It’s a phrase used often and is practically seared into our brains when anyone brings up a healthy diet: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Or maybe you also heard that eating anything for breakfast is better than eating nothing at all.
That might not actually be the case. Starting you morning off by eating certain foods can set your diet up for failure if you are eating the wrong things.
Check out this top ten list of foods to avoid when picking out your next morning meal.
1. Fruit juice
While fruit juice may seem like a simple, quick, and healthy option, it should only be consumed in limited amounts. The issue with fruit juice is the high sugar content and the lack of fiber. When you eat an orange, you don’t just take in the sugars from the fruit, you are also eating the fibrous parts that are key in slowing down the absorption of the sugar. So without that fiber, your insulin level spikes and blood sugar eventually plummets, resulting in more hunger and fatigue and ultimately not making this a very healthy option for breakfast.
2. Scones, pancakes and waffles
The typical ingredients here are flour, butter, sugar, and other flavorings. Top that with cream, jam, or syrup and you’re almost eating cake for breakfast. Dessert for breakfast may not seem like a big deal, but the issue here is lack of fiber, high amounts of sugars, and refined carbs that influence your eating patterns throughout the day. Natural sugars in foods like fruit are typically consumed while chomping down on delicious fibrous bits. However, with this meal, your blood sugar goes skyrocketing from sugars and carbohydrates, leaving you hungrier after eating high amounts of calories that provide little to no nutrition.
Even though cereals often come with claims that they are high in fiber, whole-grain, and nutritious, a large majority of them list sugar as one of their main or top ingredients. The higher this ingredient is on the list, the higher the amount of sugar in the cereal. And although whole-grain sounds like a healthy claim, in reality most of these cereals contain a very small amount of whole grains and are highly processed.
Here’s another common “dessert for breakfast” option. Although a blueberry muffin or a cranberry muffin might sound like it’s healthy because of the fruit, the sugars, refined flour, and oil make this option high on the unhealthy list. On top of that, muffins are usually sold in high portion sizes so you are probably actually consuming 1.5 to 2 servings each time.
5. Toast with Margarine
This one gets on the unhealthy list for two reasons: refined sugars and trans fats. Most breads contain a large amount of refined sugars and very little fiber which can spike your insulin levels and raise your blood pressure. Additionally, trans fats are the worst fats you can choose because they can increase your risk for diseases due to the inflammatory response they cause from consumption.
6. Toaster Pastries
Even when these treats are marked “baked with real fruit” they aren’t a smart option to jump start your morning. The main ingredients in these: sugar. The high amounts of sugar and low amounts of nutrients make this a pretty solid “empty calorie” option that will most likely leave you wanting more and craving sugar for the remainder of the day.
7. Gluten-Free Breakfast Foods
While gluten-free may seem like you are choosing a healthier option, these foods are often highly processed and use flours with a very high glycemic index (the higher the glycemic index of foods, the faster they are digested, meaning they raise blood sugar and insulin levels). For example, a lot of gluten-free foods replace wheat flour (which has a glycemic index of 85) with rice and potato flours, which have a glycemic index of 95.
8. Granola Bars
The only healthy ingredient in these breakfast candy bars are oats, which are a great source of fiber. But when it comes to fiber content in granola bars, they run pretty low (about 1 to 3 grams). Then you add in the sugar (which is usually honey, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, or some combination of all) with dried fruit or even chocolate chips and you’re sending your blood pressure sky rocketing. The nutrients in these bars are pretty lacking so starting of your morning with one of these leaves you with very little to gain.
9. Sweetened Non-fat Yogurt
If you’re opting for a healthy yogurt meal for breakfast, stay away from the non-fat and sweetened options. Fat is what gives food its flavor and taste. When manufacturers remove this key ingredient, they typically replace it with lots and lots of sugar. So much sugar that some of these non-fat, sweetened options actually have more sugar than a scoop full of ice cream. But not only is that fat key for adding flavor, it also helps keep you feeling full and satisfied.
So now that you have thrown out all of the unhealthy options, what are you supposed to eat? Check out these suggestions to swapping out your unhealthy with healthier options to give you a healthy balanced diet.
- If you’re choosing bread for breakfast, find one that has a higher fiber content than sugar content.
- Hungry for yogurt? Pick up some whole-milk plain yogurt to top with the berry of your choice.
- If you still need a gluten-free option look for something that uses quinoa flour and chickpea flour which have a very low glycemic index.
At the end (or beginning) of the day, if you are unsure of what a healthy breakfast option would be, think about the process that the food you are eating went through to get to you. Typically, food items that are more direct (e.g., fruit, vegetables, rolled oats) are going to be better options than those that went through a couple more steps.