Breakfast, the so-called “most important meal of the day,” is often a nutritional disaster in the U.S. Instead of eating what we ate for dinner the day before like people in many other countries do (that is, proteins and fiber-rich vegetables), we Americans limit our choices to traditional “breakfast foods,” many of which are so sugary, you can call them candy. Nearly every registered dietitian and nutrition expert we queried about bad breakfast habits to break had the same advice: The No. 1 thing you should stop doing after 50 is eating sugar for breakfast. Sugar-sweetened foods and those high in fast-burning carbohydrates that lack fiber quickly elevate blood sugar, kicking off a rollercoaster of cravings.
When you don’t eat protein, fats, and fiber, which slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, your blood sugar can rise and fall at an abnormally rapid rate.
“That causes you to crave more sugar and overeat later on,” says Melissa Mitri, RD, a registered dietitian for Wellness Verge. She adds that eating highly processed carbs like sugary cereals and the refined flour in white bread, bagels, and pastries for breakfast is one of the worst things you can do for weight loss and good health.
Read on to learn more about the breakfast habits to avoid as you age—and for more healthy eating tips, make sure to also check out The 5 Best High-Protein Foods To Eat After 50.
Getting enough fruit and vegetables into your breakfast can be a challenge, especially if you’re used to grabbing a quick meal like a bagel or a breakfast bar. However, research shows that eating enough produce is crucial for weight loss.
In one study analysis published by British Medical Journal Open, it was found that eating more produce, with a specific focus on fruit, led to a decrease in abdominal fat among women between the ages of 35–69 years old. Also, a review published in Nutrients found that more daily servings of vegetables were associated with greater loss of waist circumference in women.
“Skimping on protein for breakfast is never a good idea because protein keeps you full and satisfied, and it helps control appetite all day long,” says Mitri. “Protein is essential for people over 50, as it helps maintain lean muscle mass for a healthy metabolism.”
According to a report from the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome, eating a diet high in protein has been found to help with weight loss and keeping weight off by both increasing your satiety after meals and leading to a reduced food intake.
If you’re in need of some ideas for how to get more protein in at breakfast, try adding in eggs, plain Greek yogurt, nut butter, or cottage cheese.
“Granola is often touted as being ‘natural,’ ‘low sodium,’ ‘non-GMO,’ or ‘gluten-free,’ which sounds healthful. But make sure to read the ingredients label, because granola is often loaded with sugar,” says dietitian Jinan Banna, RD, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
Not only that, but granola can oftentimes come with a lot of sugar and not a ton of protein or fiber to balance it out. For example, Nature’s Valley Dark Chocolate Granola has 8 grams of added sugar in just a 1/4 cup serving, with only 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.
Getting enough fiber is crucial for weight loss after 50 because “fiber helps you maintain a healthy weight as it passes through the body undigested, contributing little in the way of calories,” says Banna.
Your metabolism may naturally start to slow down as you age, and dietary fiber has been found to help improve metabolism and overall weight management.