The breakfast choices you make in the morning can either set you up for success or derail your healthy efforts for the rest of the day. For instance, there are some sneaky little breakfast foods you’d be shocked to learn can really pack in the calories and contribute to unwanted weight gain. We spoke with the experts who call out five surprising breakfast foods that can destroy your waistline so you can leave them out of your morning routine. Keep reading to learn more, and next up, don’t miss the 10 Worst Protein-Packed Foods for Weight Loss.
Ah, how you look forward to sipping a piping hot cup of joe in the morning. But beware of what’s really going into your cup, because unnecessary, unhealthy ingredients can add up real quick. For instance, whether you head to your favorite local joint or your home coffee bar, heavy cream and artificial sweeteners can turn your coffee into a mug of empty calories.
“Most specialty coffees are full of sugar and calories and can lead to weight gain if consumed on the regular,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, a nutritionist in private practice, and a member of our Medical Expert Board. “Consuming coffee with heavy cream and/or artificial sweeteners has been linked to weight gain and abdominal obesity. Moreover, highly caloric drinks with a ton of added sugar have little to no nutrients.”
Coffee can be a beneficial addition to your morning, so long as you drink it right. “Coffee is calorie-free and packed with antioxidants, and may even help to prevent diabetes, depression, and support weight management,” The Nutrition Twins®, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, explain. But hold the hefty dose of cream! “One-quarter cup of cream will set you back 200 calories, and if you add a little more than that, and have two cups of coffee in the morning, that’s enough calories to pack on one pound of weight on your body each week,” The Nutrition Twins add.
Instead, opt for unsweetened almond milk or skim milk to save yourself hundreds of calories during the week. And if you’re really craving something sweet, consider adding cinnamon for a warm and sweet flavor in each sip.
You may be very surprised to see oatmeal on this list. While oatmeal for breakfast is a stellar way to get your fill of fiber and it’s packed with nutrients (especially if you opt for steel-cut oats), many people consume an entire bowl not knowing how many servings are actually in that bowl. “[They then] add fruit like raisins or a banana and some brown sugar,” The Nutrition Twins say. “While this can be filling, it’s easy to get over 500 calories of straight carbs that are digested in just a few hours, leaving you hungry while also causing an insulin surge that shuts down fat burning and contributes to weight gain around the belly.”
In other words, be mindful of your portion sizes. The Nutrition Twins suggest having one or one-and-a-half servings of oatmeal (about ¾ cup). Pair it with half a banana and protein such as eggs or yogurt to avoid a blood sugar spike and insulin surge, along with sugar cravings that happen shortly after “a straight shot of carbs.”
Let’s get one thing straight: Eggs enjoyed on their own are a stellar breakfast option if you’re looking to lose weight. “They rank high on the food satiety scale, are a good source of satisfying protein, low in calories, and even pack in nutrients like choline and vitamin D, which aren’t found in many foods,” The Nutrition Twins explain. “The problem comes in when they’re scrambled in butter and oil. People innocently pour oil or slap butter in their pans, unknowingly adding hundreds of excess calories. We see this with our clients frequently, and as soon as they’re made aware of it, they drop pounds.”
Don’t ditch eggs altogether—simply pour some oil into a spray bottle, and spray it onto the pan instead. This way, you know for sure you’re not overdoing it, as the bottle disperses the oil but doesn’t sacrifice flavor.
Scones, croissants, and muffins are just a few breakfast pastries that can give you unwanted belly fat, as they’re highly processed and chock-full of refined carbs (which are associated with weight gain). In addition, Young explains, “Pastries contain a lot of added sugars and are caloric with little to no nutritional value, making this an extremely unhealthy breakfast choice. Some cafes offer healthier options such as homemade products made with healthy ingredients and fruit like bananas instead of sugar.”
Your favorite breakfast cereal may be to blame for an expanding waistline. According to Young, “These cereals are full of added sugar and refined carbohydrates. This can definitely add girth to your waistline as added sugar is correlated with an increase in visceral fat tissue.” So the next time you head to the grocery store, look for cereals that don’t contain any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.