Tag Archives: Breakfast

5 Common Breakfast Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

If you find yourself in line for another iced coffee or nibbling on leftover office donuts at 10 AM, don’t blame your lack of willpower–blame your breakfast. With a little help from a balanced and wholesome mid-morning snack, breakfast should give you the energy to reach lunchtime; but many Americans feel famished and fatigued far before then. Take a look at your breakfast and make sure you’re not making these mistakes:

1. Not eating breakfast at all

According to a report from the USDA, 93% of American believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day–but only 44% of Americans actually eat it! Breakfast jump starts your metabolism; without it, you’re fasting for 15-20 hours, which hinders the production of fat-metabolizing enzymes. But it does more than that: breakfast-eaters have lower cholesterol levels, feel more energized, perform better on cognition and memory tests, and have better blood sugar levels. And if you’re skipping breakfast to cut calories (or “save” them for later), heed this: people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely than their breakfast-eating peers to be overweight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks people who have lost and maintained a 30 pound-or-more weight loss for over a year, 80% of their members eat breakfast every single day. If that’s not enough to convince you to start eating breakfast, consider this: according to a study from the Dairy Research Institute, those who skip breakfast consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soft drinks, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than those who ate their morning meal.

2. Not eating enough protein

Typical breakfast foods are made of refined carbohydrates: processed breakfast cereal, a bagel with jam, a muffin, a breakfast bar. But the convenience of these grab-and-go carbs is overshadowed by their lack of quality protein; at most, you’re likely getting 2-5 grams of incomplete protein. Adding just a little high-quality protein to your breakfast–a handful of nuts or a hardboiled egg, for example–might be the key to boosting your breakfast: research from the University of Missouri found that eating a high protein breakfast increases satiety and reduces cravings throughout the day. And even if you’re increasing the overall calorie content of your breakfast overall, it likely won’t hinder your diet efforts, either: people who eat a high-protein breakfast reportedly eat 200 fewer calories throughout the day. Look beyond eggs: add an ounce of smoked salmon to your English muffin (5.2 grams of protein), serve your cereal over one cup of cottage cheese (28 grams), or add some Canadian bacon to a breakfast sandwich (12 grams per two ounces).

High Protein Breakfasts

3. Not eating enough fiber

Another nutrient that most of those cereals, bagels, and muffins are missing? Fiber. The three most commonly eaten breakfast cereals in America (Cheerios, Special K, and Honey Bunches of Oats) each have less than three grams of fiber per serving (Special K has zero grams!); bagels and muffins have even less. But fiber is just as important as protein in a healthy breakfast: it reduces hunger and boosts satiety by slowing the rate of digestion and maintaining steady blood sugar levels. Fiber has a myriad of other health benefits, too: it helps lower cholesterol levels, boosts digestive and cardiovascular health, and may reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. If your heart is set on cereal, look for brands with at least five grams of fiber. Keeping that in mind, look for naturally occurring or intact fibers, like those found in whole grains or oats. Avoid “isolated” or “functional” fibers, like polydextrose, inulin, oat fibers, or soy fibers, which have been extracted from plants or manufactured in a lab and may not carry the same health benefits. To get extra fiber outside of the cereal box, look to fruits, vegetables, whole oats and other grains, nuts, and seeds.

Fiber Boosters

4. Not eating enough (or any) fat

You might be noticing a pattern at this point: that a healthy breakfast should include all three macronutrients (protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and fat). Besides being absolutely necessary for everyday functioning (it’s a component of myelin, the material that sheaths nerve cells, as well as brain tissue, Healthy Fats to Add to your Breakfasthormones and other biochemicals, and it helps protect our organs), fat is required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. But adding a little healthy fat to your diet boosts satiety: in addition to adding craving-crushing flavors and texture (you can thank fat for the creaminess of an egg yolk), it increases the amount of GLP-1, a gut hormone that increases fullness and suppresses appetite, in your blood. In a 2008 study published in the journal Appetite, overweight and obese volunteers who supplemented their diet with 1300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids experienced fewer hunger sensations immediately following and two hours after test meals. If you’re eating skim milk or nonfat yogurt now, switch over to 1 or 2%; the difference in calories is negligible, especially when you factor in the added satiety. Or simply add a handful of nuts or seeds (try flaxseed and chia seeds) to your favorite breakfast.

