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What's Healthy to Eat for Breakfast? Americans Chime In [Survey Results]

Matt Kaplan
Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
8 min read
Posted on December 23, 2019
What's Healthy to Eat for Breakfast? Americans Chime In [Survey Results]

Have you ever wondered what's healthy to eat for breakfast? You’re far from alone.

There are so many options out there that it can be hard to determine what foods to eat to start your day. Is peanut butter on gluten-free 12-grain bread okay, or is a nut butter like almond butter a better choice? How about chia seeds or cottage cheese or boiled eggs?

Complicating matters further is the fact that not everyone agrees on what healthy breakfast foods look like. Some people are mostly concerned about lowering their blood pressure or weight loss while others may be more concerned about heart health - or maybe they just want to feel full in the morning.

What this all goes to show is that there are a lot of differing opinions out there when it comes to healthy breakfast option. So to get a better sense of what the majority of Americans consider healthy, we asked them directly! Through InMobi Pulse, we surveyed over 550 adults of different genders and ages from across the U.S. to learn more about how they feel about breakfast and healthy eating in the morning.

Healthy Breakfast Eating Survey Results Revealed

First, before going too far, we wanted to find out whether people actually cared about eating healthy in the morning. All told, 71% of survey respondents said they prefer a healthy breakfast over a normal one. And, 73% of females and 76% of those 35 and older have this preference.

What about when price is factored into the equation? Overall, 61% said they were somewhat or very likely to choose a healthy breakfast over a normal breakfast if the price of both is roughly the same. Two-thirds of women stated a preference for healthy breakfast in this scenario, as did 68% of those 55 and older.

But, healthy breakfast options are not always the same price as more standard breakfast options. Would people choose a healthy breakfast if it meant paying more? The answer, mostly, is yes.

Two-thirds of all survey respondents said they were very or somewhat likely to choose a healthy breakfast option even if it meant paying more money. This preference existed across all age groups too (70% of those between 18 and 54, 63% of those 55 and older).

Food Preferences in the Morning

As our survey shows, Americans across all age groups prefer and claim to seek out healthy breakfast food options. So what specific foods are they selecting?

Often, the answer is nothing. Among survey respondents nationwide, 14% said they had nothing for breakfast. Over a third said they consume just coffee or tea in the morning, making these caffeinated beverages the most popular morning option overall.

What about those that actually eat solid food in the morning on a regular basis? Eggs was the most popular food choice, at 28%, followed by cereal at 20%. Other common choices included bacon and toast, with both at 15%. It’s possible that both eggs and bacon are top choices because they are both classic options that have many grams of protein.

But, interestingly enough, less than one in four survey respondents said they considered cereal a healthy food option in the morning. And, only 18% said they thought toast was healthy. Bacon is even further down, with just 10% of survey respondents saying they thought it was a healthy breakfast food choice.

This shows a bit of a disconnect between what people say and what their actions show. A vast majority claim to prefer and select healthy breakfast options, but the survey data shows that the most popular breakfast foods are not ones that most Americans consider to be healthy.

The one option that is both well liked and considered healthy is the egg. Not only was it the most popular breakfast food, but 43% of those polled said they thought eggs were a healthy morning food choice.

Compared to eggs, only one food item was more widely thought of as healthy: oatmeal. Over half (56% to be exact) of survey respondents said they thought oatmeal was a healthy breakfast choice. This may stem from the fact that much has been published recently on the health benefits of oats, including that they are a good source of beta glucans and contain many grams of fiber per serving.

What other food do Americans consider to be healthy? According to our research, 40% said yogurt was healthy, while 27% thought granola bars and breakfast bars were a healthy food choice. Further, just 13% said bagels were a healthy breakfast choice while only 20% considered coffee and tea to be healthy breakfast options.

Healthy Breakfast Brand Preferences

When it comes to healthy breakfast eating, what specific brands do American consumers seek out? Not surprising, Quaker Oats was the top choice. In fact, 35% of those polled said they turned to the brand for a healthy start to their day. It was considered a healthy breakfast choice by 39% of those 55 and older and 41% of women.

