Breakfast Habits to Avoid for Weight Loss After 50, Say Experts
Breakfast, the so-called "most important meal of the day," is often a nutritional disaster in the US. Instead of eating what we ate for dinner the day before like people in many other countries do (that is, proteins and fiber-rich vegetables), we Americans limit our choices to traditional "breakfast foods," many of which are so sugary, you can call them candy.
Nearly every registered dietitian and nutrition expert we queried about bad breakfast habits to break had the same advice: the number one thing you should stop doing after 50 is eating sugar for breakfast. Sugar-sweetened foods and those high in fast-burning carbohydrates that lack fiber quickly elevate blood sugar, kicking off a rollercoaster of cravings.
When you don't eat protein, fats, and fiber, which slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, your blood sugar can rise and fall at an abnormally rapid rate. "That causes you to crave more sugar and overeat later on," says Melissa Mitri, RD, a registered dietitian for Wellness Verge. Eating highly processed carbs like sugary cereals and the refined flour in white bread, bagels, and pastries for breakfast, she says, is one of the worst things you can do for weight loss and good health.
If you're 50 or over and want to drop pounds, experts advise you to avoid these other common breakfast habits that pack on belly fat. And when lunchtime comes around, check out these Best Soup Combinations for Faster Weight Loss.
Not eating protein
Skimping on protein for breakfast is never a good idea because protein keeps you full and satisfied, and helps control appetite all day long, says Mitri: "Protein is essential for people over 50, as it helps maintain lean muscle mass for a healthy metabolism." Some great breakfast sources of protein include eggs, plain Greek yogurt, nut butter, and cottage cheese.
"Granola is often touted as being 'natural,' 'low sodium,' 'non-GMO,' or 'gluten-free,' which sounds healthful, but read the ingredients label; granola is often loaded with sugar," says dietitian Jinan Banna, RD, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. "There are 13 grams of added sugars in a ¾-cup serving. It doesn't keep you feeling full and provides a lot of calories with few beneficial vitamins and minerals."
If you love granola, try these options instead: The World's 10 Healthiest Granolas
Not getting enough fiber
Break that habit by making sure your breakfast includes fruits and vegetables, which are naturally high in fiber and usually low in calories. "Fiber helps you maintain a healthy weight because it passes through the body undigested, contributing little in the way of calories," says Banna.
Skipping breakfast can have positive effects. Doing it as part of an intermittent fasting plan can help you to lose weight. But going for many hours without food after waking up can negatively impact your brain health and function, warns Trista Best, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian at Balance Once Supplements. "When glucose levels drop to a very low level, people experience brain fog, mental fatigue, and irritability," says Best. "Breakfast is a way to set the tone for how you will eat the rest of the day. A nutrient-rich breakfast will likely lead to better food choices in the rest of the day's meals."
Only drinking coffee
If your idea of breakfast is a cup of coffee, well, that's the same thing as skipping breakfast. It may be worse. "Coffee suppresses our hunger cues for a while, but then once it's digested, you may find yourself feeling like you're starving," says Mitri of Wellness Verge. "This makes it harder to control your portions and make good choices later in the day. You can still enjoy your morning cup of joe, but pair it with a balanced breakfast."
Grabbing a breakfast bar
Or a protein bar. Some protein bars, especially those made with chocolate and peanut butter, pack more calories and carbs than a candy bar, says Best. Take Gatorade Recover Peanut Butter Chocolate Whey Protein Bar, for example. It contains 360 calories, 25 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein. "As a general rule, the sugar in a healthy protein bar shouldn't be higher than its protein content," says Best.
Ditto for pancakes. Two homemade waffles or pancakes can pack around 50 grams of fast-burning carbs thanks to the refined white flour from which they are typically made. But don't forget step two before you start forking them into your mouth: You pour on the syrup, aka, liquid sugar. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 22 grams of added sugars and 110 calories, but come on, who uses just two tablespoons of the sweet stuff? What's more, most commercial syrups—we're looking at you Mrs. Butterworth—are made of high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, salt, and cane syrup. High levels of sugar, especially fructose from high fructose-laden pancake syrup, increase inflammation in the body, according to a study in Nature Communications.
Eating foods that age your skin
Typical American breakfast foods are notorious for accelerating sagging skin, which is already a concern after 50, so why add to accelerated aging with your breakfast? Anything made with refined white flour. Are you detecting a pattern here? French toast made with white bread, toast and jam, pancakes, breakfast breads, croissants, pastries.
"When we consume these foods, the elasticity in the skin can begin to take a toll, which leads to sagging," says nutritionist Lisa Richards, author of The Candida Diet. "One primary cause of aging is advanced glycation end products or AGEs, which form when proteins or fats become glycated when combined with sugar; they are in nearly all processed convenience foods." AGEs have been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis and damaging the structure and function of cells.
Visiting the drive-thru
Fast food tends to be high in calories, sodium, saturated fat, and sugar—all the things you don't want if you're trying to lose weight over 50. That's why dietitians strongly encourage eating more food at home. Instead, "eat 'real food' that comes from nature, not a box, can, or bag whenever possible," says registered dietitian nutritionist Laura Krauza, MS, LDN, of Waistline Dietitian. "Real food has the nutrients that the body's control panel can use to register hunger and fullness sensations, so you won't overeat."
Filling up a smoothie bowl
A smoothie bowl made with high-protein Greek yogurt can be a terrific breakfast for weight loss, except when you load it up with tons of toppings. Adding fruit, nuts, granola, and honey for sweetness can add up to hundreds of calories that you don't need if you're trying to drop pounds. Another bad habit is having a smoothie as your beverage with a full breakfast. "Adding smoothies to your meals may result in too many calories and weight gain," says Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian with MyNetDiary. Instead, drink a high-protein smoothie as your main meal to melt pounds.
Leaving home dehydrated
How many of you rush out the door in the morning after chugging coffee only? Fueling up on coffee only will set you up not only for hunger and concentration problems later on, but dehydration, says nutritionist Heather Hanks, MS, CAM, of Medical Solutions BCN. "Always balance your coffee intake with water so you're properly supporting your metabolism and digestion without getting dehydrated," she says.
You really can't call them coffee. "They are loaded with sugar and artificial colorings, flavors, and preservatives that are extremely dense with calories, leaving us hungry shortly after we drink them because of the lack of nutrients," says Silvia Carli, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning coach with 1AND1 LIFE. The same thing goes for fruit juices. They contain no fiber, so they won't contribute much to making you feel satisfied, she says. Always choose whole fruit over fruit juice, and real coffee, black preferably, over sweet coffee drinks.
Using artificial sweeteners
Dumping those colorful packets of non-nutritive sweeteners into your tea or coffee can backfire on the 50-plus body trying to shed some weight. "Having your taste buds start the day off super sweet is not ideal," warns registered dietitian Marissa Meshulam, MS, RD, CDN, owner of MPM Nutrition. "It sets your body up to crave sugar later on. Plus, when you are used to sipping on super sweet beverages, you won't find natural sugars, even fruit, as sweet anymore."
Read this next:
More content from Healthy Eating
- – The #1 Eating Habit Gwyneth Paltrow Swears By to Look and Feel Great at 50
- – The #1 Healthiest Nut To Eat as You Age, Says New Study
- – Eating Habits To Fast-Track Muscle Growth
- – 13 Cozy Breakfasts To Make This Fall
- – 9 Best High-Protein Snacks for Rapid Weight Loss
- – The Worst Eating Habit for Colon Cancer, New Study Suggests
- – 5 Eating Habits To Help Slow Muscle Aging
- – The One Nutrient You Are Probably Missing for Brain Health (and Foods That Have It)