Breakfast is the most important meal for every day. But eating an unhealthy breakfast can be far worse than not eating at all. An unhealthy breakfast can make you feel sluggish, cause you to gain weight and increase your risk of chronic disease.
What is a healthy breakfast? A healthy breakfast includes fiber, protein and healthy fat that gives you energy and makes you feel full.
Don’t eat these foods in the morning:
Cereal packages often include health claims, such as “contains whole grains.” A label may also suggest the cereal is a good source of nutrients like vitamin A and iron.
In reality, these cereals are highly processed and contain only a small amount of whole grains. Also, nutrients are artificially added in a process called fortification.
Important: Many breakfast cereals are even higher in sugar than cookies and desserts. Adding whole grains or artificial vitamins and minerals does not make them a healthy choice.
2. Pancakes and Waffles
Both pancakes and waffles contain flour, eggs, sugar, and milk. Although they have more protein than some breakfast items, pancakes and waffles are very high in refined flour.
Pure maple syrup is a better choice than pancake syrup, but it’s still high in sugar, which adds empty calories to the meal.
Important: Pancakes and waffles are made from refined flour and topped with high-sugar syrups. They may promote insulin resistance and increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other diseases.
3. Toast With Margarine
This is actually an unhealthy breakfast for two reasons. First, because the flour in most bread is refined, it provides you with few nutrients and little fiber. Because it is high in refined carbs and low in fiber, it can spike your blood sugar levels very fast.
Second, most margarines contain trans fats, which are the most unhealthy type of fat you can eat.
Important: Toast with margarine raises your blood sugar and insulin levels, causes rebound hunger and increases your risk of weight gain and heart disease.
They’re made from refined flour, vegetable oils, eggs, and sugar. The only healthy ingredient is eggs. Sometimes muffins are topped with additional sugar, or filled with chocolate chips or dried fruit, further adding to their sugar and calorie content.
Important: Muffins are usually high in refined flour, refined vegetable oils, and sugar, all of which are very unhealthy.
5. Fruit Juice
Some fruit juices on the market actually contain very little juice and are sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. High sugar levels increase your risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and other diseases.
Even 100% fruit juice contains a lot of sugar. Consuming large amounts of fruit juice can have the same effects on your weight and health as drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
Drinking fruit juice causes your blood sugar to rise very quickly because there’s no fat or fiber to slow down absorption. The resulting spike in insulin and drop in blood sugar can make you feel tired, shaky and hungry.
Important: Despite a reputation for being healthy, fruit juice is very high in sugar. It actually contains a similar amount as sugary soda.
6. Toaster Pastries
Toaster pastries are an undeniably quick and easy breakfast option. However, their ingredients are anything but healthy. For instance, Pop Tarts contain white flour, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and soybean oil.
In addition to being high in sugar and refined flour, toaster pastries only have a couple of grams of protein.
Important: Toaster pastries are high in sugar and refined carbs, yet low in protein, which can increase hunger and food intake.
7. Scones With Jam and Cream
Scones are made by mixing refined wheat flour, butter and sugar with desired flavorings. The dough is then shaped into small rounds and baked.
They’re usually topped with cream and jam or jelly. The end result is a high-calorie, sugary breakfast with little fiber and protein.
Important: Scones topped with cream and jam provide little nutrition other than calories. Easily digested carbs and a lack of fiber can drive hunger, leading to increased food intake and weight gain.
8. Sweetened Non-Fat Yogurt
A bowl of plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt topped with berries is a great example of a healthy breakfast. However, a container of fat-free, sugar-sweetened fruit yogurt is not.
In fact, many flavored non-fat yogurts contain more sugar than a comparable serving of ice cream. Fat helps keep you full because it takes longer to digest than carbs, and it also triggers the release of the fullness hormone cholecystokinin (CCK).
Removing the fat from dairy products and adding sugar changes a nutritious breakfast option into a food that is better suited as an occasional treat.
Important: Non-fat sweetened yogurt is very high in sugar, and may contain more of it than ice cream. It also lacks the natural dairy fat that can increase fullness.
9. Granola Bars
Granola bars are often no better than candy bars. Although unprocessed oats are high in fiber, granola bars provide only 1–3 grams of fiber, on average. However, they contain a lot of added sugar.
In fact, some of the most popular brands contain a combination of sugar, corn syrup, and honey. Further driving up their sugar content, granola bars sometimes contain chocolate chips or dried fruit.
The protein content of granola bars also tends to be low, further confirming that they are a poor breakfast choice.
Important: Granola bars usually contain several types of sugar that negatively affect blood sugar and insulin levels. They also lack protein and fiber.
10. Processed, Gluten-Free Breakfast Foods
While there’s no harm in avoiding gluten, eating many of the processed gluten-free foods now available may cause problems.
For example, a combination of flours made from rice, potatoes, and tapioca replaces wheat flour in gluten-free bread and baked goods. These flours have a high glycemic index, so they raise blood sugar rapidly.
Also, gluten-free pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods are no better than traditional wheat-based versions due to their low protein and fiber content.
Important: Gluten-free packaged foods are made with flours that raise blood sugar, which may lead to elevated insulin, increased appetite and weight gain. They also lack protein and fiber, which contribute to fullness.
Breakfast has the potential to set you up for a day of great energy levels, stable blood sugar, and control over your appetite and weight.
On the other hand, making a poor choice at breakfast can leave you hungry and struggling to get through the rest of the day. It can also increase your risk of developing health problems in the future. If you’re going to eat breakfast, make it one that contains protein, healthy fat and fiber from unprocessed, whole foods.