Following Quaker Oats were three cereal brands: Raisin Bran (considered healthy by 26% of survey respondents), Cheerios (24%) and Special K (23%). Among women polled, 28% said each brand was healthy.

Only one brand was deemed healthier by men compared to women: Corn Flakes. While 12% of females considered it to be a healthy breakfast choice, 17% of men thought it was a healthy breakfast option.

Less than one in 10 survey respondents thought Chex (9%), Wheaties (8%) and Weight Watchers Smart Ones (6%) were healthy. But, younger people were more likely than their older peers to say that these brands were healthy. While 11% of those between 18 and 34 said Chex and Wheaties were healthy breakfast selections, only 7% of those between 35 and 54 said the same thing. And, while 9% of those between 18 and 34 said food items from Weight Watchers Smart Ones were healthy breakfast choices, only 3% of those 55 and older said the same thing.

What’s healthy to eat for breakfast? According to our research, Americans are very divided on this question. There’s no one answer that everyone from coast to coast will agree with universally.

How To Use This Data To Inform Your Mobile Ad Campaigns

These insights are interesting, but how can all of this information from InMobi Pulse be used to more intelligently allocate in-app and mobile ad spend? For brands with healthy breakfast options, it is critical to ensure that they understand, identify, engage and acquire healthy breakfast consumers near and during the very beginning of the year, when many people make wellness-related New Year’s resolutions.

Identifying the Healthy Breakfast Food Consumer

As always, audience segmenting and targeting through InMobi Audiences is key. For health- and fitness-focused brands, it’s a good idea to go after people who are likely to be a top user of your products.

Here’s a small sampling of what ideal audience segments in this space can look like:

  • Gym Visitors
  • Health and Fitness Enthusiasts
  • Health and Wellness (Users who consume app usage and mobile web content associated with fitness, diet and exercise)
  • Sports Club Visitors (Users who have visited a sports club at least once in the last 90 days).

With InMobi Audiences, audience composition and definition are clearly communicated, so marketers can be confident about every aspect of their campaign targeting. Using InMobi's unique, accurate and always-on audiences, you will be able to tailor your targeting to reach the highest value consumers perfect for your business goals.

Engaging and Acquiring Healthy Breakfast Enthusiasts

How else can this data be leveraged? For brands with healthy breakfast options available in the market, it’s critical to strike while the iron is hot and capitalize on the opportunity presented by New Year’s resolutions.

Make sure consumers are well aware of what is available - ideally before or right after New Year’s Day. Offering coupons, discounts or other special promotions can also help potentially drive sales.

From a creative standpoint, it can be helpful to personalize ads as much as possible. As much as possible, highlight real-world use cases that will actually resonate with the viewer. For example, it could be beneficial to showcase a product’s taste or convenience over the mere fact that it’s healthy.

Curious to see more insights on the healthy eating space or any other industry segment? Reach out today to learn more about InMobi Pulse.


InMobi Pulse builds a holistic understanding of the customers from across data sources ranging from the InMobi ad exchange which reaches 1.6 billion users globally to permissively-sourced deterministic first-party telco data to stated feedback directly from the customers.

Our Commitment to Data Privacy: What You Need to Know About This Data

We take user privacy extremely seriously. We meet the most rigorous governance, compliance, and security standards. We have collaborated with consumer advocacy groups and incorporates guidelines from multiple federal government agencies to define industry-leading practices for data governance in the U.S.

Users retain complete control over the data they provide, and have a choice in whether they participate and transparency as to how their data is utilized. Subscribers have constant access to their privacy elections through multiple telco touch points. The patented anonymization platform ensures data sets are 100% secure, and are refreshed to ensure all data are anonymized.

About the Author

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. Matt has previous experience editing a digital-only healthy eating and cooking publication. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices.

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