10 Foods You Should Never Have For Breakfast If You Are Trying to Lose Weight
If you are serious about losing weight and getting into great shape you have to stay away from the common trend of eating what is essentially dessert for breakfast, or just as bad, skipping it altogether. In today’s fast paced world many of us are in quite a rush and the bad eating habits that come with a hectic lifestyle are partly to blame for our modern prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Most people will either skip breakfast or grab high calorie foods like donuts, pastries and highly processed boxed cereals as their first meal of the day. And both practices can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and certainly sabotage your efforts at getting into better shape.[1,2,3] By skipping breakfast altogether, you also set the stage for overeating later in the day. As your body will try its best to compensate for the lack of macronutrients that it was supposed to get first thing in the morning. While fasted cardio and intermittent fasting are quite popular these days, the facts remain that studies show that having most of your calories later in the day can increase likelihood of weight gain, even on a lowered calorie diet. (See my article- Eating Late Can Make You Gain Weight.) Furthermore, the perceived loss of willpower many feel when they overeat later in the day is often a result of not getting adequate nutrition at breakfast time, bad breakfast choices or from skipping breakfast entirely. Taking that into consideration, a change in eating habits isn’t about willpower but a matter of making better selections starting with the first meal of the day. A good start with healthy breakfast choices makes it easier to keep making better food selections as the day goes on. Remember also that as far as potential for weight gain and sabotaging your efforts at weight loss,
SKIPPING BREAKFAST OR ANY MEAL FOR THAT MATTER CAN BE JUST AS BAD AS EATING THE WRONG FOODS!
That said, the practice of putting convenience before what your body needs, may have created an environment for savvy marketers to lead many to accept what are truly unhealthy foods as their choices for the most important meal of the day. Riding soundly on the cacophony of often contradictory information on what foods are really healthy, many breakfast foods are aggressively marketed as being good for you, when in fact they are not. These so called healthy foods or good breakfast choices in this case, are popular because they provide immediate reward. Rewards that override our concerns about their long term consequences. It’s not like people aren’t aware that skipping breakfast can have a negative effect, it’s more that the quicker prep time from waking to working makes them feel it’s worth it. On some level, people are aware that the high sugar, high salt, and or low fiber food they are having for breakfast is a bad choice. It’s more a matter of the immediate sensory rewards being stronger than the desire in the moment to lose weight, or have better health outcomes. Paying more for unhealthy foods also makes it easier to justify eating junk for breakfast (patrons of Starbucks and trendy coffee shops take note.) That said, a solid breakfast should always consist of a high fiber carbohydrate source like oat bran cereal, my pick for the best breakfast food choice, and a high protein, relatively low fat food that can range from anything like egg whites to less conventional picks such as fish and chicken. Cutting through the noise of misinformation, here is a list of ten foods that you should never have for breakfast, or at any time of the day, for that matter if you are serious about weight loss and healthy living.
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast- The Short List:
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Bagels
Bagels are one of the highest calorie breads that you can find, while many here in New York City swear by a bagel and a smear it’s one of the worst choices you can make. Bagels are some of the highest calorie breads known to man, ranging in content values from 270 to as many as 350 calories each, and that’s without the high fat and high calorie cream cheese or spreads that are almost always added to them. Which can make them as high as 500 plus calories per serving! Bagels, like almost all the foods on this list have a very high index due to the low fiber content. You might have been lead to believe that think whole wheat or whole grain bagels are better choices, but calorie counts are pretty much the same and they are still extremely low in fiber. The problem arises because there were no low fiber high carbohydrate foods in the natural diet of the human species for over 2.2 million years, and so our bodies are not adapted to consuming these forms of processed foods.
How does eating a bagel or any of the other foods here on the list undermine your weight loss efforts? We know today that energy balance, (calories ingested versus calories burned) isn’t simply a matter of how much you eat and activity levels, as our hormones play key roles in whether your body is in storage mode (gaining body fat) or utilization mode (using fat as fuel). Insulin, which shuttles energy from the foods you eat into your cells, plays a central role in energy balance, and insulin levels rise when blood sugar (glucose) levels increase. Stimulating muscle and fat cells to take in and store some of that sugar as fat. Insulin also has the effect of not only making fat in the blood stream (called triglycerides) enter fat cells, but it also INHIBITS fat cells from releasing their fats back into the bloodstream.
