Breakfast Mistakes that Are Causing Weight Gain

by Tiffany Tse for SHAPE.com

These sneaky breakfast booby traps could be causing weight gainThese sneaky breakfast booby traps could be causing weight gainWe know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but what we don't know about the morning meal could inadvertently be packing on the pounds! We consulted with health expert Dr. Lisa Davis, Vice President of Scientific and Clinical Affairs at Medifast, to expose 15 of the biggest breakfast no-nos.

1. Think before your first bite: When coworkers bring in treats, the office can become a calorie trap. Davis' advice? "Stop, get centered, take a deep breath, and focus on your health goals," she says. Which is better: the taste of a muffin or the feeling of reaching your goals?

2. Don't be fooled by juice: You may think that gulping down a glass of OJ is a great way to start your day, but many store-bought varieties are packed with sugar. "A healthy serving of orange juice is about as much as you could squeeze out of one orange," Davis says. "A better idea may be to have a glass of water and eat the orange itself: Whole fruit offers you all the vitamins and minerals of the juice, along with tummy-filling fiber that can help tame hunger pangs until lunch."

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3. Fill up…the healthy way: Davis says pancakes and waffles are a no-no for breakfast, especially when accompanied by sugary syrup. "Instead, try a whole-grain cereal or toast, and try to get some protein in the form of low-fat or fat-free yogurt, lean meat, or egg whites," she says. "You'll feel fuller for longer."

4. You give in to temptation:
Breakfast pastries are delicious, but when you're faced with treats first thing in the morning, try your best to resist. "Sugary cereals, toaster pastries, bagels, and cinnamon rolls are tempting, but they're likely to cause a spike in blood sugar, followed by a low-energy crash and hunger, which can cause a snack attack by mid-morning," Davis says.

5. Don't rule out coffee: You don't have to give up your morning cup of Joe, even if you're vying for a healthier diet. "Unless you have sensitivity to caffeine or a medical condition that makes it unwise to consume it, coffee can be a delicious and natural way to boost your mood and your brain function," Davis says. "If you need more than a cup or two to get going in the morning, you may be sleep-deprived. Coffee is not a substitute for actual zz's."

6. But go easy on the coffee add-ons: "It's what you add to coffee that can add pounds and inches," Davis says. "Sugar, flavored syrups, whipped cream, and half-and-half can turn a simple cup of coffee into a real calorie-bomb, and if you have one or more each day, those calories will add up. Subtract a little of the sugar and fat gradually and work toward enjoying your morning brew as close to 'naked' as you can make it."

7. Be ready when hunger strikes: If you're often in a rush to get to work and skip breakfast, stock up on healthy snacks. "The key to healthy eating is planning ahead," Davis says. "It makes sense to keep nutritious, non-sugary pick-me-ups in your desk drawer or in the office fridge."

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8. Stick to one serving: A serving each of low-fat protein, whole fruit or vegetables, and whole-grain bread or cereal is a great way to get your body and mind prepared for the demands of your day. However, you need to make sure that the number of calories you take in at breakfast works within your overall daily calorie target." Not sure what one serving looks like? Use these tricks to make it easy to stay on track.

9. Don't discount vending machines: "Although they're high in fat and calories, a handful of peanuts from the vending machine will at least give you some protein and fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer than a doughnut will," Davissays. "If you can, skip out to a convenience store and grab a nonfat sugar-free yogurt, a string cheese stick, whole fruit, or a small protein bar."

10. Be ready to face a buffet: You can still enjoy a satisfying meal without stuffing yourself silly at the weekend brunch buffet. Just avoid items like muffins, fruit juice cocktails, and sweets. "Start with eggs, lean meat (try Canadian bacon instead of regular), salmon, fresh veggies, and fruit," Davis says.

11. Remember this mantra: "There's an old saying that goes, 'Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper,'" Davis says. Keep this quote in mind throughout the day, and you'll be on your way to healthy weight loss in no time!

12. Don't rely on breakfast bars: Granola and breakfast bars often serve as quick on-the-go meals, but many of them have as many calories as dessert! "Most commercial granola bars are basically oatmeal cookies in disguise, with a lot more sugar than you need," Davis says. "A little natural peanut butter on a folded slice of whole-grain bread is better. Make a couple of these mini sandwiches in advance and keep one in your fridge at home, and one at work."

13. Beware of brunch cocktails: Whether you're noshing on breakfast or brunch, remember your first meal of the day should nourish you, not knock you out (and add excess calories)! "Go easy on the alcohol," Davis says. "That ounce of vodka in your Bloody Mary adds about 100 calories."

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14. Make breakfast mandatory: Even if you wake up feeling full from the previous night's dinner, try to munch on a little something in the a.m. "Heavy meals late in the evening are likely to overwhelm your digestive system and can even interfere with a restful sleep," Davis says. "But if you indulge once in a while, keep in mind that even if you feel full the next morning, you haven't had any nourishment since you went to bed. Skipping meals can cause your metabolism to slow down, so if you can, try a slice of plain, whole-grain toast and hot tea, or some apple slices with plain, non-fat yogurt."

15. Add a glass of H2O: It's always beneficial to include a big glass of water as part of your breakfast. "[Water will] hydrate you and help you feel full and satisfied," Davis says.

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