Steer clear of these breakfast favorites, which nutritionists say are sure to get your day off on the wrong foot.
If your morning smoothie comes in a bottle, you’re loading up on extra sugar you don’t need. “Premadesmoothies often contain a large amount of fruit and sometimes sweeteners, making the sugar content quite high,” says registered dietician Kaitlin Williams, MPH, RD, LD at Rebecca Bitzer and Associates in Maryland. Instead, she recommends homemade smoothies that include healthy proteins like yogurt, cottage cheese, or hemp hearts to cut the sugar. Adding in veggies will give you a low-sugar nutrient boost, too.
Save your bacon for an occasional (read: not everyday) morning treat. “Breakfast meats such as bacon, country ham, and sausage are all high in sodium, which can actually stimulate your appetite and thirst mechanism, making you want to eat more,” says Cristina Caro, RD, LD, a registered dietitian with campus dining services company Sodexo Universities. The salt-heavy foods could also potentially trigger increased high blood pressure and headaches.
Breakfast bars are touted as the perfect on-the-go morning meal, but they’ll often leave you feeling unsatisfied. “While convenient, these are typically loaded with sugar and simple carbohydrates that won’t provide enough sustained energy to get you through the morning,” says Justin Heaton, RD, CSSD, LDN, the campus dietitian for Temple University in Philadelphia.
Don’t be lured by packaged cereal that claims to be full of vitamins and minerals—always check the sugarcontent before buying. “Highly sweetened breakfast cereals may appear to be nutritious due to added vitamins and the fact that they’re consumed with calcium-rich milk,” says Mindy Haar, PhD, director of program development for New York Institute of Technology’s Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. “Actually, they’re low in fiber and many people eat a lot more than the serving size listed on the label, meaning you’re getting more sugar than you think.”
Energy drinks are in no way part of a balanced breakfast. On really rough mornings, you may be tempted to crack one open to get you going, but it’s only going to make things worse. “These drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine,” Williams says. “While you may feel a surge of energy immediately afterward, it usually ends in a crash. You’re much better off with a nutritious, balanced breakfast that will help sustain you throughout the day.” (Instead, try one of these 7 foods that wake you up better than coffee.)
FLAVORED, LOW-FAT YOGURT
Many people don’t realize that buying yogurt with added fruit also means added sugar, says Gary Appelsies, a certified holistic health coach and director of healthy eating at the YMCA of Central Florida. He also notes that low-fat isn’t actually your best choice for cutting morning calories—you should go Greek instead. “Switching out your low-fat yogurt for Greek will cut back on sugar, kick up the protein, and decrease sodium by more than half. In fact, Greek yogurt gives you approximately 38% of your daily protein, which is about the same as you would get from 3 oz of beef,” he says. Appelsies recommends buying plain yogurt and then adding in your favorite toppings like berries, nuts, and seeds. That way, you’ll boost the nutritious factor even more and you’ll know exactly what you’re eating.
ANYTHING MADE WITH REFINED CARBS
Sorry, but doughnuts and pastries are not breakfast foods. Sugary frosting aside, they have zero protein—let alone any other nutritious qualities. “Highly processed carbohydrates—like sweet cereals, pound cake, muffins, pastries, and bagels—can raise blood sugars and then cause them to drop, making you crave even more sugary foods,” explains Manning.
If you require a caffeine fix in the morning, get it the old-fashioned way with a simple cup of joe. Specialty coffee drinks like frappuccinos are loaded with sugar and calories that aren’t doing you any favors. “They’re merely dressed up milkshakes,” Haar says. “One of these can contain up to a third of the calories and saturated fat you should have in a day.”
PREMADE BREAKFAST SANDWICHES
They may be handy, but they’re definitely not healthy. Sure, you get protein from the egg, meat, and cheese, but the meats are typically processed (see above), and the sandwiches are high in grease. “Biscuits and breakfast sandwiches, including fast food and frozen varieties, are high in fat and low on fiber, which facilitates sluggishness and lack of concentration throughout the day,” warns Caro.