5. Not eating the right breakfast for you

According to a 2008 study, individuals who ate a 610-calorie breakfast shed more weight–and kept that weight off for longer–than individuals who ate a breakfast with 290 calories. But according to a 2011 study, all participants ate the same amount of calories later in the day, regardless of the amount of calories they had consumed at breakfast–meaning that those who ate a large breakfast consumed more calories overall. Either way, it seems like eating the right breakfast for your body is what’s key: just because a study says that a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs–or a light breakfast of blueberries and almonds–will aid in weight loss doesn’t meant that it’s the right breakfast for your lifestyle and body. So if it takes a 600-calorie breakfast to feel energized, go for it: just go for whole, unprocessed foods with a balance of protein, fiber, and fat, and think about downsizing your other meals. If you prefer light breakfasts, just make sure to eat enough to prevent cravings and overeating later in the day. And if you can’t stomach a big enough breakfast to keep you going until lunch, try eating two small breakfasts.



7 Ways to Stay Healthy During Holiday Travel

Whether you’re in for a long car trip or a cross-country flight, the holiday season is an especially important time to maintain your healthy eating diet. Thanksgiving and Christmas offer little wiggle room already, so to ensure that you get to eat your favorite holiday foods (stuffing! Mashed potatoes! Eggnog!) without gaining weight, make it a point to eat super healthy during holiday travel.

1. Eat before you travel. Even if you have a 5AM wakeup call, make sure to give yourself enough time to eat a healthy, homemade breakfast. No need to whip up a bunch of whole wheat pancakes — just aim for around 350 calories of fiber- and protein-rich fare. Healthy picks to try: scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast and almond butter; Greek yogurt with whole wheat cereal and berries; or a wafflewich with almond butter, cinnamon and sliced apples.

2. If you don’t have enough time to eat breakfast before takeoff, pick the right foods at the airport. Starbucks and other coffee shops are serving up especially tempting treats this time of year like their Holiday Gingerbread and Pumpkin Scone. But each serves up 440 calories and 52 grams of sugar and 480 calories and 43 grams of sugar, respectively. Even seemingly healthy choices, like the 8-Grain Roll, packs far too many carbs (67!) for any meal. At Starbucks and other coffee shops, skip the bakery case and opt for an egg and turkey bacon sandwich (320 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g fiber, 18 g protein) or simple instant oatmeal.

3. Speaking of Starbucks, beware of holiday seasonal drinks. Starbucks has officially unveiled its Winter lineup, featuring the Caramel Brulée Latte, Eggnog Latte and Gingerbread Latte. Each 16 ounce drink packs around 410 calories, 13 g fat (8 of them are saturated), 70 g carbs, 63 g sugar, and 4 g protein. Coffee and tea are the best choices for a morning caffeine boost, but if you can’t stomach black coffee or unsweetened tea, pick an unflavored latte or cappuccino made with nonfat milk (and hold the whipped cream).

4. Pack snacks. Bringing along healthy snacks are another way to avoid buying overpriced and unhealthy airport or gas station snacks. Traveling is no excuse to fall prey to packaged and processed snacks; it’s just as easy to throw an apple into your carry-on as it is a bag of chips. Pack travel-friendly fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, berries, carrots, snap peas, and sliced bell peppers for a fiber boost; add nuts for satiating protein and healthy fats. Plus, nuts have been shown to reduce the glycemic index of a meal, which will keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable. For longer flights, pack your own meal: think sandwiches, bean- and grain-based salads, and hummus and chopped vegetables. Be wary of in flight snack boxes, which often contain seemingly healthy components but add up to far too many calories and sodium.

5. If you must eat at the airport or on the plane, try to look up nutritional information. Many airport meals are deceptively high in calories, fat, and sodium; looking up nutritional information beforehand, at the restaurant, or on your phone will help you make the most informed and healthy decision. Apps like RestaurantNutrition and Nutrition Lookup allow you to look up nutritional information for popular restaurants; GateGuru lets you look up which restaurants are in your terminal or gate. Similarly, for road trips, iExit tells you which restaurants are at upcoming exits.

6. Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated might be one of the easiest ways to fight hunger pangs, as hydration is often mistaken for hunger. Hydration is especially important when you fly: not only does dry cabin air wreak havoc on your skin, but toxins tend to build up faster at altitude when you’re dehydrated. This results in an upset in homeostasis, which may throw off your metabolism and adds unnecessary stress to your body. Sip on water; if that’s too boring, flavor it with lemon (ask for a few wedges from the flight attendant or a bar). For more flavor, skip sugary sodas, juices and coffee and pick unsweetened green tea, coconut water or kombucha.

7. Pack a treat. If you know you’ll be far too seduced by the smell of Cinnabon, a sprinkle-covered donut from Dunkin’ Donuts or king sized candy bar from the bookstore, skip temptation altogether by packing your own portion-controlled treat. A few squares of dark chocolate is the perfect replacement for a sweets craving — and is a far healthier choice than the 880-calorie Cinnabon or 440-calorie king size Snickers bar. As a bonus, dark chocolate is an excellent source of flavanols, antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and Type II Diabetes. Your treat doesn’t have to be dark chocolate, though: as long as it’s portion controlled, it’s still a better choice than airport desserts.

Eat Your Breakfast: No Excuses!

Breakfast is far too important — and delicious! — to skip. Yet around 25% of Americans regularly skip what most nutritionists call the most important meal of the day! Breakfast is vital for providing energy at the beginning of the day, boosting cognitive performance and jumpstarting the metabolism, but also plays a huge role in weight loss and control: a study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that people who regularly skip breakfast are 450% more likely to become obese than those who regularly eat breakfast. In addition, skipping breakfast may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors later in the day: studies have found that breakfast-skippers consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soda, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than breakfast-eaters.

So now matter what situation you’re in — you’re not hungry in the morning, you don’t have time — there’s a breakfast for you. No excuses!

I don’t have enough time.

If time is always an issue in the morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy bars to grab on your way out the door. Look for bars with at least 3 grams of protein and fiber, as well as healthy fats from nuts and seeds, which have been shown to reduce the glycemic index of a meal and stabilize blood sugar. Because most healthy bars clock in around 200 calories, it’s a good idea to supplement the bar with a fiber- and nutrient-rich serving of fruit or a protein-rich latte. Some good options are KIND bars, which have at least 5-7 grams of protein and fiber, Regeneration USA bars, and Zing bars. If you still want a homemade meal, take some time on Sunday to whip up freezable burritos (made with a whole wheat tortilla, eggs, beans, and salsa) or frittatas, and grab one on the way out the door.

I’m not hungry in the morning.

Many adults complain that they have no appetite in the morning; for some, even the thought of breakfast can bring on nausea. Since breakfast literally “breaks your nightly fast,” it’s important to get something into your system. Try a smoothie: since you’re drinking it — not eating it — it may be easier to hold down. Break away from the typical sugar-laden smoothies, though; add ingredients like Greek yogurt for protein, oatmeal for fiber, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids. Try these smoothie recipes from Women’s Health Magazine (including “The Hunger Killer,” made with strawberries, mango, flax seed oil, and tofu) and Shape Magazine.

Also, try to start training your body to be hungry in the morning. If you eat dinner late (say, after 8 o’clock), move it up a few hours. If you like to treat yourself to a midnight snack, start scaling back that habit. It’s okay to go to bed a little bit hungry!

I work out in the morning.

Since you need fuel before a workout and muscle-repairing protein after one, it’s best to split breakfast into two parts. Since most of the energy from dinner the night before has already been used up, your blood sugar is likely low. Pick a mini breakfast with carbohydrates, which will top off glycogen (the fuel you use for exercise) stores, as well as some protein or fat, which will both enhance the lasting power of those carbs. Try whole wheat toast with almond or peanut butter, a banana with almond or peanut butter, a small bowl of oatmeal, or Greek yogurt with whole grain cereal. After your workout, pick another mini breakfast with a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Carbs will provide energy, and protein will help repair muscles. Make sure to eat within 30 minutes after your workout; the small window is when protein is maximally absorbed. Some post-workout mini breakfasts: two scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast; Greek yogurt with berries or whole wheat cereal; chocolate milk and whole wheat toast; or a peanut butter sandwich.

