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How to Ruin a Healthy Breakfast

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Updated June 06, 2014

How to ruin breakfast
David Papazian Collection/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Not all breakfast foods are good for you and choosing the wrong foods can turn a healthy breakfast into a high-calorie, nutrient-poor mess.

Here are some common ways that people ruin a healthy breakfast:

Making Breakfast Too Sugary

Next time you go to the grocery store, take a look at all of the pre-sweetened cereals. Basically, these sugary cereals are just boxes of candy with a few vitamins and minerals added in.

The problem isn't just boxes of cereal -- many people associate breakfast with sweet pastries and things you pop into the toaster.

Stay away from extra sugar:

  • Choose unsweetened, whole grain cereals. Just add a little sprinkle of sugar on top, but no more than a teaspoon.
  • Instead of a pastry, pop a slice of whole grain bread into the toaster and then top it with a 100-percent fruit spread. You still get the sweet flavor, but a lot less sugar.
  • Have a bowl of hot oatmeal with fresh berries and chopped walnuts. Not sweet enough? Add just a dab of real maple syrup or a teaspoon of brown sugar.

Not Enough Protein

Isn't it interesting how we associate certain foods with breakfast? Sugary cereals, pancakes and waffles smothered in syrup appeal to many people. They're high in starch and sugar and low in protein. Protein keeps you feeling full longer so you won't feel so hungry in the middle in the morning.

Make sure you get some good quality protein:

  • Have a piece of 100-percent whole-grain toast with peanut butter or almond butter and a glass of milk.
  • Eat an egg or two. Eggs help you feel full, and they are a great source of lutein that helps keep your eyes healthy.
  • Use protein powder in a fruit smoothie.

Eating Lots of Saturated Fat and Processed Meats

Bacon, sausage and ham are common meats you may eat at breakfast time. Bacon and sausage are high in saturated fat, which increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, and all three are high in sodium

Stay away from processed, high-fat meats:

  • Eggs are an great source of protein. Choose omega eggs, which contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Have a poached egg served over 100-percent whole grain toast.
  • Lower fat meats like chicken or turkey can be eaten at breakfast.
  • You can buy turkey sausage and turkey ham, but they may still contain nitrites and large amounts of sodium.
  • Try salmon or tuna with a light mayonnaise on 100-percent whole grain toast. Each is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Avoiding Whole Grains

Most of those sugary breakfast cereals and pastries are also low in fiber. Whole grains provide fiber, which can keep your cholesterol levels and keeps your digestive system healthy.

Choose whole grains and high-fiber foods:

  • Eat whole grain, unsweetened hot or cold breakfast cereals.
  • Use whole grain bread instead of white bread for your toast.
  • Make low-fat oat bran muffins.

Not Eating Any Fruit or Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are usually low in calories and rich in nutrients and phytochemicals. Experts recommend that we eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day (no, that bowl of fruit-flavored cereal doesn't count).

Get more fruits and vegetables:

  • Make an omelet with mushrooms, peppers and onions.
  • Slice a grapefruit or orange in half and serve with a slice of 100-percent whole grain toast with peanut butter.
  • Add berries, raisins, or bananas to your whole grain cereal.

Skipping Breakfast Altogether

Maybe you're in a rush or you think skipping breakfast is a good way to cut calories. But it really isn't. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, probably because they eat too much later in the day.

You can have a quick but healthy breakfast:

  • Keep ready-to-eat foods handy like hardboiled eggs, nuts, and fresh fruit.
  • Make a fruit smoothie for breakfast.
  • Make your own breakfast cereal bars with healthy whole grain cereals.

Sources:

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Lichtenstein AH, Kennedy E, Barrier P, Danford D, Ernst ND, Grundy SM, Leveille GA, Van Horn L, Williams CL. "Dietary fat consumption and health." Booth SL.Nutr Rev. 1998 May;56(5 Pt 2):S3-19; discussion S19-28.

Stevenson EJ, Williams C, Mash LE, Phillips B, Nute ML. "Influence of high-carbohydrate mixed meals with different glycemic indexes on substrate utilization during subsequent exercise in women." Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Aug;84(2):354-60.

Ciok J, Dolna A. "Carbohydrates and mental performance--the role of glycemic index of food products." Pol Merkuriusz Lek. 2006 Mar;20(117):367-70.

Vander Wal JS, Marth JM, Khosla P, Jen KL, Dhurandhar NV. "Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects." J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6):510-5.

Blom WA, Lluch A, Stafleu A, Vinoy S, Holst JJ, Schaafsma G, Hendriks HF. "Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response." Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):211-20.

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