The foods you eat for breakfast can make or break your day. Success — from your energy levels to your workouts — is often measured by how you start your morning, says Adam Kelinson, a professional chef, endurance athlete, and author of The Athlete’s Plate. So with the right combo of fibre, protein, and healthy fats, breakfast has the potential to be a powerhouse meal.
So what exactly should that look like? Opt for breakfast items that include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and protein, says Alexandra Oppenheimer Delvito, R.D., C.D.N. This includes foods like oatmeal, berries, spinach and onion omelettes, and Greek yogurt.
Aim for a meal with 25 to 30 grams of protein and at least 3 grams of fibre. Look for healthy fats, like those found in nuts or avocado. If you’re going to sweeten things up, go for small doses of naturally occurring sugars, like honey, says Keri Gans, R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet.
So now that you know what breakfast foods fit the bill, it’s time to break down the ones that don’t. Here, the breakfast foods you should avoid and what to jumpstart your day with instead.
Any white bread will have a tough time competing with its whole grain alternative.
“Typically made of low-fibre refined grains, bagels are often quite large, providing half of your daily grain needs in just one meal,” explains Delvito. White bagels also have a higher glycemic index, meaning they’ll spike your blood sugar faster, leaving you susceptible to that gnarly mid-afternoon crash.
Instead of opting for your usual toasted sesame with cream cheese, upgrade your morning meal by amping up the nutrition and sizing down your portions. “Choose a bagel made with whole grains and scoop out the center to make room for a healthy filling like cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, or avocado,” suggests Delvito.
Even the supposedly “healthy” cereals can be sugar bombs in disguise. Don’t immediately fall for the “whole grains” stamp on the box. Take a look at the ingredients list and make sure sugar doesn’t occupy the first spot.
“Cereals run the spectrum from fiber-filled to sugar overload,” says Delvito. “Leave no box unturned when comparing cereals. Look for those higher in fiber and lower in sugar.” Ideally, your cereal should have at least 5 grams of fibre and less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Fibre slows your digestion, which helps keep your energy levels more stable.
Don’t worry so much about the protein content of the cereal itself. Boost it by enjoying with milk, Greek yogurt, nuts, or seeds, says Delvito.
LOW-FAT YOGHURT WITH FRUIT
Fruit and yoghurt? “On the surface it seems like this is a good way to start the day, and it’s definitely better than a lot of other options,” explains Kelinson.
That said, this quick meal is full of simple sugars that your body will burn through for energy quickly, he says. The lack of fat in the yogurt will leave you feeling hungry, too.
Instead, Delvito recommends opting for protein-packed Greek yogurt topped with berries. Add a bit of whole grain granola or cereal for some extra fibre (again, read your labels here) and walnuts for a boost in protein and satiating healthy fat.
Donuts, scones, and croissants aren’t exactly made to fuel your body. They’re simply designed to taste good, says Kelinson.
Because they lack fibre and protein and are packed with sugar and excess calories, breakfast pastries will always leave you looking for more food well before lunchtime hits, says Delvito, potentially causing you to overeat throughout your day.
There are times you might want to treat yourself to something sweet, especially if you have a coworker who can’t help but bring in a box of pastries for the office. Be smart about it: “If you’re going to have a pastry or donut, only have half,” says Delvito. Make the rest of your meal count by having some eggs paired with fruits and vegetables.
COFFEE AND NOTHING ELSE
You might not feel hungry in the morning after eating late at night — but that’s no excuse to skip actual food and reach for a solo cold brew.
Coffee may be loaded with health benefits on its own, but it won’t serve you any filling nutrients, leaving you unsatisfied. “You’ll be starving during your 10 a.m. meeting,” says Delvito.
Make sure to pair your a.m. caffeine with actual food, ideally a meal that includes some protein and vegetables, like a breakfast burrito stuffed with vegetables like tomato and spinach, she says.
If all you have time for is a drink, make it a shake. Blend together one cup of plain Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, a small banana, and a teaspoon of honey, suggests Gans. Add in a scoop of protein powder if you know you won’t have time to snack.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.