healthy breakfast options

Make the smartest choices when you eat a hotel breakfast. (Photo: Getty Images)

Eat + Drink

Crave a Healthy Hotel Breakfast? Here’s What Foods to Choose

When you’re on vacation, it can be easy to skip breakfast in lieu of getting your day started. But breakfast jump-starts your metabolism, gives you more energy, and makes it less likely that you’ll get hangry and scarf down an unhealthy meal later.

But when you head downstairs to check out the hotel breakfast, you’ll usually find a buffet filled with pastries, sugary cereals and maybe a few bananas or apples in a bowl in the back.

That being said, it may be easier than you think to grab a healthy breakfast before heading out, even if options are limited at your hotel.

Hotel Breakfast Types

There are three main types of breakfast service in hotels around the world: Continental, English and American. Depending on your destination, your hotel may offer local specialties (such as meat and cheeses in Greece or tortillas and black beans in Guatemala) in addition to the basics.

Continental breakfast is the most common breakfast at hotels and is mostly cold foods. Expect a variety of breads (white, whole grain, English muffins, donuts, pastries, etc.), fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt and cereals. There is usually an assortment of juices and coffee, as well.

An American breakfast may have many of the same foods as a continental breakfast, but also includes hot foods like bacon and sausage, eggs, pancakes and/or waffles.

healthy breakfast options
A traditional English breakfast. (Photo: Getty Images)

An English breakfast usually consists of bacon, sausage, eggs (fried, poached or scrambled), fried or grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, toast and marmalade, tea and coffee. Depending on the hotel, they may also offer grilled fish or porridge.

How to Eat Healthy at a Hotel

Evidence shows that foods lower on the glycemic index give us more sustained energy and focus, which is just what you want to fully enjoy your vacation. Glycemic load is a number that tells us how much a certain food will make our blood sugar rise, and for breakfast, your best option is to choose foods on the lower end, which is 10 or less. For the most part, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains have a lower glycemic load.

When you’re standing in front of a buffet, it can be easy to load up your plate with one of everything, but resist the urge. You want to be able to enjoy your vacation, not be stuck in the hotel room because you’re too stuffed to move!

Protein is the key to staying fuller longer, and luckily, there are many options for adding protein to your breakfast. Canadian bacon is a healthier option than regular American bacon, and if you’re a vegetarian, add an egg or two to your plate. If there are no hot foods available, other good sources of protein are yogurt, cottage cheese and nuts.

If you decide to get cereal, choose something lower in sugar, like plain Cheerios. While many people think that granola is a healthy option, it can be loaded with sugar and calories, so use sparingly on yogurt and oatmeal.

Add a piece of fruit and whole-grain toast with a little nut butter and you’ll have a complete (and healthy!) meal.

Take it easy on the sugar and cream in your coffee or tea, as that adds unnecessary calories. Use 1 percent or skim milk if you can’t drink your coffee black. Juice can also add extra sugar, so if you must drink it, go with 4 ounces instead of a full 8 ounces.

The Healthiest Hotel Breakfast

healthy breakfast options
Opt for made-to-order options. (Photo: Getty Images)

If available, the healthiest option is going to be a made-to-order meal. You have much more control over the ingredients and can usually get extras that aren’t available in a buffet: egg whites, a bigger selection of toppings for omelets, real food vs. processed food (or powdered scrambled eggs), alternative sausages (chicken-apple, turkey, etc.) and more.

Vacation is a time when many of us splurge on meals here and there, but sometimes you just want to start your day in a healthy way. No matter which breakfast type your hotel offers, there are plenty of healthy choices if you know what to look for.