A breakfast of donuts and coffee may be convenient and feel satisfying in the moment, but what it won’t do is keep you full until your next meal. In fact, there are loads of popular breakfast foods—like muffins, croissants, biscuits, cereal, and bagels—that will actually make you feel hungry and sluggish after your meal because they lack the nutrients your body needs.
When it comes to choosing breakfasts that have some staying power and will help you to feel energized throughout the day, you’ll want to look for foods that contain protein and/or fiber. That’s because protein can help keep you full by reducing hunger hormone levels and cravings, and research has shown that it is more satiating than carbohydrates. Foods that are higher in fiber take longer to digest, meaning you’ll stay full longer and be less inclined to snack or consume unnecessary calories between meals. Fiber can also help keep you energized because when you consume fiber alongside sugar and carbohydrates, you’re less likely to spike your blood sugar. Blood sugar spikes lead to crashes, which can make you feel lethargic and sluggish.
10 Worst Breakfast Foods That Leave You Hungry & Sluggish
The following breakfast foods lack both protein and fiber; instead, they’re full of added sugars or refined carbohydrates. Too much sugar and carbs without protein and fiber will inevitably lead to spikes in your blood sugar and feelings of hunger—the opposite of what you need to start your day. Read on for 10 breakfast foods to avoid, and for help making healthier breakfast choices, we’ve got you covered with 20 Best Breakfasts to Stay Full & Energized All Day.
Muffins may be a delicious treat to take on the go on your busiest mornings, but if this is all you’re eating, you’re most likely going to be hungry long before lunchtime.
“While it may sound healthy, a store-bought muffin is not much different from a cupcake,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN. “It is generally comprised mostly of refined grains and a lot of added sugar while being completely devoid of fiber.” She adds that because of this, “It will not leave you feeling satisfied.”
For example, according to the USDA, one large “commercially prepared” blueberry muffin contains around 521 calories, 22 grams of fat, 73 grams of carbohydrates, and 39 grams of sugar. It has only 1.5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, which won’t give you enough staying power compared to almost 40 grams of sugar.
As we mentioned earlier, consuming a balanced breakfast of protein and fiber is the best way to stay full and energized all morning. Even though it’s probably tempting to grab a quick bagel and cream cheese before the start of your day, this breakfast item has nothing to sustain you throughout your morning.
Eating only a bagel and cream cheese “will leave you feeling tired, as it is mostly refined grains and saturated fat,” says Young. “It does not provide enough protein or fiber, which are nutrients you need for feeling satisfied.” For example, a popular store-bought option is Thomas’ Plain Bagels, which come with only 9 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, yet contains 53 grams of carbohydrates. For a more nutrient-dense option, try something like Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel, which contains 13 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for a more balanced option.
You won’t find it surprising that donuts are not recommended for breakfast, as these deep-fried, sugar-loaded treats have zero nutritional value. This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy your favorite donut from time to time, but eating nothing but added sugar in the morning will zap your energy and leave you with more cravings.
According to the USDA, an average chocolate-coated donut contains around 18 grams of sugar and 17 grams of fat (nine of which come from saturated fat). With only around 1 gram of fiber per donut, you won’t have anything to slow the sugar from entering your bloodstream and causing blood sugar spikes, leaving you with an increased chance of sluggishness.
Similar to breakfast items like donuts and muffins, sugary cereals lack the nutrition to help keep you energized and full.
“Sugary breakfast cereals often lead to feelings of hunger and sluggishness due to their high sugar content and lack of essential nutrients, and the rapid spike in blood sugar caused by the sugar rush is quickly followed by a crash, leaving you fatigued and craving more food,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements. “These cereals typically lack sufficient fiber and protein, important for sustained energy and fullness, leading to frequent snacking and overeating later in the day.”
Take Cinnamon Toast Crunch, for instance. Although sweet and nostalgic, the 12 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of protein will make for a lackluster breakfast that won’t satiate you at all.
