Oh how I love free hotel breakfasts. Or to clarify, how I love the price. It’s a rare breakfast buffet when I actually love the food. When I’m not busy dodging awkward reaches, sticky floors, and lines, I’m trying not to openly grimace at the horrid food choices offered.
At one hotel breakfast in a sleepy town near a national park, the buffet began with biscuits and gravy, progressed to all-white bread and cereals, and finished off with buttery eggs, slabs of bacon, and the greasiest of sausages. Another buffet recently, the first choice was sugary donuts. I was relieved to find a bowl of cereal and a few grapes, but I mostly felt sheer disgust with the hotel for not providing more healthy choices. In sharp contrast, the breakfasts at the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference I attended last weekend were delicious and nutritious (pictured).
Who doesn’t love an occasional decadent breakfast? It is vacation after all. But if you’re like me and not used to eating that level of fat and processed ingredients, it can really play havoc with your stomach and energy level. I’ve tried surrendering to this fare in the past and was instantly transformed into a lumbering, sleep-walking slug, dragging behind and asking if it’s time to rest yet.
Breakfast and Your Weight
It’s unclear what kind of breakfast hotel guests eat when they’re not traveling, but surely many do not typically eat breakfast at all. Certainly if you indulge in donuts and sausage every day you’ll gain weight, but if you don’t eat breakfast you may have trouble keeping the weight off, according to studies.
In one study of people who had lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year, 78 percent reported eating breakfast every day. Only four percent reported never eating breakfast . Fasting all night and then skipping breakfast can disrupt insulin output and sugar balance, but also can set up bad eating habits and low energy leading to binging on junk .
What’s a Healthy Breakfast?
If you have no ill effects from skipping breakfast, you’re still missing out on the opportunity to start the day off with good nutrition. Whether eating at a buffet or eating at home, aim to get fiber, protein, and carbohydrates in your breakfast. Before approaching a buffet, it’s good to know your bottom line: What you’ll eat versus what you absolutely won’t touch. That may seem obvious, but you’ve seen people at buffets, haven’t you? Buffets seem to trigger people’s need to taste everything. And if you travel frequently, you could very well find your waistline increasing.
Here are a few examples of foods that will give you energy and health as opposed to fat and toxins:
- Boiled eggs. Great source of protein!
- Fruit. Lots of vitamins and antioxidants, as long as they’re not in a sugary sauce.
- Whole-grains. It’s less common to find toast, English muffins, bagels, pancakes that are whole grain at hotel breakfasts, but without loads of syrup and butter white breads aren’t a terrible second choice. Whole-grain cereals not coated in sugar and served with skim or low-fat milk are a great choice for energy and satiety.
- Oatmeal. True, the flavored packets can be loaded with sugar. If you can’t get steel-cut or unflavored, flavored oatmeal can be a decent way to get some fiber.
- Greek yogurt or low-sugar yogurt. Hotels don’t typically have Greek yogurt but most grocery stores do (it’s higher in protein, so a good choice). Most flavored yogurts are loaded with sugar. But still, this is a better option than some of the ones listed below. Strive for non-flavored yogurt and add your own toppings.
- For more ideas, see this sample menu from the USDA.
- Sausage, bacon, and other processed meats.
- Buttery scrambled eggs (guaranteed to make you sluggish!).
- Biscuits and gravy. Do I need to say more?
- Cheesy egg foldovers or other processed concoctions. At one buffet we saw cheesy foldovers being pulled out of freezer boxes and reheated. Guests were gobbling them up – yuck!
- Eggs Benedict. One serving typically has at least 300 calories.
- Belgian waffles. One serving can have over 300 calories and that’s without toppings.
- Donuts and pastries. A trans fat and calorie bonanza.
While it obviously won’t do any harm to to eat decadent breakfast foods occasionally, it can certainly dampen your energy. And if you’re not eating breakfast regularly, you’re missing out on nutrition, energy, and a weight management tool.
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