Insulin is often touted as being the culprit for weight gain and somewhat stigmatized in the process, but as we alluded to earlier, humans have been consuming carbohydrate foods like fruit, starchy roots and vegetables with sugars for millions of years without any problem. And what we know is that insulin levels rising aren’t to blame, it’s how much and how fast insulin levels are made to increase. Take for example the difference between eating an apple, and having a bagel. Bagels are made with industrial grade flours that are refined to remove as much germ, so it won’t spoil and fiber, so it will have a smoother taste and make you eat more. By removing the natural fat and fiber, the end product does taste better, but it comes at a price. Fiber is indigestible and so it acts to slow down the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream, and since our bodies evolved and are adapted to eating only high fiber glucose sources, a high calorie and low fiber food like a bagel is evolutionarily mismatched for our bodies, regardless of how great our brains might say it tastes. The rate at which a food delivers sugars to your blood is called the Glycemic Index and as a rule, you should always choose low glycemic foods not only for breakfast, but at all times if you are serious about losing weight! Read more about Glycemic Index and Weight Loss here.
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Granola
One of the first fake health foods, that was popularized in the 1980’s, granola was heavily marketed as being healthy and nutritious. It is still found on supermarket shelves with labels like “all natural” and “wholesome” and many well meaning men and women have it as part of their breakfast, thinking it to be a healthier choice. The problem is that the sum of granola is greater than the whole, and by that even though it may have naturally occurring ingredients, it’s still a processed and low fiber food that isn’t compatible with weight loss endeavors. It’s often sweetened with honey, which most people today still consider to be healthy, but it is certainly not weight loss friendly. What makes honey sweet is fructose, the same sugars found also in fruit, but unlike fruit, fructose is always accompanied by indigestible fiber and bulk. Which slows the sugar being released into the bloodstream and prevents the metabolic nightmare described above that will not only make you store more body fat, but set you up for the beginnings of metabolic disease. Fructose by itself, however, without fiber is extremely problematic as it is metabolized almost entirely by your liver. Now under normal circumstances, a human consuming fruit would have no problem as the fiber would slow the fructose release into the bloodstream to a rate that your liver could comfortably handle with no problems whatsoever, converting most of it to glycogen which is stored in muscles as fuel. Without the presence of fiber, however, fructose gets dumped into the bloodstream rapidly, and the liver is overwhelmed. It doesn’t have time to convert the fructose into glycogen and instead converts the fructose into triglycerides. The quick influx of fructose means that some of this fat will begin to fill up the liver, which causes inflammation, and sets in motion of vicious circle. Inflammation blocks the action of insulin on the liver and makes the liver continue to release glucose into the bloodstream. An action that then drives the pancreas to secrete more insulin, which in turn moves the extra glucose and fat to your cells. The increased fat your liver produces in response to rapid doses of fructose end up not only in fat cells, but also in your arteries, creating the perfect environment for cardiovascular disease and by extension, diabetes. In fact the potential fat storage from honey and its ability to halt your weight loss efforts are sadly the least of its effects.
So called healthy brands of granola are sweetened with honey, and with a low fiber content, but high calorie count, it should never be on the breakfast list for anyone serious about getting into great shape.
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Pancakes
Pancakes are highly refined and low fiber breakfast foods, regardless of how healthy it is made out to be. Protein pancakes, whole grain pancakes, paleo pancakes, and the like remain low fiber, high calorie processed foods that are mismatched for our bodies from an evolutionary point of view. Pancakes have a high glycemic index, so eating them will elicit an insulin response similar to that of eating a candy bar. Add maple syrup to the mix and it becomes even more of a recipe for disaster. Maple syrup is mostly sucrose, which is the same ingredient as table sugar and it is not by any means healthy. Just because it comes from a tree does not confer it with any magical properties, as the processing required to make it creates a product that is literally liquid table sugar. I think most of us can understand that adding a few tablespoons of sugar onto pancakes can’t be a good idea. And if you consider the chemical makeup of maple syrup, that’s exactly what you are doing when you add it to your pancakes. The only pancakes that might barely be a better choice would be those you make yourself with truly stone ground flour, and without the addition of any maple syrup, sugars or honey.
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Pastries
Why desserts have become a popular choice for breakfast is beyond comprehension but croissants, éclairs, donuts, jelly filled pastries and such pastries are all high in simple sugars, have high glycemic indices and are just about as bad a choice as you could make for the first meal of the day. Or for any other part of the day to be honest. Tons of sugar and low fiber content all add up to create a cascade of reactions in your body that are more conducive to fat storage, regardless of how great they may taste! Skip them all and instead choose high fiber foods like fruit and oat bran cereal!
