Breakfast is touted as the most important meal of the day. When it comes time to grab some nutrition before heading out the door, cereals and pre-packaged breakfast foods are tempting. They are quick, easy, and don’t require you to turn on the oven. However, this convenience may be a poor trade-off for the high calories and low nutritional content of many breakfast cereals and fast food items. When selecting a morning breakfast item, take care to avoid these foods that skimp on nutrition while delivering excess sugar and empty calories.
10. Cereals High in Sugar
In general, you will want to avoid any cereals with the words “sweet”, “honey”, or “marshmallow” in the name. Cereals that contain more than 10 grams of sugar in each one-cup serving are cereals you should avoid. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day for women and less than 36 grams per day for men. One cup of a sugary cereal can provide nearly half of your daily recommended sugar intake. Kellogg’s Smart Start Original Antioxidant cereal sounds healthy, but it actually contains 18 grams of sugar per cup.
9. Cereals with Misleading Health Claims
If you enjoy a morning bowl of cereal, be sure to check the package label before falling for the claims on the box. Cheerios Protein Oats & Honey boasts protein content as well as whole grains, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But if you look closely, you’ll notice the 11 grams of protein it can supply is only achieved by adding milk. Additionally, the 1.25-cup serving contains 17 grams of sugar. For a morning meal rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein, go for a bowl of oatmeal. Top it with berries, nuts, and a splash of your favorite milk.
8. Cereals Low in Fiber
A diet rich in fiber keeps your digestive system on track and moves food through your system, where it can be properly absorbed and utilized. High fiber foods also keep you feeling full and prevent hunger pangs from striking again shortly after eating. Consuming breakfast cereals that are low in fiber can cause spikes in blood sugar that soon plummet and leave you feeling hungry and cranky. It may be obvious, but cereals like Cap’n Crunch, Smorz, and Honey Graham Oh’s are poor choices with less than 1 gram of fiber per serving.
7. Cereals Without Nutrient Value
Chances are, if your cereal is brightly colored, shaped in round balls or cutesy designs, or filled with marshmallows, it doesn’t have a lot of nutritional content. These cereals may taste sweet and fill up your belly long enough to get you out the door in the morning. However, they won’t provide the fuel necessary to keep you alert and productive throughout the day. To sustain your energy, choose a serving of Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, homemade granola, or a handful of nuts. Add a slice of whole grain toast and start your day with a nutritious breakfast that takes only minutes to prepare.
6. Pre-Packaged Granola
Granola seems like a healthy food choice when it contains whole grains, dried fruit, and crunchy nuts. However, pre-packaged and highly processed granola products often contain loads of sugar and extra calories. You can make your own granola at home, allowing you to control the sugar content. Gimme Some Oven has a recipe for The Best Healthy Granola that uses maple syrup as a sweetener. This recipe takes only 35 minutes to prepare and can be tweaked by using different dried fruits, nuts and spices.
5. Breakfast Pastries
Pastries are frequently associated with breakfast. Unfortunately, their high sugar and fat content makes them a poor choice for a good start to your day. Toaster pastries contain refined white flour and large quantities of sugar. Kellogg’s Strawberry Pop-Tarts contain 15 grams of sugar in each pastry, and they come pre-packaged in sets of two. Pastries such as croissants, scones, and cinnamon rolls are high in fat, unrefined white flour, and sugar. Instead, swap out high-calorie breakfast pastries for a slice of whole wheat toast spread with nut butter, avocado, or a sugar-free fruit spread.
A muffin is such a delicious and portable breakfast item, and a blueberry muffin can seem healthy with its store of juicy berries. However, these items commonly contain an excess of sugar, refined flour, and fat. Pre-packaged muffins found on grocery store shelves are especially high in the processed ingredients that are bad for your health. If you enjoy starting your morning off with a muffin, bake up a batch at home. Choose wholesome ingredients like whole grains, fresh fruits, and even vegetables. This recipe for October Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins by Allrecipes can be enjoyed year-round—not just in October.
3. White Bagels
Bagels are another portable breakfast item that seems like a healthy breakfast choice. If you enjoy a morning bagel, choose whole grain options that are high in fiber and nutrients. Additionally, you can cut calories by selecting mini bagels or bagel thins. Thomas’ 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins contain just 110 calories per bagel. Top your bagel with healthy fats like avocado or cottage cheese instead of full fat cream cheese. Egg whites scrambled with spinach can top your morning bagel with a protein and nutrient-packed punch that keeps you energized until lunch.
2. Fruit Juice
If only fruit juice supplied the same dietary fiber provided by whole fruits. Instead, fruit juice sounds wholesome while actually containing quantities of sugar that rival sodas and sweetened beverages. Skip the fruit juice and instead blend up a refreshing morning fruit smoothie. You can whip up a nutritious smoothie using frozen fruit, a splash of your favorite milk, and a scoop of chia seeds. Keep your body hydrated by enjoying water infused with sliced lemon, fresh strawberries, or slices of cucumber. You can invest in a fruit infuser water bottle or simply drop fresh fruit into your water glass.
1. Fast Food Breakfast Items
When you’re short on time, you may be tempted to head to the nearest drive-through for breakfast. However, fast foods tend to be high in salt, fat, and cholesterol. Save time on weekday mornings by preparing healthy breakfast foods and freezing them. You can then pop them into the microwave for a nutritious breakfast before heading out the door each day. Freeze a batch of breakfast burritos made from whole wheat tortillas, eggs, cheese, and veggies. Or try this recipe by Averie Cooks for 100-Calorie Cheese, Vegetable, and Egg Muffins.