Most of us will have been told at some point that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Indeed, logic would seem to back up that assertion too: with the whole day ahead of you, picking foods that fail to provide the energy and sustenance you need can be a costly mistake. Fortunately, experts and researchers have conveniently picked out ten foods to shun, and ten to seek out.
Foods to avoid
10. Sweetened non-fat yogurt
Yogurt is usually associated with healthy eating. In fact, this dairy product with fruit is very often the breakfast of choice for those who are trying to start their day in the healthiest way possible. But selecting the right kind of yogurt can make a big difference. Choosing the wrong kind – in this case, the sweetened non-fat variety – can turn a supposed healthy early-morning meal into something else entirely.
Fat is something that most we are usually programmed to avoid. However, fat is in fact great for helping to keep you full up for the simple reason that it takes longer for your body to process than carbohydrates. Fat also provokes the release of a hormone known for helping you feel full: cholecystokinin, or CCP. Yogurt that is fat-free doesn’t provide this benefit, of course. And then there is the fact that if it is non-fat, it’s very often loaded with sweetener or sugar to make up for it. And did you know that flavored yogurts of the non-fat variety very often have more sugar than ice cream of a comparable serving size?
Pancakes are a beloved breakfast option. Served up as either a savory or sweet dish, pancakes are as delicious with cheese as they are with maple syrup. But unfortunately, pancakes aren’t a particularly good option for those looking to kick-start their day, especially if you load them with an unhealthy topping.
The problem with pancakes is that they are usually made with refined grains of wheat flour. And refined grains have been identified by researchers as contributing factors to health problems such as obesity and insulin resistance. Topping them with sugary syrups laden with empty calories provides a second big reason why pancakes are not the ideal way to start your day.
8. Cereal bars or/and shop-bought granola
Over recent years, the emergence of cereal bars on store shelves has provided a seemingly new and popular healthy breakfast option. The problem is that these cereal bars are actually packed full of sugar. They also contain little protein, so from a nutritional perspective eating a cereal bar really is little different to munching on a candy bar.
Granola bought from the store is much the same as a cereal bar in terms of nutritional value. Store-purchased granola may contain very high amounts of sugar, and then will often be lacking in the protein, fiber and vitamins that should all form part of a healthy morning-food option. Granola made at home and supplemented by fresh fruit and very small amounts of maple syrup is a much healthier choice.
7. A blueberry muffin
Another well-loved breakfast or morning-food option is the iconic blueberry muffin. An American institution, blueberry muffins are, sadly, another poor choice in terms of a nutritious morning snack. But they contain blueberries, and blueberries are good for you, right? Well, yes, but most of the time there are very few actual blueberries in a blueberry muffin, with the sugary fake variety substituted in instead.
Blueberries – of the authentic kind – may be more often than not lacking from a blueberry muffin, but that’s not the only problem with this food item as a breakfast option. One glance at the list of ingredients will reveal that these snacks are laden with fats and calories: never a recommended part of a healthy diet, at least not on a daily basis. Plump for a blueberry muffin only on occasion, and when you do, try and find an option containing real fruit.
6. Concentrated orange juice and/or coffee with syrup
What options should you go for when looking for a healthy breakfast or mid-morning drink? Certainly, two liquids you can strike off the list are concentrated orange juice and coffee with syrup. Concentrated orange juice, having been heavily processed, loses a lot of the nutrients found in orange juice of the fresh variety. The high quantity of fructose also spells disaster in terms of contributing to spikes in blood-sugar levels.
Drinking coffee with one of the popular syrup flavorings now ubiquitous at cafes and coffee shops is also a poor choice as a morning drink. The syrups, which come in a variety of flavors, usually contain sugars and artificial colors, providing unnecessary calories. The needless glucose shot will also see you slump soon after drinking it, which is exactly the effect you are trying to avoid.
5. Just a smoothie
Smoothies have become a staggeringly popular choice of drink in recent years, with no self-respecting mall being complete without its smoothie bar. And many people believe smoothies to be not only delicious, but full of all the necessary nutrients, minerals and vitamins required of a healthy breakfast. Unfortunately, those people are wrong.
Smoothies are indeed delicious, but often lack the protein that is required to make you feel full. Plant-based proteins can be added to avoid this issue, but smoothies are also high in free sugars that are released from fruit once blended. So, the reality is, most smoothies contain sugar and are unlikely to fill you up. It turns out that drinking them on their own really is a poor breakfast-time option.