There’s nothing easier than grabbing a frozen waffle and popping it into the toaster while you finish getting ready in the morning, but if you’re looking for a morning meal that is going to give you sustained energy until it’s time for lunch, waffles are not the answer.
A standard Eggo Homestyle Frozen Waffle lacks any nutritional value and contains mostly empty calories, which means you’ll be feeling hungry shortly after your meal. Two waffles have 4 grams of protein, which is decent on its own, but not when you consider that you’ll also be consuming 30 grams of carbohydrates and less than 1 gram of fiber, the protein just isn’t enough to offset the negatives. And that’s without syrup—with that, you have yourself a sugar-heavy, low-fiber, low-protein breakfast which is a guaranteed equation for late-morning sluggishness.
Making a smoothie at home means you have the opportunity to combine nutrient-rich ingredients like fruit, vegetables, nut butter, protein powders, milk, and other ingredients that can give you plenty of protein, fiber, and healthy fats to help keep you full. But if you opt for a bottled store-bought option for something quicker, you’ll more than likely be skipping these nutrients.
Take a Bolthouse Strawberry Banana Smoothie, for example. It’s marketed as “no sugar added,” but that doesn’t matter when you still have 50 grams of sugar and 61 grams of carbohydrates, with only 1 gram of protein. You will still get 5 grams of fiber, but most of the ingredients are in the form of purees and concentrates, so you’re not getting as much fiber as you would if you were making a smoothie with whole fruits and vegetables.
Remember in the ’90s when Big Granola somehow had us thinking that anything with granola was automatically good for you? Not all granola is unhealthy, but there are plenty of brands out there that are nothing more than heavily processed, sugary bars that will leave you feeling unsatisfied and hungry shortly after because of their lack of nutrients—even though they’re often advertised as being healthy. Look at Nutri-Grain Strawberry Breakfast Bars, for instance, which have 12 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber.
“Empty-calorie breakfast bars often leave you feeling sluggish because they lack essential nutrients like fiber and protein,” says Best. “Their high-sugar content provides a quick energy boost, but without fiber to slow digestion and protein to provide lasting satiety, you’ll experience a rapid increase in blood glucose followed by a crash, leading to fatigue and hunger.”
Best also adds that “These bars often contain refined sugars and minimal nutritional value, making them inadequate for sustaining energy and overall health.”
Certain types of yogurt are high in protein and low in sugar and are perfect for keeping you feeling full, such as Greek or Icelandic yogurts. But there are just as many (if not more) yogurts on grocery store shelves that are low in protein and full of added sugars. Classic yogurts like Yoplait Strawberry, which market themselves as healthy and “made with real fruit” contain a whopping 13 grams of added sugar and only 5 grams of protein. This won’t be enough protein to sustain you the rest of the morning.
Instead, try a Greek yogurt like Fage 0% Milkfat Plain—which has zero grams of added sugar and 18 grams of protein per serving—and make your own parfait with nuts, berries, and a drizzle of honey.
Avocado toast, toast with peanut butter and banana, or toast with whipped cottage cheese and berries—there are many options for fancy toast combinations that will deliver your body fiber, protein, healthy fats, or helpful antioxidants to provide you with sustained energy for the whole morning. But you won’t get any of those benefits if you just throw some butter on a slice of white bread, which is a combination that won’t satiate you.
That’s because white bread is heavily processed, meaning the germ and bran layers are removed from the wheat grain, which in turn removes the nutrients. There is hardly any protein or fiber left, and what remains is processed carbohydrates that will spike your blood sugar. With butter as your only topping, you’ll have nothing sustainable for the rest of your morning.
Warm, fluffy biscuits—what could be better? So glad you asked: A balanced breakfast that isn’t going to leave you feeling tired and sluggish afterward. Eating biscuits on their own for a quick morning meal will give you almost zero nutrients while still providing about 41 grams of carbohydrates and only 1 gram of fiber, meaning this food is likely to cause blood sugar spikes and leave you feeling lethargic from the crash that follows.