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Diet & Nutrition | Wellness
Man eating doughnut

Sluggish Start: The 5 Worst Breakfast Foods

Don’t use these foods to fuel your body

The best breakfast foods give you fuel in the tank for energy that lasts. They boost your metabolism, fight disease and help you keep your weight down. The worst breakfast foods do the opposite. They lead to mid-morning crashes, wreak havoc on your metabolism, encourage disease and cause weight gain.

You shouldn’t skip breakfast — doing so can make you gain weight, lose energy and think poorly. But you should skip the worst breakfast options. If you see these five foods on the menu, run the other way.

  • Doughnut

    1. Doughnut and pastries: A recipe for weight gain

    Doughnuts will cost you 250–550 calories, but the 20–50 grams of sugar in each is the real problem. With such a huge amount of sugar in a small package, your body pumps out lots of insulin to accommodate. A huge blood sugar peak leads to an even bigger sugar crash. This extreme up-and-down leaves you hungry soon after your breakfast — and you’ll crave more refined carbs. It’s a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating that starts with the first doughnut.

  • Sausage biscuit

    2. Sausage biscuit: Hypertension’s helper

    The sausage biscuit is basically a saturated fat and sodium bomb nestled in a trans fat sleeping bag. If your blood vessels could talk, they would plead, “Please don’t do it to us!” as you place your order at the fast-food drive-through. The sky-high sodium in the highly processed sausage can make your blood pressure surge. If you have hypertension, it may increase your risk for stroke. Nitrates and nitrites in sausage have been linked to increased risk in certain cancers, too.

  • coffee

    3. Flavored non-dairy creamer: A coffee disaster

    If you think non-dairy creamer is a healthy option, think again. Many non-dairy creamers simply swap saturated fat for trans fat (check the label for “partially hydrogenated” oil), plus sugar and artificial sweeteners. Trans fat increases your risk of heart attack and stroke by increasing LDL cholesterol. Predictions say decreasing trans fat consumption by even a little could help prevent more than 10,000 deaths a year. To perk up your coffee, try unsweetened vanilla almond milk, low-fat milk or a small amount of chocolate milk instead.

  • cereal

    4. Bright, sugary cereals: A rainbow of hyperactivity

    Those magically colored kids’ cereals aren’t such a bright choice. The FDA has noted that food dyes may contribute to hyperactivity in children with ADHD, even if not in other children. A 2012 study backed up that idea but said more research is needed. The UK and EU recently banned food dyes in food manufacturing; perhaps you should ban the fake stuff from your breakfast table. Even if food coloring’s effects aren’t fully understood, these cereals are usually loaded with sugar — empty calories for your little ones.

  • bagel

    5. Loaded bagel: An invitation for diabetes

    Your body works hard to keep you functioning at night. Don’t thank it with inflammation-causing calories in the form of a bagel loaded with cream cheese or butter. Except for the occasional 100 percent whole grain option, most bagels are 300–500 calories worth of starch. Slathering on cream cheese or butter adds more calories and saturated fat. Diets high in refined carbohydrates have been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so don’t make bagels a regular morning meal.

Tags: breakfast, diet, diet and nutrition, healthy diet, heart health, nutrition
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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

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  • Kari

    Give us an article about what to eat for breakfast to keep u full

    • jon johnson

      eggs and bacon!

      • jamessavik

        allergic to eggs

    • Earl

      Oatmeal, home made brown bread with peanut butter, berries, yogurt, almonds, and dried blueberries. These foods digest slow, keep your metabolism burning slow, and will get you to lunch time feeling full and satisfied… plus they are good for your digestive system

    • Lindsay

      Steel cut oats or quick oats (NOT Quaker), a few eggs with yolks, and perhaps a little fruit.

  • Hungry Dude

    I agree with Kari, it’s so hard to choose the right things to eat!!!