I need something to last me until lunch.

For lasting power through lunch, pick protein-rich eggs and high-fiber oatmeal. According to a study from Louisiana State University, the specific proteins found in eggs help keep us full more than other common breakfast foods. In the study, those who ate eggs instead of a breakfast of cereal (with equal amounts of protein) had lower levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and higher levels of PYY, a hormone that boosts satiety. Oatmeal, which is loaded with fiber, provides energy and keeps blood sugar levels stable. Add some nuts as the final punch to your hunger: the monounsaturated fats reduce feelings of hunger and also boast cardioprotective benefits.

I eat breakfast with my kids and don’t want to make two breakfasts.

Don’t settle for sugary kids’ cereal — for you or your children. Many brands pack more sugar than a cookie, says the Environmental Working Group. For a breakfast that takes just as little time to prepare, but is much more nutritious, whip up some wafflewiches: toast a whole grain waffle, smear it with almond butter and sliced apples, and fold. With far less sugar, more fiber and healthy fats, it’s a better breakfast whether you’re headed to elementary school or the corporate office.

I don’t like breakfast foods.

If you’re not a fan of typical breakfast foods — eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies — but you’re still hungry, just treat breakfast like you would a healthy lunch. It’s not convention to have a turkey sandwich or stir-fry for dinner, but if it works for you, go full speed ahead! Just keep it between 350 and 400 calories of high quality protein and belly-filling fiber, and throw in some nuts, seeds, or avocado for healthy fats.

I want to lose weight.

First, say goodbye to the much-believed but mythical mantra that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight. Members who belong to the National Weight Control Registry, who have successfully kept off 30 or more pounds for over a year, regularly eat breakfast. And because breakfast-eaters are satiated early on in the day, they tend to consume fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. Pick eggs: since they keep you satiated for longer, you’re less likely to binge or snack on high-calorie treats. According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, participants who ate eggs lost 65% more weight than those who consumed the same number of calories from bagels. Add a slice of whole wheat toast for sticking power, and sip on green tea; compounds in the brew have been shown to rev metabolism.

I love breakfast and my appetite is in full force in the morning!

As long as you stick to a reasonably sized breakfast, you’re in the clear. Even if you love breakfast foods, it’s important to keep portion sizes in check: a study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate large breakfasts — around 600 calories — did not reduce their calorie consumption for the rest of day, leading them to eat around 400 calories more overall than those who ate a small breakfast. Choose a breakfast with around 350-400 calories (or split it into two smaller 200-calorie portions), and make sure it contains protein and fiber.

30 Days to Better Health: Part II

8. Switch out a glass of fruit juice for a piece of fruit. Even if your fruit juice of choice is made of 100% fruit juice and doesn’t contain added sweeteners, whole fruit is still a better choice. Compare an apple and apple juice: one apple has 77 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of sugar; one cup of apple juice has 114 calories, 0 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of sugar. The juice has been stripped of all its hunger-quashing fiber found in the pith, skin, and flesh, and it’s also packed with more sugar. And in terms of the apple, the peel contains the bulk of antioxidants, like muscle-building ursolic acid, that you would otherwise miss out on.

9. Instead of bottled salad dressings, try salsa and a splash of olive oil. Bottled salad dressings often contain preservatives, unnecessary sugars, and chemical additives. In a condiment that should really contain two or three real, whole-food ingredients, additives like calcium disodium EDTA (currently being investigated for mutagenic and reproductive effects), sodium benzoate (linked to hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children), and MSG (a possible cause of chronic headaches) are all too common. Bottled dressings span a huge caloric range; some are ridiculously hypercaloric, while other fat-free varieties have five calories per serving. These low-calorie and low-fat varieties aren’t necessarily a healthier choice though. Fat-soluble vitamins in many greens and vegetables require fats to be absorbed by the body; by eating them without fats, their nutritional value drops significantly. For a healthy and flavorful dressing, add a couple dollops of salsa, along with a couple drops of olive oil, to your salad. Not only will you add another serving of vegetables to your meal, you’ll avoid dangerous and sugary fillers.

