But eating a balanced breakfast can sometimes be quite the balancing act, and a few common habits might be adding extra calories to your favorite meals without you even realizing it. While everyone’s nutritional needs are different, you typically want to consume a breakfast that’s around 300 to 400 calories. And getting enough protein in the morning will help keep you feeling powered up and satiated until it’s time for lunch. These 10 tips from registered dietitians will help keep your morning meals on track whether you’re looking to lose weight, watch your sugar intake, or add a little variety to your breakfast repertoire.
1. Eating a packaged breakfast instead of a fresh one.
Though there are definitely healthy pre-packaged breakfasts out there, Emily Cope-Kyle, M.S., R.D.N, says opting for something homemade is the safest way to ensure you aren’t eating a meal that’s highly processed and potentially loaded with lots of sodium or added sugars. She explains that foods such as flavored yogurts can carry as many as eight teaspoons of sugar, and suggests opting for something equally creamy (and simple to make) such as toast with avocado. If you are in a rush and have to take a packaged breakfast be sure to check the nutritional label to make sure that it isn’t packed with sugar or sodium.
2. Or choosing an overly processed cereal.
Since most cereals tend to be high on carbohydrates and sugar, and low on protein, Cope-Kyle suggests avoiding them entirely. However, if you’re looking to lose weight and absolutely love cereal, there are healthier options available, you just want to be diligent about looking at the nutritional information. Look for options that don’t have any added sugars, and consider topping your bowl with a bit of protein (you can try almonds or even a sprinkle of toasted quinoa), for a satiating, balanced breakfast, says Cope-Kyle.
3. Not eating enough breakfast.
“The most common mistake I see isn’t necessarily from specific foods that people eat, but eating a breakfast that is too small,” explains Maxine Yeung, M.S., R.D., owner of The Wellness Whisk. Eating a nourishing breakfast with lots of protein and healthy fat can keep you feeling full all morning long. Not eating enough breakfast, however, can cause you to feel hungrier earlier, which may make you more inclined to opt for a too-large lunch, or snacking.
4. Or skipping breakfast altogether.
Yeung advises against skipping breakfast—enjoying a meal in the morning will help keep you satisfied throughout the day, she says. But if you aren’t hungry experts say there’s no need to force yourself to eat. The takeaway? Listen to your body on this one, and if you are hungry in the morning, try not to forgo this important meal.
5. Eating a meal that’s mostly carbohydrates.
Carbs = energy. The macronutrient is an essential part of an overall healthy diet, but as with most things, you want to eat them in moderation. “Breakfast foods tend to be carbohydrate heavy,” Yeung explains, and meals that may seem healthy and balanced may actually have more carbohydrates than you expect. To avoid this, she recommends making sure your breakfast is always balanced by adding a little bit of protein—eggs, nuts, or seeds should do the trick. And try to opt for complex over simple carbs (like white bread, donuts, and sugary cereals), as they take longer for your body to break down.
6. Using too much oil when you make eggs.
7. Or choosing a less healthy cooking method in general.
Breakfast food can tend to involve a lot of oil and butter, but it doesn’t have to. Baking can be a great way to work around using tons of oil, especially when cooking with ingredients like eggs, explains Gorin. She likes to use her oven to whip up egg “muffins” and crustless quiche.
8. Not measuring your toppings.
Adding toppings to your meals is a great way to take a dish to the next level. But too many toppings—even healthy ones like chia seeds and nuts—can add a lot of extra calories if you aren’t careful about measuring them out beforehand.
9. And you’re ignoring portion size.
Just because a meal contains lots of good-for-you nutrients, too much is still too much, and it may interfere with any weight-loss goals you may have. When it comes to dishes like oatmeal, Gorin says it can be easy to accidentally go overboard with portion size. One solution is to make a bunch of pre-portioned meals in advance.