The best breakfast foods give you fuel in the tank for energy that lasts. They boost your metabolism, fight disease and help keep your weight down. The worst breakfast foods do just the opposite. They lead to mid-morning crashes, wreak havoc on your metabolism, encourage disease and can cause weight gain.
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Registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD weighs in on the worst breakfast food options.
- Doughnut and pastries. Doughnuts will cost you 250 to 550 calories, but the 15 to 30 grams of sugar in each is the real problem. With such a huge amount of sugar in a small package, your body pumps out loads of insulin to try to accommodate. A huge blood sugar spike leads to an even bigger sugar crash. This extreme up-and-down leaves you hungry soon after your breakfast — and you’ll crave even more refined carbs. It’s a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating that starts with the first doughnut.
- Sausage biscuit. The sausage biscuit is basically a saturated fat and sodium bomb. 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 too. Nitrates and nitrites in sausage have even been linked to increased risk of certain cancers.
- Flavored non-dairy creamer. If you think non-dairy creamer is a healthy option, you might want to 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 bit could help prevent more than 10,000 deaths a year. To perk up your coffee, try unsweetened vanilla almond milk, low-fat milk, vanilla extract or a small amount of chocolate milk instead.
- Bright, sugary cereals. Those magically colored kid 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. The UK and EU has 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 yet, these cereals are usually loaded with sugar — and empty calories for your little ones.
- Loaded bagel. 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% whole grain bagel thin option, most bagels are 300 to 500 calories worth of starch (about 65 grams of carbohydrates). 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 loaded with toppings a regular morning meal.