Many of us lead busy lives and don’t have time to prepare breakfast in the morning. Enter instant breakfast. They come in either liquid or powdered forms, and in a range of dietary variations to suit your needs. Some drinks double as meal replacements, others as simply snacks to jumpstart your morning!
To save you even more of your valuable time, we've compiled a list of our 10 favorite instant breakfast drinks. For instance, Boost Optimum's Creamy Vanilla Drinks are practically bursting with protein, nutrition, and flavor. See what else made the list, and read our buying guide reviewed by a registered dietitian that outlines how you can find a great breakfast drink on your own!
Rachel Binkley is a registered dietitian who helps individuals develop healthy habits that fit into their lifestyle. She recommends adequate intakes of all micronutrients to help prevent deficiency as well as chronic conditions that may arise. You can keep up with her recipes, lifestyle, and more on Instagram or her blog, S'more Satisfaction.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
Table of Contents
Points to Consider:
We often consider breakfast drinks to be chocolatey, fatty beverages like Nesquik that fill your tummy up and only that. That’s simply not the case. There are high protein, nutrient-rich, and--yes--very sweet options to choose from. Let’s examine them.
You should space out your protein intake throughout the day. Taking some in early, as breakfast, is a good way to make sure you do that. Our bodies can’t metabolize large sums of protein at once, anyways. For individuals who exert lots of physical strength, you need to ingest between 25-35 grams of protein in a meal.
If you work out in the early morning before work, a protein-rich breakfast drink is a great way to make sure you maintain your muscle mass. When you work out, you’re essentially breaking muscle fibers apart. Protein is required to repair them. To maximize muscle protein synthesis, consume your breakfast drink within 30 minutes of working out.
Extra protein doesn't equal extra muscle mass. If you consume more than what your body needs at one time, the extra protein will either be excreted or moved to other areas in the body.
Incorporating snacks and breakfast can help spread your protein intake throughout the day. Breakfast shakes can be great options for substantial snacks as well. The combination of carbohydrates and protein is perfect post-workout and to maintain energy throughout the day.
In order to be satisfactorily full for the next 5-6 hours, you’re going to need to choose a breakfast drink that has 600-800 calories. That sometimes might mean adding milk or drinking two at once.
Also, ensuring you get enough protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and fats will help keep you full until lunch. How much is enough? Well, if you’ve got no dietary restrictions, go for about 70 grams of carbs. About 20 grams of protein has been shown to fend off sudden cravings.
And, there’s no minimum amount of fat, per se–just get some in so both your mood and energy levels stay high. Instant breakfast drinks are designed to get you the necessary macro (carbs, proteins, fats) and micronutrients. Check the nutritional chart on the back to make sure you’re getting enough calcium, iron, Vitamins A, C, and B.
If you're not used to eating a big breakfast, it can be beneficial to add a snack before lunch. This prevents that starving feeling that often leads to overeating. If you're a new breakfast eater and don't have much of an appetite in the morning, getting your nutrients from a liquid can make that a little bit easier.
Shakes tend to give more concentrated calories and protein. Fats are important for satiety and so your body can absorb appropriate amounts of vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are fat-soluble.
A diet high in fiber makes your food easier to digest. When you have a good amount of fiber in your breakfast drink, you’ll find it easier to focus for the rest of the day. According to the American Dietetic Association, it’s better to get your fiber from actual foods (including instant breakfast drinks) rather than pills or supplements.
The ADA recommends that males get at least 38 grams of fiber per day and females ingest 25 grams of fiber per day. A high fiber diet leads to “normal” and healthy bowel movements, too.
A food-first approach is helpful when trying to improve nutrition. You may have several micronutrients and a couple of macronutrients in the same food item. Complex carbohydrates tend to be from plant-based sources meaning they can be packaged with plenty of extra micronutrients.
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but they are absolutely necessary for your brain and the rest of your body to function properly. It's best to incorporate them at all meals, including breakfast.
So, you opted for a breakfast drink because you don’t have time to cook breakfast. We don’t blame you. It can be hard to factor in that extra 15-30 precious minutes in the morning to make breakfast. You’d rather be sleeping, and so would we.
Instant breakfast drinks come in powdered or liquid forms, and your decision will boil down to social factors and how much time you have.
