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Breakfast is the single most important meal of the day, yet too many of us think it’s a luxury and don’t make time to dine after rising. Instead, we resort to grabbing on-the-go foods that pack on extra calories from fat and sugar, or worse, we skip eating breakfast altogether and overeat at our next meal.
If you have a busy schedule, your best bet is to plan your breakfast meals ahead of time. Cook steel-cut oatmeal and separate it into plastic containers to store in your fridge and reheat whenever you’re ready. Or, double up on preparing hard-boiled eggs or yogurt and fruit parfaits. Unlike greasy egg-and-cheese sandwiches and sugary pastries, these energizing foods are good sources of lean protein and/or fiber and will help keep you energized while stopping hunger and cravings in their tracks. Or take along one of our protein-and fiber-rich South Beach Diet Meal Bars or Protein Fit Bars. Just toss into your purse or backpack and enjoy when cooking breakfast is simply impossible.
To help you avoid unhealthy food choices at breakfast, consider whether you’re making any of these common mistakes:
- Enjoying a glass of orange juice or other fruit juices with your meal. A glass of OJ or apple juice may be a standard part of your breakfast, but it’s just not South Beach Diet–friendly due to the concentrated sugar and general lack of fiber that results from processing. Instead, on Phase 2, we recommend enjoying fresh whole fruits, like oranges, apples, strawberries, or cantaloupe, which are packed with antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, including fiber. As far as juice goes: You’re far better off enjoying a 6-ounce glass of low-sodium tomato juice or vegetable juice blend on any Phase.
- Sipping a latte with whipped cream and other add-ons. For some people, a freshly brewed cup of coffee is the best way to start the day. But what many people don’t realize is that coffee can contribute to weight gain, depending on how you enjoy it and how often you have it. If buying coffee from your favorite café is part of your morning routine, note that store-bought café drinks may contain fattening add-ons like cream, white sugar, sugary syrups and flavorings, and/or full-fat whipped topping. It’s best to opt for a coffee with no-sugar-added syrups and/or fat-free or 1% milk. Be sure to also use a sugar substitute, like agave nectar, monk fruit natural no-calorie sweetener, or stevia. To add a boost of flavor, feel free to have your choice of extract, such as pure vanilla or almond.
- Having a breakfast muffin, scone, or pastry to go. Muffins, scones, and pastries are easy to pick up at your morning pit stop, but they are often made with refined white flour and white sugar, which can contribute to cravings, not to mention butter, which is high in saturated fat. Many breakfast pastries these days are also outrageously large, some adding more than 500 calories in just one. We recommend that you take along our Pear Bran Muffins (Phase 2) instead, which use whole-wheat pastry flour, low-fat buttermilk, and canola oil.
- Slathering on the cream cheese. Everyone loves a “shmear” but you need to choose your cream cheese wisely. As a healthier alternative to full-fat cream cheese, use 1 or 2 tablespoons of light cream cheese or dairy-free cream cheese substitute as part of your fats/oils allowance on occasion. Instead of a huge white-flour bagel, enjoy half of a small whole-grain bagel, a whole-wheat mini bagel, or a piece of whole-grain toast on Phase 2. Or, when you have more time, consider trying our tasty Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese “Sandwiches,” which are made with thinly sliced whole-grain bread and a chive-flavored, reduced-fat cream cheese.
- Assuming all Greek yogurt is healthy. Like other full-fat dairy products, full-fat plain Greek yogurt is high in saturated fat and calories. You should also watch out for fat-free Greek yogurt that contains fruit. Even though some brands claim to use “real” fruit, they are often made with sugary, processed fruit syrup and not with actual fruit itself. Look at the amount of added sugars in such products, particularly if you have cravings for sugar.
- Ordering breakfast platters that come with home fries and white toast. Unfortunately, many breakfast “specials” served at diners and family chain restaurants come with heavily buttered white toast and fried white potatoes. Instead, skip the special and order eggs with tomatoes (Phase 1), or with fruit or a slice of whole-wheat toast (Phase 2).
- Adding pork bacon and full-fat cheese to your breakfast sandwich. Layering your breakfast sandwich with fatty pork bacon strips and full-fat cheese piles on the sodium and bad saturated fat. As a healthier alternative, make an open-face sandwich with one slice of whole-wheat toast, a slice or two of Canadian or turkey bacon, and a slice of reduced-fat cheese. Canadian bacon has a smoky flavor similar to regular pork bacon, but far less fat.