By Bryan Silver
We’ve always been told that breakfast is an important part of our day; it’s literally the fuel that gets our morning going. Whether it’s mentally processing information or completing physical tasks, the things we all do on a daily basis require energy, and that means eating the right foods—or, better put, avoiding the wrong foods. Oh sure, we all know the evils of glazed donuts or a rasher of bacon. No one questions that empty calories and high levels of cholesterol-inducing breakfast meats are taboo in this age of health consciousness, but there are some items that many of us see as an ideal morning meal which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Avoid These Eight Foods in the Morning:
Low Fiber Cereal
First off, it’s not just about avoiding the boxes with colorful cartoon characters and far too much added sugar. Nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, RD, author of The Pinterest Diet, is quick to point out that most all cereals are high in carbohydrates—combine that with low fiber and you’re inviting a serious spike in blood sugar, followed by a quick drop. This can result in the quick return of hunger and food cravings, not to mention the potential for moodiness and a drop in energy. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s best to ensure that whatever flakes or clusters you pour into your morning bowl contain at least three grams of protein per serving. Even better, try adding fiber-rich ingredients such as wheat germ or sliced almonds.
It’s important to note that all yogurts are not created equal, especially when it comes to those that would have you believe they’re a healthy choice. Whether the package calls it “non-fat” or “light,” many of these yogurts remove fat and sugar content only to replace them with artificial sweeteners, flavorings and other chemicals to try and appease your taste buds. You’re always better off opting for a plain low-fat yogurt, such as Greek yogurt, and adding your own berries, nuts or wheat germ—the result is a satisfying meal that will have you feeling full through added protein rather than setting up for a drastic fall in energy levels as excessive sugar tends to do.
Before you reach for a tall glass of Florida’s finest, consider that fruit juices were never meant to be a meal replacement. While the obvious issue is an overabundance of fructose and possibly other added sugars, that’s not the only problem with this breakfast staple that’s been around for decades. There’s also a total lack of protein and other nutrients. And it’s not just juices such as orange or grapefruit, those who reach for so-called healthy green juices are in for a similar shock. Janet Helm, RD, a blogger at Nutrition Unplugged, says “These often don’t have enough protein, which will accelerate your hunger by mid-morning.” The answer might be to pass on a liquid breakfast and elect for something with more fiber and protein.
My, oh my… who doesn’t love a delicious muffin in the morning? While no one is making the broad claim that foods which taste good are rarely good for you, muffins are definitely a category that requires careful scrutiny. The use of misleading terms like bran, berry or low-fat can have you thinking the muffin in your hand is healthy, when the reality is that it might only be contributing to an expanding waistline and your own muffin top. Nutrition blogger Janet Helm, RD puts most muffins into the following perspective, “…they tend to be cake in disguise. It’s hard to get much whole grain or fiber.” From now on, you might want to pass on baked items and bet on a sure winner that has more protein and fiber.
Not too many years ago, bagels were viewed as a low-fat, filling food to be served up daily at breakfast time—something svelte New Yorkers had sworn by for decades. In retrospect, one might wonder if the physical fitness of the Big Apple’s inhabitants has less to do with what they put into their mouths each morning and more to do with all the time they spend getting around town on foot. But before we race off in the wrong direction, let’s get back to bagels—are they really bad for you? As with so many other traditional breakfasts, bagels are extremely heavy on the carb count. In fact, most bagels equal the same number of carbohydrates as four slices of white bread. Your best bet? Only eat half a whole-grain bagel and top it with something rich in protein such as goat cheese, hummus or peanut butter.
When you’re running low on energy and out of time in the morning, few things promise a quicker boost than a store-bought breakfast bar. But before you tear open that wrapper, wrap your head around this—most aren’t any better than a candy bar, as they’re often packed with lots of sugar and little protein. Don’t think that the secret ingredient is granola, either. High in carbohydrates, granola is usually a concoction of rolled oats, honey and sometimes puffed rice—again a recipe for mid-morning crashes and cravings with little nutritional value. There is often an exception to every rule though, and some bars do tout low levels of sugar combined with significant amounts of protein and beneficial fats. Just make sure you read the label first.
Trust us, bananas aren’t something you want to monkey around with in the morning. To be clear, this isn’t a bad fruit—but it’s certainly not your friend when you consume them with an empty stomach. The problem is that bananas are one of the most sugar-filled fruits you might pick up at your local grocer. While we’re talking about natural sugars, they can cause insulin levels to spike as your stomach tries to break down the fiber and carbohydrates that come along with each and every bite. The result is that sugar in the presence of high levels of insulin can be turned directly into fat rather than fuel—a situation that has little ap”peel” for most of us.
Takeout Breakfast Sandwiches
Starting your day at the drive-thru might seem like an acceptable idea for those of us who are always on the go, but you need to stop at the thought and really think about your choice. It might seem like a good idea to go with a relatively small breakfast sandwich that combines carbs, protein and fat, but you might not be considering all the grease, butter and total lack of fiber. Add in the very real possibility that anything in a paper wrapper also contains processed foods and overly refined grains, and the overall picture is not pretty. If your daily commute has already commenced, consider stopping at a convenience store or quick mart, many now carry somewhat healthy options that include yogurt, fruit and oatmeal.