4. Sugary cereals
It is common knowledge at this stage that the majority of breakfast cereals are far from nutritious. “If you go for particularly sugary cereals it can raise levels of glucose in the bloodstream, which may result in a short burst of energy but this will only last for a short period of time, leaving you feeling more sluggish later on,” Pippa Campbell, a coach focusing on nutrition and weight loss told Cosmopolitan magazine in February 2018.
Another issue with many breakfast cereals is that the portion size found reported on the box can often be misleading. Make sure that the guideline amounts and totals provided are equal to the portions you are consuming. Of course, some cereals are higher in sugar than others, so try to select the options that include the “green” sugar-content level where possible, signifying a healthier amount.
3. A fry-up
It will come as no surprise to most to know that a cooked breakfast, or fry-up – known in some quarters as a “Full English” – is far from a healthy option at breakfast time. Apart from the base ingredients, the fact that everything is cooked in copious amounts of oil is clearly not a good sign and it can have serious repercussions for your heart if eaten too regularly.
The good news here is that there are some simple substitutions that can be made to ensure your cooked breakfast is a little easier on the body. Poach the eggs instead of frying them and grill the meat. Drop the fried slice of bread, which really provides no nutrition whatsoever, and then choose healthier oils for cooking, such as coconut. But the best advice is to only go for this option on rare occasions if you want to ensure better health. And lose the sugar-rich ketchup too.
2. White bread
Bread is a popular option in the morning because it is cheap, tasty and acts to seemingly fill you up. However, white bread is a poor choice over the brown or wholemeal varieties. That’s because white bread contains far less fiber and so those hunger pains will come back considerably more quickly than if you had gone for brown.
Opting for brown bread is a far more sensible option as it contains more of that fiber that the body needs. “A fiber-rich diet helps to maintain bowel integrity and can also aid in reducing bad cholesterol,” nutrition coach Campbell told Cosmopolitan. Just ensure that you check the ingredients so as you know the brown bread is 100 percent of the wholewheat variety, and not “enriched”, which adds little nutritional value.
1. No breakfast
You know those people who skip breakfast? Well, it turns out that that is really not a good idea, just as you may have suspected. While you sleep your body is mostly having a break from digestion. Eating in the morning kick-starts the metabolism. Going without food at the start of the day can be the cause of many ills, including a slower metabolism.
Those who don’t eat in the morning can suffer lower levels of concentration. Not having breakfast can also lead to overeating at lunchtime and then plumping for less-healthy options when you do eat. Furthermore, not having breakfast can also result in you playing catch-up for the rest of the day and see you eating later at night, which is not a good option: those calories get stored as fat, rather than being used up and converted to much-needed energy. In short, don’t skip breakfast!
Foods to kick-start your day
We’ve taken a good look at the foods that you should be avoiding in the morning if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle. Go easy on the white bread, blueberry muffins and sugary cereal for a start. But what should we be consuming for breakfast? What do the experts recommend as the foods required to start our day the right way?
10. Fruit, and bananas in particular
It will come as no surprise to see fruit included on the list of foods recommended for breakfast consumption. Depending on the variety of course, fruit is delicious; it contains all manner of good stuff, such as essential vitamins, fiber and potassium and it doesn’t contain a lot of calories, either. Fruit is also surprisingly filling, too, due to high concentrations of water and fiber, so you are not going to start feeling hungry any time soon after eating it.
In terms of what fruit to choose, you can’t go wrong with bananas. Firstly, the famous yellow fruit is convenient, but in terms of nutritional value, bananas contain healthy folate and the B6 vitamin, both of which contribute to the release of serotonin. And serotonin is a known mood-booster. The fiber found in bananas reduces cholesterol too, so this a food item that just keeps on giving.
9. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a much-underrated food.First and foremost, it’s delicious, but then it doesn’t contain many of the nasties with which many popular foods are, unfortunately, riddled. Secondly, cottage cheese is actually particularly high in protein, a macronutrient that the body needs to build essential elements such as blood and muscle.
As well as being a rich source of protein, cottage cheese possesses a product called conjugated linoleic acid. CLA, as the substance is also known, has been linked in some studies with weight-loss. With this potential added benefit, it’s no wonder that tasty and filling cottage cheese is proving an ever-more popular morning option.
8. Nuts and nut butter
Nuts are one of those food items that have long been touted as a supposedly healthy alternative to some of the less-nutritious options that people love. Nuts are associated with any number of dietary positives, from being filling and helping to prevent the gaining of weight, to being high in essential elements such as magnesium and potassium. Of course, there are many varieties of nuts to select from too.
But if you don’t fancy sprinkling nuts on your yogurt in the morning, why not opt for a nut butter on your toast instead? Peanut butter – that American classic – not only contains large amounts of protein but is also full of unsaturated fats that are great for the heart. Butters made from peanut and other tree nuts have also been connected to a reduction in risk of certain chronic diseases. Tasty and versatile, nuts are a winner in the morning.
