Still stuck in your cereal or waffles routine? Granted, you may be doing better than a heat-lamp sausage muffin. But not that much better.
When it comes to breakfast, forget “continental” (high carb, high sugar) and go for the golden ratio of calories: 40-50% carbs, 25-35% protein and 20-30% fat. Each of these macronutrients gets metabolized by the body at a different pace, so a good balance of carbs, protein and fat will deliver a steady supply of energy and fullness until your next meal.
To avoid the 11am crash, here’s a list of supposedly healthy breakfast foods you might want to rethink:
1. Cereal: It’s a common misconception that only kids breakfast cereals are high in sugar. Many adult cereals aren’t so healthy, either: sugar content usually starts at 8g (and that’s now for 3/4-cup rather than 1 cup, on many labels). Packaged cereals are also very low in protein (about 2g) and contain additives. Add milk, with roughly 13g of sugar, and you’re probably setting yourself up for a simple-carb-and-sugar crash.
2. Waffles: Waffles top the list of pointless breakfast foods. Not only are they high in carbs and low in nutritional value, but people tend to unwittingly fill the crevices with more sugar than you realize in the form of syrups and jams. Once again, it’s a no-protein breakfast fail.
3. Yogurt parfaits: Many fast-food restaurants now offer yogurt parfaits as a healthy breakfast alternative, and it’s not terrible, but if you’re working to eat clean you can do better. Yogurt parfaits usually contain upwards of 20g of sugar, and flavored yogurts from the store do, too. Starting with a plain canvas and adding your own fruit, honey and seeds (or quality granola that’s low sugar and high fiber) is the best way to limit sugar and get the max amount of protein.
4. Egg whites: Egg-white-only dishes have become popular for the high-protein low-calorie aspect, but egg yolks contain at least 13 nutrients worth having, including healthy fat. Unless you’re calorie-strapped, there’s no reason to skimp on the yolk.
5. Juice: I’ve been picking on juice ever since I learned that whole fruit is a better option. Fresh 100% juice does have nutritional value, but it’s high in sugar and lower in fiber without the pulp. If you’re juicing all of your fresh fruits into smoothies, leave a few whole instead: not only will that fiber keep you from eating more calories than you need, it also helps the body to balance out the effects of the sugar. And whatever you do, avoid the Cran-Apple Raspberry Minute Maid.
6. Bagels: Did you know the average bagel packs more than 200 calories? And that’s before you add your toppings. As I discovered at a breakfast café this morning, adding bacon, egg and cheese can run you more than 600 calories! But the real bagel kicker: bagels are loaded with sodium, packing 17% your recommended daily intake (RDI) of salt!
7. Toast and jam: Whole wheat bread is better than white, and can pack in some fiber, but it also tends to be high-sodium. And jam is more sugar than fruit. To improve this carb heavy choice, swap jam for peanut butter or an egg on toast.
Bottom line for breakfast foods: Aim for more protein, more fiber, less sugar, and don’t shy away from healthy dietary fats!