Breakfast is an underrated meal that is often quickly tossed together with whatever’s at hand. Yet, starting right can help your body get off to a good start, with nutrients that help power up your body, kickstart metabolism, and keep you feeling satiated to avoid mid-morning binges. Which is why it is important to pick smart when it comes to breakfast – and that begins with avoiding the foods that are bad for you in the morning.
1. High-Sugar Foods
Getting your day off to a sweet start might seem like fun, but the sugar slump that follows an hour or two later is bad not just for diabetics but also for those in normal health. Why? Because as you burn through the energy from high-glycemic sugary foods quickly, you will just as quickly experience that notorious “crash” that follows. You may find yourself low on energy and hungry mid-morning and could just as well end up grabbing whatever quick snack is at hand – unfortunately, packaged processed food like cookies, chips, or candy is what is usually available. In fact, as researchers found, eating a high-glycemic index breakfast food resulted in a postprandial (5 hours after meal) drop of serum glucose levels comparable to that of someone who had not had any breakfast at all! And skipping breakfast can adversely impact risk of obesity or weight gain, as well as overall health.1
Which is why you should steer clear of doughnuts and sugary cereals as your breakfast. Even the accompaniments with your breakfast can pose problems – especially if you are someone that loves dousing their waffles or pancakes in syrup. Most contain high-fructose corn syrup as an ingredient, so be sure to read the packaging. The CDC recommends that sugar consumption from added sugars should be limited to under 10 percent of total daily calories consumed.2 So why avoid intake at breakfast? Because in a day’s allocation of 2000 calories, you need to limit intake from all added sugars to no more than 200 calories. And just one tablespoon of high fructose corn syrup contains 53 kcal.3 If you douse your pancakes in lots of syrup you’ll end up consuming a 100 or more calories quite easily. So that doesn’t leave much room for any more added sugars through the day.
A better option is to make a batch of homemade fruit compote on the weekend and put it in a jar to use through the week. You may not even need to add any sugar due to the natural fruit sugars in berries, apples or other fruit, or could use honey for added goodness as a sweetener.
High-Glycemic Index And Simple Carbs
It isn’t just sugar that can cause you to crash and burn! Any high-glycemic carbohydrates like refined white bread, potatoes, couscous or refined cereals, can have the same effect. These simple carbs are good for quick energy but can also result in a sudden rise in your blood sugar levels and hasten increase of insulin secretion as well. While this is bad any time of day, doing it first thing in the morning when a morning of hard work lies ahead of you, whether at home or in the office, is especially bad. You may find you burn through the energy really quick, your blood sugar rises, and when it’s burnt out, you experience a sudden dip and end up feeling low on energy when you need to be most productive.4
Ayurveda suggests avoiding heavy foods at breakfast to avoid overloading your digestive system which is still warming up.5 Hard to digest fatty foods are therefore avoidable as your first meal of the day. Grill or poach your meats instead of frying them and stick to lean meat if you can’t go without them at breakfast. Switch to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk rather than whole fat versions. This should ease heartburn and stomach pain due to overload on the digestive system.6
The next food to avoid is one that often features on menus at hotel breakfast buffets, and when traveling overseas to Europe, cold cuts. These processed meats are delicious but are packed with nitrates and other preservatives and are linked to a significant increase in the risk of developing colorectal, rectal, and colon cancers.7
Refined Grain Waffles And Pancakes
Waffles or pancakes from a packet or made from instant mixes are usually made with refined flours. Unfortunately, refined flour is a simple carb where much of the goodness, especially the fiber, is removed. They are high-glycemic foods too, making them doubly problematic. It may be a better idea to make your wholegrain version from scratch or create your own premix and store it in the refrigerator to use when you need to. The wholegrain version with bran and germ in it is associated with lowered risk of heart problems.8
Packaged cereals are an easy fall back option for many of us who simply don’t have the time to cook up something fresh before rushing off to work or to getting going with our chores for the day. Unfortunately, they’re also packed to the brim with sugars. As one report found, some breakfast cereals have as much sugar in one serving (a cup of cereal), as three whole chocolate chip cookies – something you’d hardly consider ideal as a breakfast food.9
Instead, have fresh homemade hot or cold porridge made from oats, or if you don’t have time to make a fresh breakfast and want something quick in the morning, soak chia seeds in almond milk, coconut milk, or regular milk overnight and simply top with some nuts or fresh fruit in the morning for a wholesome breakfast.
Cold Uncooked Breakfasts
According to ayurveda, breakfasts should be warm and easily digestible foods to help “fire up” the body and create a sustained energy for the rest of the day. Which means a cold cereal, cold milk, uncooked fruit, or pre-made pastry isn’t the best choice. A warming freshly cooked porridge or gently warmed fruits in a sauce or compote may be better.10
What Foods Should You Be Eating?
Fiber-rich foods like wholegrain bread or oatmeal porridge that help digestion, protein-rich foods like eggs or lean protein that keeps you satiated longer, and fresh fruit and veggies to start you off on your “five a day” are just some foods you should consider.11 Here are 10 healthy breakfast options.
In addition, stay hydrated with water – warm if you can manage it, because that comes with the added advantage of helping rev up sluggish digestion and easing constipation, as well as helping your kidneys do their job of flushing out toxins from the body.12 Having low glycemic index foods that are high in protein content can help improve overall health and have particular long-term benefits when it comes to warding off metabolic disorders and liver problems.13
|↑1||Pereira, Mark A., Elizabeth Erickson, Patricia McKee, Karilyn Schrankler, Susan K. Raatz, Leslie A. Lytle, and Anthony D. Pellegrini. “Breakfast frequency and quality may affect glycemia and appetite in adults and children.” The Journal of nutrition 141, no. 1 (2011): 163-168.|
|↑2||Know Your Limit for Added Sugars. CDC.|
|↑3||Syrups, corn, high-fructose. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑4||Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar. Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑5, ↑10||Breakfast Ideas for Yogis. Yoga Journal.|
|↑6||Good foods to help your digestion. NHS.|
|↑7||Chan, Doris SM, Rosa Lau, Dagfinn Aune, Rui Vieira, Darren C. Greenwood, Ellen Kampman, and Teresa Norat. “Red and processed meat and colorectal cancer incidence: meta-analysis of prospective studies.” PloS one 6, no. 6 (2011): e20456.|
|↑8||Steffen, Lyn M., David R. Jacobs, June Stevens, Eyal Shahar, Teresa Carithers, and Aaron R. Folsom. “Associations of whole-grain, refined-grain, and fruit and vegetable consumption with risks of all-cause mortality and incident coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78, no. 3 (2003): 383-390.|
|↑9||Pestano, Paul, E. Yeshua, and J. Houlihan. “Sugar in children’s cereals: Popular brands pack more sugar than snack cakes and cookies.” Washington, DC: Environmental Working Group (2011).|
|↑11, ↑13||Kamada, Ikuko, Laurence Truman, Justine Bold, and Denise Mortimore. “The impact of breakfast in metabolic and digestive health.” Gastroenterology and Hepatology from bed to bench 4, no. 2 (2011): 76.|
|↑12||Patel,Suchita,Jinal Patel, Mona Patel, and Prof. Dr. Dhrubo Jyoti Sen.“Say yes to warm to remove harm.”EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL RESEARCH 015,2(4):444-460.|