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Juices
Juice sound like a good idea. And most of us grew up being taught that it’s a great way to get your vitamins. Sadly, just because juices comes from a natural source, doesn’t mean it’s natural to the human body. We know that the rate of sugar being delivered into the bloodstream plays a major role in the insulin response, and when you eat a whole fruit, the fiber content and it’s bulk reduces the rate of delivery of fructose to the bloodstream, giving your liver more than enough time to process it into a usable fuel source for muscles and cells. Let’s take an apple for example, and a glass of apple juice for comparison. An average apple has about 13 grams, or a little under half an ounce of sugar. An apple has skin, which is mostly fiber and fiber also makes up the walls of the cells that hold the sugars present in the apple. When you eat the apple the fiber content coats the food and the walls inside your gut acting as a barrier of sorts since it can’t be broken down. This dramatically slows the rate at which your intestines transports all the sugar and calories (only about 100 calories or so depending on the size) to your bloodstream and organs. Also important is the fact that the fiber present will make the food stay in your stomach longer, which sends a signal for appetite suppressing hormones to be secreted, which in turn, makes you feel full and sated. And importantly, less likely to eat more than one apple or anything else afterwards. (Few can eat more than 2 at a time, and even that’s pushing it.)
Now contrast this with a cup of apple juice. The fiber is removed in the juicing process, and your body is assaulted by the unnatural event of having to deal with the fructose from three to four apples all at the same time as you can first of all drink juice a lot faster than you can eat fruit, and without the fiber present, drinking a cup of apple juice is easy, and most people can and do drink more than this at a sitting. This applies to ALL juices, whether you make it at home or if you pay more than you should for it at an expensive organic store or farmer’s market. Our bodies have had millions of years to evolve in tangent with fruit, (and vegetables as well), but the practice of making them into juices is very modern indeed, and our bodies simply are not adapted to having sugars delivered in liquid form. When you drink that cup of apple juice, the triple load of sugar will make blood sugar levels rise quickly, in turn forcing your pancreas to frantically pump more insulin out to bring blood sugar levels down. As we said before, our bodies have had millions of years to learn how to deal with the influx of sugar into our bodies from high fiber foods like fruit, but when the sugar is delivered so rapidly to your bloodstream, your pancreas reacts by producing more insulin that you need, since it isn’t really designed for this to be happening in the first place. That excess insulin then makes your blood sugar levels plummet, (while also placing you squarely in fat storage mode) which them makes you feel low on energy and absolutely ravenous. Making you crave either more apple juice, or any other calorie dense food to make your blood sugar levels go back up. Creating another vicious cycle that will make you more likely to gain weight and predispose you as well to metabolic disease. Commercial juices are even worse, as a standard glass of orange juice for example, is so processed that all the naturally occurring vitamins are destroyed. Consequently, to keep the nutrient profile the same, manufacturers put the vitamins back in by dissolving vitamin tablets into it. Not exactly the best first choice for the health conscious so always eat raw fruit instead!
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Sausages & Cold Cuts
All are highly processed meats and also very high in sodium. You would be much better off eating freshly cooked meat, chicken or fish. I would also add to this category the ubiquitous American breakfast food- bacon. High in fat, high in calories, high in sodium, not that high in protein, and also high in potentially cancer causing nitrites. It should be noted as well that recent studies have found that processed meats are responsible for increased risk of heart disease so it should certainly be on your stay away list- (Read my article on Should You Eat Meat here for more on processes meats and more.)
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Muffins
Another so called ‘health food’, commonly served at coffee shops for as a breakfast food and to make them more appealing, “bran muffins” are often sold as the idea is for the consumer to hear the word, “bran” which has health associations and believe that the bran makes it a high fiber product and thus is okay to eat. Unfortunately, bran is added to the mix, but if enough was added to really make a difference in the glycemic index of the muffin, it would be hard to eat even a whole one. And what profit based company is going to make a product that will make you eat less of it? The answer is none as even the mom and pop coffee shops and the organic pay-more ones make low fiber bran muffins, with fiber contents that are far too low to appreciably slow down the rate of sugar delivery to your bloodstream when you eat it. Bran muffins are one of those evil foods that give the consumer comfort in eating it due to the illusion of its potential health benefits, while pedalling an unhealthy product to the public. Regular muffins are just as bad, and with the high sugar, high calorie and low fiber content, by now you should be able to tell that they are not a healthy choice for breakfast. The only way a muffin would be acceptable would be if it was made with a stone ground flour, and a considerable amount of oat bran, which not make it look or taste anything like what the average man or woman at Starbucks would buy. So skip it!
