Low- or no-fiber cereals
Cereal that is high in carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber will cause your blood sugar to spike, then quickly drop—which can lead to mid-morning cravings and moodiness. Nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, RD, author of The Pinterest Diet
, recommends choosing cereal with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Boost the fiber further by adding berries, a sprinkle of wheat germ or flaxseed, or sliced almonds.
“Most are loaded with sugar and have little to no protein and fiber,” says Rania Batayneh, MPH, author of The One-One-One Diet
. She recommends looking for those that combine protein, fiber, and healthy fats such as KIND bars, many of which have fewer than 5 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of protein.
A cup of non-fat yogurt
It's not a knock against dairy; this is a case of a too-small morning meal. “I see many people who eat too little for breakfast” and then are ravenous by mid-morning, says Batayneh. Depending on your weight and activity levels, she recommends a calorie range of 250 to 400. So to your yogurt, add a small bowl of oatmeal, for example, to make a more complete and energy-boosting meal.
A glass of juice
Dulan is surprised by how many non-breakfast eaters grab a glass of juice and call it a meal. “It’s all carbs, all sugar, and you’re not balancing it out with other nutrients,” she explains. Same goes for healthy-looking, cold-pressed green juices, too; just because it contains kale doesn’t makes it a solid breakfast. “These often don’t have enough protein, which will accelerate your hunger by mid-morning,” says Janet Helm, RD, a blogger at Nutrition Unplugged
. She suggests taking in something with fiber, protein, and fat like an apple and peanut butter.
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Another popular choice among people who aren’t hungry for a morning meal is coffee. But many add-ons can be carb or sugar bombs, says Dulan: “Many people like their coffee with added syrups, sugar, and other ingredients that can add calories without protein or fiber.” The caffeine boost may give you an immediate energizing jolt, but it won’t provide all-morning nourishment.
With sugar, refined carbs, and deep-fried fat, doughnuts are another breakfast food to avoid. “These can be an occasional treat on a weekend, but should not be the foundation of your weekday breakfast,” says Helm. If you’re going to indulge, at least pair the doughnut with protein or fat, suggests Batayneh, to help stabilize your blood sugar and avoid an energy crash. Try a handful of nuts, or a hardboiled egg.
“Muffins can look so virtuous, especially if they have ‘bran’ in the name or if they look dark,” says Helm. “But they tend to be cake in disguise. It’s hard to get much whole grain or fiber.” Plus big bakery muffins often have more calories than you realize—as many as 600 to 800. If you must have a store-bought muffin try to eat only half, and combine it with protein, like Greek yogurt. You can also make a healthy batch yourself; keep in the freezer and defrost one on hectic mornings.
A bagel with butter or cream cheese
Many bagels are the equivalent of four or more slices of white bread, says Dulan. “And where’s the protein?” she asks. Make this meal healthier by choosing a whole-wheat version, eating half, and spreading on a topping packed with protein and healthy fat, like mashed avocado and peanut butter.
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Bacon and sausage
Processed meats are the most harmful type of meat, according to cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD, in The Holistic Heart Book
. Harvard researchers have found that every 1.8 ounces of processed meat you eat raises your heart disease risk by 42 percent, for example. Helm recommends considering these foods as “condiments,” not the main meal, and Batayneh suggests you “save these breakfast meats for special occasions, like a family brunch.” If you do indulge, make sure the rest of your breakfast includes healthy ingredients.
“Eating almost anything for breakfast is better than skipping it,” says Helm, explaining that many people who try to bank morning calories to enjoy later often then overeat. If you miss out on healthy nutrients as milk, whole grains, and fruit in the morning, it can be challenging to consume enough of these essentials as the day goes on. If you're one of the people who says you simply don’t feel hungry enough to eat when you wake, Batayneh encourages you to look at your overall eating habits. Eating too much at dinner or snacking heavily before bed may be one problem.