Additionally, powdered foods can be added into other foods like soup, pasta, and even stir fries if you’re feeling bold. But you probably aren’t going to want to add a chocolatey powdered drink into a tomato soup. The meal replacement powders (like Huel and Ambronite) or smarter for this choice because they taste more basic.
If you like to eat breakfast with your family, think about getting a powdered drink. It might take more prep time, but you also get the ability to mix it in with others’ foods.
Breakfast drinks can make a great base for a smoothie. You can be creative with the flavors and it doesn't take much more effort to include all the nutrients that will fuel your day. Some awesome add-ins are fruits, vegetables, and peanut butter. The best part is that you can still take this on the go if you'd like.
The liquid breakfast drinks are meant to give you the nutrients you need to start your day in as little time as possible. If you’ve got other things on your mind and don’t want to mess with the prep work involved in powdered drinks, go liquid.
Carnation is probably the most well-known instant breakfast drink brand, and their liquid forms come in three flavors: rich chocolate, french vanilla, and strawberry. Their powdered forms add dark chocolate, chocolate malt, and café mocha to the menu. Ensure has even more variation: chocolates, vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan, and coffee latte.
If you want liquid deliciousness, then, by all means, go for these big brands. They’ve even got variety packs, if you’re looking to shake things up. But, they’re fairly high on sugar and use synthetic nutrients as opposed to natural ones.
When you look at the list of ingredients on a Carnation bottle, for example, corn syrup and sugar are listed second and third. Ingredients in food are listed in descending order of predominance, meaning the first listed ingredient is the most plentiful. That’s a lot of sugar.
On the other hand, newer or lesser-known companies like Ambronite, Huel, and even Soylent focus more on the nutritional component rather than the flavor. Their brands are targeted more towards simply getting the nutrients you need rather than crafting a delicious drink.
Now, taste is all a matter of opinion, so you might enjoy the chalky, “oatmealey” taste of the aforementioned brands. Huel, for example, touts itself as having at least “100% of the FDA’s Daily Values of all 27 essential vitamins and minerals.”
If you buy enough of it, each breakfast will set you back 2 bucks, and the powder is good for a year! Ambronite has a similar nutritional and mineral spectrum to Huel, but is also non-GMO and minimally processed. It’s more expensive, though.
Click to purchase
High Protein Balanced Nutritional Drink with Fiber
Our Best Pick! Advanced Nutrition Protein-Dense Drink
Coffee and Protein Drink Mix
Caffeinated Protein Powder to Jolt You Awake
Breakfast Replacement Drink for Sustained Energy
Nutritionally Completed Food
A Cheaper, Synthetic Superfood Option
Drinkable Supermeal Smoothie Mix
An All-Natural Superfood Powder in Smoothie Form
All-in-One Nutritional Shake
Non-GMO, High-Protein, Ready-to-Drink Breakfast Carton
Grass Fed Protein Drink
A Low-Calorie, Low-Carb Drink Without GMO Ingredients
A Protein-Rich Breakfast Drink for Weight Gain
Breakfast Essentials Nutritional Drink
A Highly-Processed but Ready-to-Drink Option
A Cheap, Sweet, Chocolatey Drink from Switzerland
Some reviewers didn't like the flavor formula change sometime in 2019, so be wary! If you have trouble getting protein and are okay having milk in your diet, this Boost is the way to go.
Reviewers say that the flavor of Soylent tastes artificial and that they seem to often change their formula. The current one has too much chocolate flavor and not enough coffee. However, many other reviewers love it as a meal replacement and for its cost-effectiveness.
A little older than Ambronite (our next contender), Huel is a superfood powder company. Huel is not all-natural but has roughly the same nutritional profile as Ambronite.
Reviewers had issues with the taste and texture of the powder. Huel would not mix thoroughly in shakes and felt gritty. However, most reviewers say that Huel does work at making you feel full and helps when you're in a rush.
Though each scoop has 160 calories, it's not nearly enough for a full serving; Ambronite recommends 2.5 scoops of powder for a 400 calorie-plus meal. Just add water or whatever liquid you like to the powder and you’re good!
The only downside is that it tastes fairly bland. A few reviewers also mention that their Ambronite came expired, though one says that since the brand isn't from the US, the date is written differently. Try mixing the powder with light food items to help make it palatable.
