! Your body needs fuel in the morning, even if you don’t always feel hungry.

Eating breakfast has been linked to the following positive outcomes:

  • Better blood sugar stability
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Regulation of appetite throughout the day
  • Improved test scores
  • Better energy levels throughout the day
  • Improved ability to achieve and stay at a healthy weight

Best Nutrition Tips for Breakfast

While these are general nutrition tips for breakfast, you may need more individualized help. Working one-on-one with a dietitian can help you make a plan that works for you, fits your schedule, and meets your specific needs and preferences.

  1. Eating anything is better than nothing! Yes, this is a dietitian telling you to eat the donut or cinnamon roll rather than skipping breakfast! Getting some energy in your system is still better than forcing your body to go for hours without any fuel to work with.
  1. When planning a balanced breakfast, I look to include carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Usually this means I include a starch, a good protein source, and a fruit. Getting a balance of the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) helps to provide your body with more sustained energy throughout the day, and will help you feel more satisfied when you eat. 
  1. If you need to split your breakfast up into a couple smaller meals, that is totally fine! I use this split breakfast concept with a lot of people that have trouble eating enough in the morning. Try eating a little bit when you wake up, and then eat the rest of your breakfast an hour or two later! Eating that little bit first thing might actually help to stimulate your hunger and make it easier to eat the rest.
  1. If food doesn’t sound super appetizing in the morning, try out liquids! Sometimes liquid calories are a little easier to get down on an empty stomach. Getting something into your stomach, even a liquid, might actually make it easier to eat other foods without feeling so nauseous. Try juice, herbal teas, smoothies, or drinkable yogurt.
  1. Go with what sounds good! Sometimes our pursuit of a healthy breakfast results in choosing foods that we don’t even really enjoy. Take some time to ask yourself what would be most satisfying to you and add balance and nutrients to that. 
  1. Aim for variety in your meals. Remember that all foods have unique nutrient profiles and provide different things for your body, so mixing things up and having a variety of breakfast options to choose from is a great way to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs!
  1. Eat something before going to bed to help stabilize your blood sugars and keep you from waking up on a completely empty stomach. Yep, you heard me right- it is totally okay to eat at night! Eating a high protein snack with a little bit of carbohydrates might be just what your body needs. 
  1. Give yourself a little extra time in the morning. If you are in a rush out the door, it is much easier to justify skipping breakfast. Have quick on-the-go options or keep snacks in your bag, car, or at your office for those days where you sleep through your alarm or something throws you off your normal schedule.
  2. Think about what you can prepare the night before to make sure your morning goes a little smoother. Maybe you wash and cut up some fruit, prepare overnight oats, or set out the cereal for the next morning. Your morning self will thank you for making breakfast a little bit easier!
  1. Sometimes I find it helpful to go straight to the kitchen for breakfast before even getting ready for the day. Roll out of bed and get some food in your body! It helps make eating a priority- and if you are cooking something, you get it started plenty early.

Best Breakfast Foods

The best breakfast foods are ones that are balanced and enjoyable. Here are a few ideas of how to balance foods to create a healthy breakfast, but the combinations are basically endless. As you understand the principles of building a healthy breakfast, you will understand how to make any food work.

Best Balanced Breakfasts:

  • Overnight oats made with milk, peanut butter, and topped with nuts and sliced banana 
  • Greek yogurt with berries, honey, and granola
  • Fruit smoothie made with greek yogurt and toast with peanut butter
  • Protein pancakes with syrup and 100% orange juice
  • Scrambled eggs with toast and peaches
  • Hard boiled eggs on toast with avocado and Everything But the Bagel seasoning, with strawberries on the side
  • Oatmeal with protein powder mixed in, topped with blueberries 
  • Chocolate milk, toast with peanut butter and honey, and orange slices
  • Fried egg sandwich with cheese and half a grapefruit
  • Omelet with veggies, toast, and grape juice
  • English muffin sandwich with fried egg, cheese, deli meat and hot sauce with an apple
  • French toast topped with berries and powdered sugar
  • German pancakes and a fruit smoothie
  • Scrambled eggs, grits, and fruit salad
  • Protein drink, bagel with cream cheese, and sliced pineapple
  • Scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, blueberry muffin, and apple juice
  • Dry cereal with milk, half a banana, and a couple hard boiled eggs
  • Waffles and scrambled eggs with cranberry juice
  • Baked oatmeal topped with almond butter and berries

Should I Eat Before a Morning Workout?

Now that we have talked about how important it is to eat breakfast, you can probably guess that eating before a workout is extremely beneficial! However, not eating the right thing can leave you feeling sluggish during your workout. 

If you have more than an hour before your morning workout, you might be able to handle more of a balanced breakfast (examples shown in the section above), but the closer you get to exercise, the more you will want to focus on carbohydrates and avoid excessive protein, fat, and fiber.

Remember that carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source, so they are super important for giving you the energy to complete your workout and perform your best! Protein, fat, and fiber are essential parts of a healthy diet, but they also slow down digestion. You don’t really want to be digesting your food during an intense workout- instead, you want those carbohydrates to be ready to use right away.

If you don’t think you can eat before an early morning workout because it upsets your stomach, experiment with simple carbohydrates. In fact, liquids like juice and sports drinks tend to be even easier on your stomach so that might be a good place to start.

These are some other good sources of carbohydrates that might work for you before your morning workout:

  • Toast with jam
  • Dried fruit
  • Fresh fruit
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Fruit juice
  • Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and Body Armor
  • Applesauce
  • Pretzels 
  • Bagel
  • Belvita crackers
  • Granola bar (but check to make sure it is low in fat and protein)
  • Chocolate milk (Having a little bit of liquid protein might be okay for your body)
  • English muffin with jam or jelly
  • Bowl of cereal with milk

Best Foods to Eat After Fasting

If it has been a long time since you have eaten, especially overnight, your body has had to compensate for the lack of food. This often means your hunger and fullness levels might not be super accurate after ending a fast. Some people feel a loss of appetite, while others feel ravenous and may end up overeating.

Fasting is not something I recommend, but some people choose to do it for religious or other reasons. Sometimes we end up fasting without meaning to just because something throws off our schedule and we end up going a long time without food! Fasting shouldn’t be something you do often, but if it happens, try to be mindful as you eat and think about what your body truly needs.

I recommend eating a balanced meal if you can handle it after a fast. Even if you need to eat a little bit at first until your appetite comes back, do what your body can handle! Still, remember that eating something is better than nothing, so just do the best you can and don’t forget to hydrate.

See Also


If eating on an empty stomach is hard for you, know that it might take some time for your body to adjust, but eating breakfast is extremely beneficial and important. Do the best you can- start small, try liquids, and go with what sounds good! 

If eating a full, balanced, healthy breakfast is a little bit tough right now, that is okay! Eating something is better for your body than skipping breakfast altogether. Get rid of the all-or-nothing mentality and start with what works for you. Get help from a registered dietitian to help give you more ideas that are specific to your needs and preferences!


Ellis E. 5 Reasons Your Teen Needs Breakfast. Eatright.org. Published September 24, 2021.

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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