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Protein Shakes
Another bad idea that sounds good; you drink a shake and get all the minerals and macronutrients you need for the day, case closed. However our bodies simply are not made for liquid foods, and you find that blood sugar levels still plummet later in the day as well. Which is a great thing if you happen to be in the protein shake manufacturing business- but isn’t that great for the rest of us). At the end of the day a protein shake is really nothing more than a glorified milkshake, and should not be in your diet if you are interested in getting into optimal shape. Protein shake supplement advertising is the main source of income for most health and fitness related websites and magazines the so don’t be surprised that they herald them as the greatest invention since the wheel. Read more on my article on Why Protein Shakes Are Bad For You here.
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Cold Cereal
All cold boxed cereal, from Kellogg’s to the whole grain varieties sold by the so called organic companies is junk food with no exceptions (and adding milk only adds to the problems!) The obvious ones like Frosted Flakes are easily spotted as being a bad choice, but popular brands like Wheaties, Healthy Choice and others are also bad examples, as are breakfast bars. It can say ‘all natural ingredients’, ‘organic’ or what not, but there is nothing in our food supply more alien than boxed cold cereals. You will never find a Wheatie or corn flake in nature and in order for any cereal of this nature to survive for prolonged periods they have to be highly processed which not only takes a ways the naturally occurring nutrients, but also creates a (you guessed it) low fiber food product that our body is not designed to consume. Many of these cereals also have corn syrup and large numbers of unpronounceable preservatives added to them but thanks to extensive marketing boxed cereal is accepted as a staple for many, especially kids and college students, but keep in mind that they are filled with preservatives and all of the vitamins and minerals you see listed are added by machines after the refinement process and will never be absorbed the way your body would from a fruit or naturally occurring food.
Most notably, they all have a high glycemic index which will set in motion that horrible cycle of rapid delivery of sugar tot he blood, followed by your pancreas making too much insulin to try to cope with the onslaught. Which then drops blood sugar and make you want to eat more cereal. From an economic point of view all of these refined foods are ingenious as they make you consume more of them, and by labeling them as healthy, natural and organic, manufacturers can not only increase sales, but also increase the prices as the public will pay more for a perceived healthier product. Read my article on the Economics of Obesity for more information on how the food industry makes us overeat, but if weight loss and health are important to you, skip the cereal and have some whole fruit.
Foods You Should Never Have for Breakfast: Instant Oatmeal
Oatmeal is high in fiber and cemented in the minds of many as a healthy food, and it is. However, cooking it can take some time and many people don’t like the texture very much, the answer is to refine the oatmeal by significantly reducing the fiber content, and we all know now what this does to your body and blood sugar) and add sugar and flavors to it. Making a more convenient version of a healthy food, that will do the exact opposite of what regular oatmeal would do in your body, and interestingly enough, the lower fiber content and added sugar means you get the blood sugar drop that will make you want to eat more. One of the most valuable aspects of having oatmeal for breakfast is that the fiber content sates you and makes it less likely for you to crave calorically dense foods afterwards, whereas instant oatmeal does just that!
Version of steel cut oatmeal laced with milk and or sugar don’t fare much better as the added milk and sugar transform it from a food you can rely on for your weight loss to one that is going to counter your efforts. Personally I recommend oat bran cereal, which is one of the best healthy choices for breakfast as it is higher in fiber than all forms of oatmeal. In the end, breakfast should be a meal high in protein and fiber which will make you feel less hungry for longer and thus eat less food overall compared to those who have sugary and starchy foods only for breakfast.  Thanks as always for reading!!!
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Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, Kevin Richardson is an award winning personal trainer, natural bodybuilding champion, creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Personal Training and one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City.
References for 10 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat For Breakfast:
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2. Ma Y, Bertone ER, Stanek EJ, Reed GW, Hebert JR, Cohen NL, Merriam PA, Ockene IS. Association between eating patterns and obesity in a free-living US adult population. Am J Epidemiol. 2003
3. Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J, Sharp T. The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992
4. Wood PA. How Fat Works. Harvard University Press 2009
5. Samuel VT Fructose induced lipogenesis: from sugar to fat to insulin resistance.Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2011
6. Small CJ, Bloom SR. Gut hormones and the control of appetite.Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2004
7. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, Purnell JQ. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005