  • jon johnson

    So your telling me that if i eat a Whole Grain bagel instead of a White Bagel then i wont get Diabetes? Bread is Bread no matter how you slice it! its all Wheat it all causes inflammation! BTW its the Grains that cause the inflammation not the calories! if we all ate like cavemen them there would be no Diabetes or at least very little! Also, Butter has got a bad rap but contrary to popular belief, its actually good for you as long as it is “pastured” or as some might say “grass fed”! #PALEO

    • Fullerene

      First of all, we don’t know what cavemen ate, and even if we did, we know they didn’t have a very long lifespan. You’re also conflating inflammation (and I think you’re implying something about gluten) with diabetes. The fact is that refined wheat has a higher glycemic index (a term you should become familiar with) than whole grain wheat does — that is the main problem.

      You present a lot of pop diet advice, but it’s full of errors.

      • Davin Evans

        We do know what Native Americans ate and many studies have been done on how traumatizing the American diet has been for them.

    • Dan Roth

      Its easy to eat healthy or what they call healthy. Cut out all fats, carbs and processed foods. That leaves cardboard topped with kale. Bon apetit.

  • jon johnson

    Also about those Nitrates…..Did you know that Celery contains very high amounts of Nitrates? Actually most green vegetable do….Does that mean I shouldnt eat any Green Vegetables then? The Nitrate Free Bacon and hot dogs that seem to be the tread now have what?…..hey….Celery Powder! AKA:Nitrates! so pick your battles! Not that i would eat at a fast food joint (beacuse i DO NOT) cause they do have Trans fat even if they say they dont!

  • http://twitter.com/marystod Mary Nash Stoddard

    Thank you for this excellent article! Soft boiled egg (organic) on dry toast w/fruit & blk. coffee for me. Or, organic crunchy peanut butter on toast w/my blk coffee. Sometimes a small bowl of org. granola w/org. whole milk for an occasional treat. Also like a small piece of salmon or tuna w/org. low fat cream cheese on toast. An all-organic smoothie is good, too. Loved the article. — Mary Nash Stoddard/author Deadly Deception Story of Aspartame

  • Cindi C

    I have a whole wheat bagel sandwich with JennyO turkey bacon and egg beaters with a side of fresh blueberries and strawberries. Fiber bar for lunch then a lean chicken breast with veggies round 5 pm. Only fruit after 5. I need my big meal in morning. Is that ok?

  • lillian breedlove

    people need to have their gall bladders checked to make sure it isn’t causing the problem with diabetes….

    • Bill Beyer

      So what if I do not have a gall bladder?

  • John Warren Goerger

    HATE PEANUT BUTTER BESIDES IT STINKS!

  • bad dog

    Oatmeal before work with fruit the best.
    Good dunkin donuts
    Better McDonalds
    Best Panera

  • Bert

    The best thing to eat is often nothing. I used to get hungry every morning no matter what I ate. Now, I never do and feel more energy than I ever did with breakfast. Try intermittent fasting. Fast-5 worked for me.

    • Fullerene

      For a lot of people, the drop in blood sugar in the morning makes them unproductive, and it makes students restless, distracted, and poor learners. I’m glad you feel better with your fasting, but it is definitely not for everybody, especially those with metabolic disorders.

      For what anecdotal evidence is worth, which is very little, I find that I feel and function better when I have a healthy breakfast versus when I just skip eating in the morning.

      • Bert

        Anecdotal evidence is not good for extending to the general population, but there’s no better evidence than your own experience to go by for your body, your diet, your schedule, and your environment. It’s better information than loosely-relevant NHANES study, which is now accused of being incompatible with reality. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-10/uosc-4yo100913.php
        The dawn phenomenon is not just in diabetics. Have you measured your morning glucose? Those with metabolic disorders stand to benefit most from adapting to daily fasting, since it resets appetite and drops weight. Humans did not evolve eating breakfast. Whether someone is better off with or without it should not be assumed, but should be put the test with enough time for adaptation.

