by Jesse Cannone, Healthy Back Institute Co-Founder
Your alarm clock went off 30 minutes ago. You’re showered, dressed and now ready for some breakfast to fill your empty tummy.
Don’t just grab whatever sounds good or whatever you can scarf down the fastest to get out the door. It’s important to choose your morning foods wisely, as what you eat now can very much impact your energy levels, focus, and even your mood in the mid-morning hours to come.
So before you raid the fridge, browse through the cheat sheet below. It’s filled with foods you should most definitely steer clear of, as well as three in which to indulge.
The 5 Worst Foods to Eat in the Morning
A muffin seems like a sensible choice, especially compared to a doughnut or Danish. But a muffin is really a breakfast “wolf” hiding in sheep’s clothing — especially if it’s store-bought. Most store-bought muffins are giant, which means they can sometimes contain over 600 calories. And for those calories, you’re not getting any protein or healthy fat to keep you satiated. No. Instead you’re getting refined carbs like white or wheat flour and sugar — the very recipe for a growling stomach in about an hour … plus weight gain in the long term.
By the way, don’t fall for the “bran” muffin trap either. Even these seemingly healthy muffins are typically far too high in sugar and calories to be any benefit to your health. If you want fiber, eat some fresh veggies instead.
We know it’s a beloved favorite, but that bowl of honey-nut o’s, sweetened flakes or crispy rice is not going to keep you full, and worse, it will send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride that ends with you yawning at your desk, barely able to keep your eyes open.
Most cereals are empty calories, simple carbs and sugar, disguised as a “healthy” breakfast choice. Don’t be fooled. Some of the most popular cereals are more than 50 percent sugar, by weight, and easily contain more sugar than a Twinkie or three chocolate chip cookies![i]
Would you sit down and eat four slices of bread? Probably not. Well a bagel from a bagel chain is often the equivalent of four servings of bread … as in, a truckload of simple carbs that your body will quickly convert into sugar (i.e. your mid-morning energy crash is guaranteed). Many also contain added sugar — and even those that claim to be made from “whole grains” are usually mostly white flour with a bit of whole grain added in for good measure.
Pancakes are mostly refined flour, with some milk, eggs and butter mixed in. Even under the best circumstances (i.e., they’re homemade), they’re a source of simple carbs that will cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike and crash. If you make them from a boxed mix or get them at a fast-food restaurant, you can expect them to contain more sugar and some even contain disease-causing trans fats.
Of course, virtually nobody eats pancakes without syrup, which is a synonym for “corn syrup and sugar.” Even the 100% maple varieties are really just another form of sugar.
There is really nothing redeeming about a doughnut, other than, perhaps, it’s taste. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, a doughnut is a mix of refined flour, sugar, and oils (probably partially hydrogenated oils, i.e. trans fats). That sugary concoction is then fried and topped with more sugar in the form of frosting or glaze. If your only option to eat in the morning is doughnuts, you’re better off eating nothing at all.
The 3 Best Foods to Eat in the Morning
We’ve covered what you shouldn’t eat, and now for the fun part: what you should …
3. Organic Peanut Butter
Peanut butter can give you a quick protein boost to give you energy and keep you satisfied all morning long. A couple of tips: try spreading your peanut butter on apple or banana slices instead of bread, or add a tablespoon to a kefir smoothie (see below). Be sure to choose a natural brand with just peanuts (not added vegetable oils or sugar), and go organic, as peanuts tend to be a heavily pesticide-sprayed crop.
Kefir, a yogurt-like beverage made from fermented milk, is loaded with beneficial enzymes and bacteria that aid digestion and boost your immune system. A natural energy booster, kefir can easily replace coffee or tea in the morning, and will provide your body with vitamins and minerals instead of simply caffeine. Kefir has a pleasant tart flavor, but you can sweeten it up naturally by adding in a handful of fresh berries or banana slices.
As an excellent source of both protein and fat, eggs will leave you feeling satisfied longer than a bagel or bowl of cereal ever could. Plus, they contain B vitamins like choline for your heart and brain (and reduced levels of inflammation) and naturally occurring antioxidants that benefit your eyes.
If you’re worried about your cholesterol, don’t be. The latest research has shown that eggs no not significantly impact cholesterol levels, and may, in fact, improve your cholesterol profile. Plus, one study found that, compared to those who eat bagels, people who eat two eggs for breakfast lose 65 percent more weight and have higher energy levels![ii]