10. Order an appetizer instead of an entree. Dining out can be dangerous because of the huge serving sizes restaurants are churning out. Many chefs admit to making entrees that are two to four times as big as a normal portion; a 2002 study found that restaurant steaks are 144% bigger than the USDA’s recommended serving size and a muffin is an astonishing 233% bigger. Since appetizers are smaller than entrees, they’re generally safer picks simply because they have less calories. They’re also a good choice because they’re often not weighed down by hefty sides like mashed potatoes, fries, or macaroni and cheese. Beware appetizers like fried mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and nachos; these greasy, fried meals have little nutritional value and often, lots of saturated and trans fats. Stick to fresh protein-based apps like shrimp cocktail and chicken kebabs, and get your vegetable fix with a side salad or soup. Bonus: research has shown that broth-based soups help diners to consume fewer calories later in the meal.

11. Eat like a kid. Because of their smaller size, kids naturally eat fewer calories than adults. So what’s usually a small meal for them can actually be a healthy snack for you: since their meals are based off of whole, nutritious foods, you can avoid typical snacks that offer only refined carbohydrates and sugar, like chips, cookies, and snack bars. The common elementary school lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be transformed into a satisfying and energizing midday snack; make it healthier by using whole grain bread and bananas instead of jelly. Some other snacks ideas to borrow: cheese cubes, celery sticks and almond butter, and turkey-and-lettuce roll-ups. Take another cue from the kids: eat only when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full!

12. Ask for the sauce on the side. If the sauce is cream, oil, cheese, or otherwise fat-based, ask for it on the side. This trick will work with pretty much any dish except pasta (pasta dishes like Fettuccine Alfredo depend on their sauce for flavor and texture, and asking for sauce on the side is essentially like asking for a clump of sticky noodles). But for other dishes – salads, chicken, steak, fish, burgers, tacos – the lack of a sauce or dressing doesn’t compromise the meal. For items like burgers and tacos, where the fatty sauce (mayonnaise, aioli, or crema) is usually spread on the bun or tortilla before it’s assembled, simply forgo it and use ketchup, mustard, salsa, and guacamole for flavoring. If it’s absolutely necessary, spread on a thin layer yourself. For salads, chicken, steak, and fish dishes, asking for sauce or dressing on the side allows you to control exactly how much of it you use. Salads are often too overdressed and oily anyway; chicken and steak are flavorful enough without a fatty sauce; and fish is too delicate in taste to be slathered in sauce to the point of unrecognizability.

13. Pick eggs over a bagel. Americans grow up eating cereal for breakfast; come adulthood, we usually switch to grab-and-go options like bagels, pastries, or bars that are equally carb-ridden. And that’s if we even eat breakfast at all! A study published in the International Journal of Obesity compared men who ate a breakfast of two eggs and men who ate equally-caloric breakfast of a bagel. Researchers observed that the egg-eaters consumed 112 fewer calories at a lunch buffet three hours after breakfast and 400 fewer calories in the 24 hours following breakfast. Moreover, men who ate the bagel breakfast showed significantly elevated levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger. If you’re not a fan of eggs, try eating your cereal with Greek protein, which has double the protein of plain varieties, or make a breakfast sandwich with smoked salmon and cream cheese or lean meat and cheese. Nuts and seeds also add a significant protein source.

14. Use a food scale to see how much you’re really eating. Because of our fast food culture of supersizing, many Americans don’t know what an actual portion should look like. Even the food depictions in the painting Last Supper suffer from portion distortion: a researcher found that renditions of the painting showed 23% bigger bread loaves and 65% larger plates. To get reacquainted with correct portion sizes, measure out all the food you eat for a day. This will give you an idea of what you’re currently eating as well as show you what portions you should be eating. As a simple guide, meat and fish portions should be about the size of the palm of your hand; one serving of cheese is the size of three dominoes; a serving of vegetables is the size of a baseball; a piece of bread or bagel should resemble the size of a hockey puck; and cooked rice or pasta should be the size of a scoop of ice cream. By editing your current conceptions of portion sizes, you’ll get a better understanding of which foods you should be eating more of – and which foods you should be eating less of.

Keep reading for week three!