Waking up isn’t always easy. For many of us, it’s tempting to repeatedly hit the snooze button before scrambling to snag a breakfast that barely passes as real sustenance.
A trip to the local coffeeshop may mean ordering a high-calorie caffeinated drink and a sugar-rich pastry to match. And those who do have the time to whip up a home meal might still be left wondering whether it’d disappoint their doctor.
For answers on what to avoid, Newsweek reached out to several celebrity dietitians and nutritionists to learn the one breakfast item that they’d recommend skipping.
Here’s a little hint: Sugar is a no-go.
It’s wise to welcome the day with a breakfast that isn’t drenched in sugar and unhealthy fat, according to Heather Wilson-Phillips, celebrity fitness and nutrition coach and on-air fitness and wellness expert.
“The No. 1 food items I see many women running to consume to start their day before they start working with me is a sugary latte with a muffin,” she wrote to Newsweek, adding that they’re packed with empty calories. “This combo will basically spike your blood sugar levels, give you a surge of energy that will last for awhile, but before you know it you’re back down (feeling like you crashed) and hungry, because there was no nutritional value attached to your breakfast.”
Registered dietitian Brooke Alpert told Newsweek that she’d also suggest steering clear of uber-sweet coffees and chai teas. Many of these drinks are loaded with added sugars, she said, making them “much more of a milkshake than they happen to be coffee.”
Alpert also warns against white flour food items “in disguise as proper breakfast foods.”
“So, let’s say you get a sugary coffee drink and then you’re getting a blueberry muffin, you’re really just eating a milkshake and a cupcake without the icing,” she said. “It’s really important that you have the protein, the fiber and fat for the nutrients that you need, but also to prevent yourself from overconsuming sugar.”
Mona Sharma, a celebrity nutritionist and wellness educator, told Newsweek that people often think of things like croissants and bagels as options for a quick breakfast. Similar to Wilson-Phillips and Alpert, though, she recommended eliminating refined sugars and processed foods.
Included on Sharma’s list of items to forgo are sugar-sweetened yogurts and granola, plus pastries and cereals. These typically result in a blood-sugar spike, she said.
“When we start our day like this, it kind of keeps us on this blood-glucose rollercoaster throughout the day,” Sharma said. She later added: “This is why people, come 10 or 11 [a.m.], will reach for a bigger coffee or have more cravings for sugary muffins and stuff like that. So we want to avoid that post-meal crash.”
All three experts were also aligned in what they’d suggest for breakfast: foods rich in protein and healthy fats.
Lately, Wilson-Phillips has been enjoying what she calls the “Protein Green Smoothie,” a nutrient-dense drink involving a plant-based protein powder.
Alpert sips on hot or iced coffee with CBD powder and eats something protein-heavy, be it a chia pudding, scrambled eggs or a slice of toast with peanut butter.
When Sharma’s on the go, she’ll gravitate toward a smoothie with vegan protein powder. Another option for her would be pasture-raised eggs with avocado.
Sharma advises people to veer from unhealthy food addictions, including from sugar.
“Once they break the cycle, I promise you: Stepping into this new way of eating—focusing on protein, good-quality fats and fiber-rich foods in the morning instead—it gets really easy,” she said. “You just have to break the addiction.”
Is there a health issue that’s worrying you? Do you have a question about nutrition? Let us know via [email protected]. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.