There are many types of berries, from popular strawberries and raspberries to lesser-known varieties such as loganberries. But did you know that nearly all berries are not only high in fiber and antioxidants but also low in calories? That combination makes berries a delicious and health-enhancing morning food.
Most people have their preferred berry, so it’s unlikely that someone will fail to find at least one berry that they will enjoy. And it turns out that berries, despite being very sweet, are actually lower in sugar than many other fruits. With other benefits including helping to prevent tissue inflammation, berries are a great option at breakfast time.
6. Seeds (chia and flaxseeds)
Seeds are a popular option for the first meal of the day, although there are others who consider the food item more suited to birds. Chia seeds are a great choice because of the incredible amount of fiber contained within. Furthermore, the variety of fiber found in chia seeds contributes to your feeling fuller for longer. The high antioxidant content is yet another benefit of this tiny seed.
Flax seeds are another popular provider of the viscous fiber also found in chia seeds. It is that variety which helps give a feeling of satisfaction for a long time after eating. Added benefits of flax seeds include enhancing sensitivity to insulin and a reduction in blood-sugar levels. One thing to remember, however, is that flax seeds must be eaten only when ground: whole seeds cannot be digested and will simply pass straight through the body.
The health benefits of avocados have long been stated, and this fruit (it’s not a vegetable) is also something that can be enjoyed in the morning. Have you ever tried it spread on brown toast, for example? As well as being delicious and versatile, avocado contains fats beneficial to the heart.
Avocado is rich in vitamin B and unsaturated fats that researchers have linked to reduced risks of illnesses including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. The water and fiber content of the fruit also means that you are likely to feel fuller for longer, so its consumption prevents overeating. Overall, it’s easy to see why avocado is so beloved of nutritionists and healthy eaters. It’s extremely tasty too.
4. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt can be a mixed bag when it comes to health benefits. Sweetened, non-fat yogurts can contain all sorts of nasties such as high amounts of sugar that are only recommended in small amounts. Yet there are other varieties of the product that can bring plenty of health benefits. Greek yogurt is one such option.
Where to start with Greek yogurt? It’s delicious and at the same time rich in protein. It promotes an increase in your body’s metabolic rate, can help in the stabilizing of weight gain and has even been linked to active weight-loss. Indeed, there are also certain types of Greek yogurt containing probiotics, which promote healthy gut bacteria. And of course, you can always eat Greek yogurt with any number of healthy food items combined for a super breakfast.
3. Black tea or coffee
Most people will turn to a cup of tea or coffee in the early morning, depending on your taste. But drinking tea or coffee is far from a placebo, as the health benefits of the caffeine contained within include a reduction in the risk of developing certain chronic diseases and better management of weight. And as long as you don’t add milk or sugar, there are no calories at all to be found in your cup.
The high quantities of caffeine found in coffee in particular have additional health benefits. Research suggests that this substance can improve levels of concentration and contribute to better mental performance. And if all that were not enough, coffee abounds with antioxidants too; these substances have been proven to reduce the risk of developing liver disease and diabetes.
2. Protein shakes
Have you ever tried a protein shake? In many ways similar to a smoothie, a protein shake is carefully prepared to ensure all manner of additional health benefits that the generic smoothie may lack. And for this very reason, a protein shake is in many ways a nutritious meal in itself, which a fruit smoothie definitely is not.
A protein shake can take on the basis of a fruit smoothie, ensuring that it provides necessary antioxidants and fibers. However, a boost in the form of a protein powder can ensure a feeling of fullness and even lead to reduced calorie-consumption in your next meal. Whey protein can also assist in reducing blood-sugar levels and help maintain muscle mass. That’s a lot of health benefits in a solitary drink.
Eggs are a food item that have been enjoyed for as long as history can recall. Not only are they delicious, incredibly versatile and an active ingredient in so many other beloved foods, eggs provide all manner of known health benefits. Just for starters, eggs can assist in the controlling of blood-sugar and insulin levels; they can also reduce future calorie intake as well as providing a full feeling after eating.
Eggs contain particular antioxidants that are important in the prevention of certain eye complaints such as cataracts. Additionally, eggs are a rich source of choline, a nutrient linked to better brain and liver health. And though some will protest that eggs are high in cholesterol, research has shown that they do not in fact raise cholesterol levels in most people. Avoid frying them in oil, of course, but make eggs a sustained part of your morning diet to avail yourself of all these health benefits that this familiar food item can bring.