9 Breakfast Foods You Should Never Buy

Don’t start your day off on the wrong foot.

July 15, 2016
sugary cereal
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You know that whole "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" thing? Well, there's a catch: Simply eating something for your morning meal isn’t good enough to get you going and keep your energy levels high throughout the day.

“The ideal breakfast contains a whole grain carbohydrate, a protein, and fresh fruit or vegetable,” says Laura Manning, MPH, RD, CDN, and clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital. “The perfect example is a bowl of whole grain oats with chopped walnuts and blueberries.”

But too often we reach for sweet foods like frosted cereals and packaged pastries that are lacking in nutrition (and may also be contributing to increasing rates of obesity in the U.S., adds Manning). Steer clear of these breakfast favorites, which nutritionists say are sure to get your day off on the wrong foot. (Want the freshest breakfast possible? Grow your own! On just a quarter-acre of land, you can produce fresh, organic food for a family of four—year-round. Rodale's The Backyard Homestead shows you how; get your copy today!)

Related: A Month’s Worth Of Crazy-Good Breakfast Recipes

smoothies
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Packaged Smoothies

If your morning smoothie comes in a bottle, you’re loading up on extra sugar you don’t need. “Premade smoothies often contain a large amount of fruit and sometimes sweeteners, making the sugar content quite high,” says registered dietician Kaitlin Williams, MPH, RD, LD at Rebecca Bitzer and Associates in Maryland. Instead, she recommends homemade smoothies that include healthy proteins like yogurt, cottage cheese, or hemp hearts to cut the sugar. Adding in veggies will give you a low-sugar nutrient boost, too.

Related: The Only 4 Smoothie Recipes You'll Ever Need

delicious looking bacon
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Breakfast Meats

Save your bacon for an occasional (read: not everyday) morning treat. “Breakfast meats such as bacon, country ham, and sausage are all high in sodium, which can actually stimulate your appetite and thirst mechanism, making you want to eat more,” says Cristina Caro, RD, LD, a registered dietitian with campus dining services company Sodexo Universities. The salt-heavy foods could also potentially trigger increased high blood pressure and headaches.

Related: 12 Foods That Might Kill You Before Bacon Does

blueberry breakfast bar
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Breakfast Bars

Breakfast bars are touted as the perfect on-the-go morning meal, but they’ll often leave you feeling unsatisfied. “While convenient, these are typically loaded with sugar and simple carbohydrates that won't provide enough sustained energy to get you through the morning,” says Justin Heaton, RD, CSSD, LDN, the campus dietitian for Temple University in Philadelphia. 

sugary cereal
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Sugary Cereals

Don’t be lured by packaged cereal that claims to be full of vitamins and minerals—always check the sugar content before buying. “Highly sweetened breakfast cereals may appear to be nutritious due to added vitamins and the fact that they’re consumed with calcium-rich milk,” says Mindy Haar, Ph.D, director of program development for New York Institute of Technology’s Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. “Actually, they’re low in fiber and many people eat a lot more than the serving size listed on the label, meaning you’re getting more sugar than you think.” 

sports drink
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Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are in no way part of a balanced breakfast. On really rough mornings, you may be tempted to crack one open to get you going, but it’s only going to make things worse. “These drinks are loaded with sugar and caffeine,” Williams says. “While you may feel a surge of energy immediately afterward, it usually ends in a crash. You're much better off with a nutritious, balanced breakfast that will help sustain you throughout the day.” (Instead, try one of these 7 foods that wake you up better than coffee.)

yogurt
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Flavored, Low-Fat Yogurt

Many people don’t realize that buying yogurt with added fruit also means added sugar, says Gary Appelsies, a certified holistic health coach and director of healthy eating at the YMCA of Central Florida. He also notes that low-fat isn’t actually your best choice for cutting morning calories—you should go Greek instead. “Switching out your low-fat yogurt for Greek will cut back on sugar, kick up the protein, and decrease sodium by more than half. In fact, Greek yogurt gives you approximately 38 percent of your daily protein, which is about the same as you would get from 3 ounces of beef,” he says. Appelsies recommends buying plain yogurt and then adding in your favorite toppings like berries, nuts, and seeds. That way, you’ll boost the nutritious factor even more and you’ll know exactly what you’re eating. 

donuts
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Anything Made With Refined Carbs

Sorry, but doughnuts and pastries are not breakfast foods. Sugary frosting aside, they have zero protein—let alone any other nutritious qualities. “Highly processed carbohydrates—like sweet cereals, pound cake, muffins, pastries, and bagels—can raise blood sugars and then cause them to drop, making you crave even more sugary foods,” explains Manning.

Related: 11 Weird Things Sugar Does To Your Body

frappuccino
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Frappuccinos

If you require a caffeine fix in the morning, get it the old-fashioned way with a simple cup of joe. Specialty coffee drinks like frappuccinos are loaded with sugar and calories that aren’t doing you any favors. “They’re merely dressed up milkshakes,” Haar says. “One of these can contain up to a third of the calories and saturated fat you should have in a day.”

premade breakfast sandwich
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Premade Breakfast Sandwiches

They may be handy, but they’re definitely not healthy. Sure, you get protein from the egg, meat, and cheese, but the meats are typically processed (see above), and the sandwiches are high in grease. “Biscuits and breakfast sandwiches, including fast food and frozen varieties, are high in fat and low on fiber, which facilitates sluggishness and lack of concentration throughout the day,” warns Caro.

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