        • Marcia

          Sir, I do not know if you deal with a metabolic disorder. I have been dealing with this since I was 6 years old, now turning 65, diabetic only in the last 5 years and as of last week back to the meds I was on 5 years ago. It is about eating healthy and avoiding major fluctuations. Why complicate the challenge with daily fasting? In fact my son-in-law deals with dawn phenomenon and I know for sure it is very unpredictable.You were right in the beginning to suggest that your own experience is what matters. It is tempting of course to be self-righteous when you are doing something that works for you. But in fact our bodies are complex and unique. There is no one thing that works the same for everyone, but I suspect that if you will be honest with yourself, you already know that. Since it is speculation to suggest how ancient man ate, we can only assume that eating the things of the earth as they were created and not morphed and to take personal responsibility for our own health. The closer to that we can get, the more we can become what we were intended to be.

          • Esmee

            Really I often wonder what is the real purpose of the communication when people share off the wall anecdotal evidence. Are those people that desperate for attention that they feel compelled to challenge experts and waste our time?

  • Nancy Chandler Hills

    I do a lot of endurance running, I find that by adding peanut butter to almost any grain based food (whole wheat breads, oatmeal etc) it seems to give me a long lasting state of full, in the afternoons I add PB to apples if I feel the apple is not enough, in the last three years I have now lost 80 pounds, slow but steady !

    • Meryl at Beanstalk

      Even without the running, I too, find quality nuts to be a great thing to eat. I don’t gain weight. Very satisfying in moderation.

  • Shamrock

    I usually have oatmeal with raisins, ground flaxseed and cinnamon, and two eggs.

    Or, other days I make a smoothie: a banana, frozen berries, greek yogurt, teaspoon of peanut butter, granola, almond milk, water and cinnamon. Either choice I make, I get a lot of energy and I am full for hours.

  • Meryl at Beanstalk

    OMG, people still eat this stuff?

  • Meryl at Beanstalk

    Good protein and yummy. Sprout raw buckwheat (easy easy easy) then in the morning cook half of it in almond milk (take a minute) add flaked coconut, and some nuts. Add the add some more sprouts raw for the enzymes. Still need more. Heck, toss in some bananas or apples. Fats are filling. I’d have an good fresh (not Walmart) egg or two if you have time.

  • Mary

    Great info, but It’s Fat Tuesday- In Cleveland that means we eat donuts all day long. you should have posted this tomorrow! :)

  • Scott

    Give us a realistic recipe of something that most everyone have in the kitchen already. It would be pretty easy to eat healthy if I lived in a grocery store.

  • Dan Roth

    Water and a nice juicy piece of cardboard is what we health conscious people eat every morning. Why polute the world when you can find cardboard in the trash every week and eat healthy without adding to garbage dumps. Don’t forget, if it tastes good it is never good for you.

  • PhatKryptonian13

    First they tell us what we can eat and soon… your rights are taken away. How bout instead of telling people what to eat, why not charge less money for healthy foods and more money for not so healthy foods? Salad-$7 Double cheese burger-$2.50. Why not switch the menu price? At CLEVELAND CLINIC they charge by the ounce on a salad I ounce bought a $10 salad. I should have just bought the $3.99 Burger! Its all about money they can care less whether you live or die.

  • Antoinette

    Ive been here in the clinic since friday, and ive had apple pie and this morning a bagel with cream cheese. My pancake and syrup breakfast is already on order. Tonight for dinner- pizza and cookies :) Im a cancer patient, cured now, thank goodness. But when I still had an aggressive form of carcinoma I was continuously offered sweets, bread and drinks loaded with high fructose corn syrup. I adore my docs and my nurses, and credit them with my optimal recovery. However, I also credit the fact that I knew better than to eat those sugars that would do nothing but feed my cancer. Please CC, stop making any sort of sugar available to your cancer patients. Remove those damn cappuccino machines from the Taussig Center and the radiation department! If I know better, so should you!