It’s slightly less sweet (12g of sugar) than Carnation’s instant breakfast drink introduced later yet only has 2 grams of fiber. Some recent reviews complain of spoiled batches, so hopefully, Orgain has cleaned up their act! This is a cheap, high-quality option for anyone looking to get their nutritional needs on-the-go.
While we'll admit it doesn't quite have enough calories to count as a full meal, this protein shake does boast a lot of health benefits. Critical reviewers say this drink was too watery or tasted like plastic, while others like the healthy profile and low sugar.
Be advised: it has somewhat of a synthetic waft when you crack the seal. It’s lactose-free and is packed with antioxidants to keep your immune system cranking. Some reviewers say it has too much sugar or that the delivery was unreliable. However, people love the taste.
Carnation’s breakfast drink is maybe the most popular on the market today. While it adds a lot of essential components to your diet, reviews suggest it’s fairly sweet (15 grams of sugar). Since it comes in a 24 pack, so you and your family members can each have one (or two) as you’re running out of the door.
Ovaltine was created in Switzerland in 1909 and is an old-timey chocolate malt breakfast beverage. Online, it exists mainly in powdered form. This is the Nestle formula, which is definitely on the sweeter side, but there are other formulas that offer less sugar.
Reviewers mention that the formula has changed to be sweeter than usual, with fewer nutrients. However, others say that Ovaltine is great for when you want a treat that is more healthy than regular chocolate drinks and reminds them of their childhoods.
Even though you may have decided on an instant breakfast drink, you may be wondering if it's worth it in the first place. Rachel is here to answer the question that will hopefully help you make your decision!
Rachel says, "It depends on the drink! If you aren't used to eating breakfast, a breakfast drink is a whole lot better than nothing. If you make a perfectly balanced breakfast every morning, it probably isn't necessary for you.
Breakfast drinks are a great way to get nutrients fast. Eating in the morning will give you the energy to start your day and likely prevent you from overeating at lunch."
Here are some delicious options to consume when you do have the time to enjoy a full meal.
No. 1: Boost | High Protein Balanced Nutritional Drink with Fiber | Very Vanilla, 24 pack
No. 2: CLICK | Coffee and Protein Drink Mix | Mocha
No. 3: Soylent | Ready-to-drink Meal | Cafe Mocha, 12 pack
No. 4: Huel | Nutritionally Completed Food | 2 pack
No. 5: Ambronite | Drinkable Supermeal Smoothie Mix | Original
View Full Ranking
When you purchase products mentioned in the article, part of the sales may be returned to mybest.
The descriptions of each product is referenced from the content available from the manufacturer, e-commerce sites etc.
AppsBusiness apps, Cooking apps, Dating apps
Home goodsBath supplies, Ceremonial occasion supplies, Cleaning supplies
Home electronicsAir conditioners and coolers, AV accessories, Blenders and food processors
PCComputer supplies, Desktop computers, Tablets
CameraCamera bags and backpacks, Camera supplies, Digital single lens cameras
BeautyBlushes, Bronzers, Cleansers
HealthBody care products, Health accessories, Health foods and supplements
Food and drinksAlcohol, Breads and jams, Cocktails and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages
KitchenCoffee and tea products, Cooking utensils, Cups
FashionFootwear products, Men's shoes, Sandals
AccessoriesWristwatches, Accessories and jewelry, Umbrellas and parasols
Kids and babyBaby carriers, Baby food, Baby formula
InteriorBeds, Beds and bedding, Chairs
HobbiesAromatherapy products, Art supplies, Arts and collectibles
OutdoorBarbecue grills and fire pits, Camping beds and cots, Camping gear
Home, garden, and toolsAgricultural materials and gardening supplies, Exterior and garden furniture, Materials and repairing agents
Sports and fitnessSports shoes, Surfing supplies, Badminton supplies
PetsBird and small animal supplies, Cat supplies, Dog supplies
MediaBooks and magazines, CD, Children's books, picture books and illustrated encyclopedias
GamesGaming accessories, Nintendo Switch games, PC games
AutomotiveCar accessories, Car navigation systems
GiftsChristmas gifts, Father's Day gifts, Gifts for children
Mobile devicesMobile phone and smartphone accessories, Wearable devices and smart watches