As a collective population, Americans are tired about as often as a cuddly animal video goes viral on Facebook. So, yeah; we’re tired, like, all the time. In fact, according to leading statistics company Statista, 45 percent of U.S. citizens report feeling sleepy up to three times per week—even those who clock seven to eight hours of shut-eye per evening. (That’s the recommended amount!)
A night of tossing and turning could be to blame, sure. But if you regularly feel zonked, your diet may be the issue. As it turns out, there are a number of popular breakfast staples that have the power to drain us of our energy before we even have the chance to fully wake up. Pretty counterproductive, right?
If any of the foods below regularly show up on your plate, it’s time to make some changes to your a.m. menu with the help of these 17 Genius Breakfast Ideas Diet Experts Love!
Try to swallow this: One bagel contains as many nutrient-void carbs as four slices of bread. Carbs give you energy so that’s a good thing, right? Not so fast. Empty carbs, like bagels, are lacking fiber and protein, two nutrients needed to slow down the digestion of carbs and keep you energized long after you’ve finished your breakfast.
Eat This Instead: If ditching the bagel all together isn’t an option, switch to a whole grain variety and vow to only eat half. Pair your starchy carb pillow with a protein shake or two eggs and a few slices of avocado for some much-needed satiating fiber and energizing protein.
Greek yogurt is a protein-filled source of healthy probiotics (live bacteria that cleanse the digestive tract) but if you’re buying yogurt filled with high fructose corn syrup or globs of sugar it could be to blame for your perpetual lethargy. While sugar may give you an initial energy surge, once the sweet stuff makes it way through your body, it can decrease the activity of orexin cells, which regulate an array of mental properties including arousal and wakefulness. This may explain why you feel like you need to go back to sleep right after you’ve polished off your morning yogurt parfait.
Eat This Instead: Toss out the sugar-loaded stuff and switch to one of these 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss.
Fluffy stacks of pancakes may be what weekend dreams are made of, but if you eat too many they’ll make you want to climb back into bed. The reason: They’re basically 100 percent carbs—and void of any fiber or protein. Since our bodies change carbohydrates into sugar, you’ll experience a major sugar crash once the initial high wears off.
Eat This Instead: Look for pancake mixes with equal amounts of sugar and protein and don’t be too heavy-handed with the syrup. Enjoy Life Pancake and Waffle Mix fits the bill and can even be purchased online. Looking for more options? Don’t miss our report 20 Popular Pancake Mixes—Ranked!
You may think you’re doing your body good by downing a cup of OJ every morning. But the truth is, there’s more added junk in that cup than there is fruit. OJ is jam-packed with high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and artificial flavoring, and dyes. In fact, eight ounces of OJ can carry up to 26 grams of carbs, which is more than what you’d find in six sugar cubes!
Eat This Instead: Switch to water and get your citrusy goodness from whole fruit. The pulp, water, and fiber content will help blunt the rise in sugar levels.
Sorry, bacon lovers, but if the turkey variety (one of these 11 ‘Healthy’ Swaps That Aren’t) is your go-to, we’re going to suggest that you give it up—especially if you’re nibbling more than a piece or two. While opting for the turkey variety in lieu of pork will save you about 13 calories and a gram of fat per slice, it will also add sodium to your plate—not great news if you have high blood pressure or ya know, don’t want to fall asleep on the train to work. According to a new animal study in the journal eLife, excess salt and fat can cause post-meal drowsiness—definitely not what you want at 9 a.m.
Eat This Instead: Switch to pork bacon and think of it as a breakfast topping instead of its own “food group.” For example, a single slice a chopped bacon tastes divine atop a bowl of oatmeal along with a drizzle of maple syrup and chopped almonds. You can also use a chopped strip as an omelet add-in along with some sautéed veggies.
The plague of refined carbohydrates strikes again! They may be sprinkled with things like blueberries and bran, but since they can contain up to 40 grams of the sweet stuff a pop, muffins are just as energy-draining (not to mention, waist-widening) as a bagel. If you wouldn’t down three Butterfingers for breakfast you shouldn’t be okay with eating it’s sugar-equivalent in pastry form.
Eat This Instead: If muffins are a must, get your hands on a pack of VitaTops. They come in a variety of flavors but the blueberry kind has 120 calories, 8 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Pair one with eggs (Psst: these 25 Healthy Egg Recipes to Stay Skinny are all delicious!) and a piece of fruit for an energizing morning meal.
If you’re crashing before lunch, your sugary breakfast cereal could be the culprit. Seriously! Have you ever taken the time to learn what’s actually in that cartoon character-clad box? It may surprise you to learn that the bulk of it is high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and corn—essentially a carb-rich, energy-suck trifecta.
Eat This Instead: Stay away from these 20 Worst “Good-For-You” Cereals and whip up a bowl of oatmeal with some cinnamon and chopped nuts instead.
Fruit is high in fiber, low in calories, and a great source of vitamins and nutrients. But because fruit is also high in sugar, throwing all your favorites into a giant smoothie could be a recipe for a sluggish disaster. “While it may seem easy and taste great to load your blender with heaps of fruit, I often remind my clients to balance their smoothie like they would any other meal,” registered dietitian Katie Cavuto tells us. “A well-balanced smoothie contains a blend of fruit with other nutrient dense ingredients like healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables.”
Blend This Instead: When blending up your next morning sip, mix a half cup of your favorite fruit with a handful or two of kale or spinach, a tablespoon of chia seeds, unsweetened almond milk and a half-scoop of, protein power. The healthy fats and protein will help balance out the extreme levels of fructose. For even more delicious smoothie ideas, get your hand on Zero Belly Smoothies ASAP!
Meaty Breakfast Sandwiches
Red meat is high in iron, which is excellent for promoting healthy energy levels. But sadly, most breakfast dishes that are made with things like sausage and beef are super greasy. Take breakfast sandwiches, for example. Since fat and protein are difficult for the body to digest, they utilize a lot of the body’s energy to do so, which can leave you feeling drained.
Eat This Instead: Look for sammies that utilize thin slices of meat like a classic McMuffin and say no to things that resemble it’s fatter cousin, the Sausage McMuffin.
Fancy Coffee Drinks
It doesn’t matter how much caffeine you may sip through the straw, when it’s paired with an upwards of 70 grams of sugar it will leave you feeling more drained than ready to take on the day. Discover some the worst offenders in our report 20 Coffee Drinks With More Sugar Than a Can of Coke, and stay far, far away!
Drink This Instead: Not a fan of black coffee? Ask for a pump of two (no more!) of flavored syrup in a plain hot or iced coffee and add a splash of whole milk. The healthy fats will help offset the sugar and keep your energy levels even kneeled.