Here’s a wake-up call: Your first meal of the day may have more than a day’s worth of added sugar.
There’s no shortage of healthy breakfast options available on the Internet. In fact, a quick Google search for “healthy breakfast” turns up more than 4.2 million pages to sift through!
Many of the top breakfast hits will include smoothie bowls, overnight oats, yogurt parfaits and flourless breakfast cookies. Pinterest and Instagram feeds are filled with thousands of melt-in-your-mouth posts gushing about how these nutritious and balanced first meals will jump-start your day by giving your body the fuel it needs to conquer the world.
There’s just one problem: These seemingly healthy options may pack in more calories than two Egg McMuffins or have more scale-tipping sugar than two Chocolate Frosted Dunkin’ Donuts or two bowls of Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies!
Before indulging on your next sweet morning treat, here are some of the top breakfast sugar and calorie culprits to be wary of:
While the classic hippie food is made with good-for-you ingredients like oats and nuts, most commercial varieties are packed with added sugars and fats. And yet, granola’s health halo still exists: A poll conducted by The New York Times found that 80 percent of consumers reported that granola was a healthy option, while only 47 percent of nutritionists think it’s a healthy choice.
Like super-premium ice cream, most granola is calorie-dense, with some having up to 600 calories per cup and very little filling fiber or protein. The recommended serving of granola is one-quarter to two-thirds of a cup, which does little to keep you satisfied. A best bet granola has up to 10 grams (2 ½ teaspoons) of added sugar per serving.
Consider this Super Green Smoothie Bowl from the Minimalist Baker. The nutritionals show that a serving provides 310 calories and 19 grams of sugar — nearly 5 teaspoons! And this doesn’t even include the toppings like granola, seeds and berries, which are featured in the eye-catching pics. With a few of those additions, the smoothie bowl could easily exceed your total daily added sugar allotment of six teaspoons per day.
The biggest problem with smoothies — whether you drink them from a glass or eat them out of a bowl with a spoon — is that they’re calorie-rich and not as filling as a protein- and fiber-filled breakfasts, like nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit or an egg and veggie frittata.
Breakfast Cookies & Overnight Oats
Oats and oatmeal are a healthy, waistline-friendly whole grain options, but many recipes for breakfast cookies or overnight oats include a variety of ingredients to sweeten it up, whether that’s by adding sweetened almond milk, fresh or dried fruit, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, honey or maple syrup. As a result, the added sweeteners turn a diet staple into a waistline-wrecker.
The best ways to eat oatmeal is to keep portions in check and watch the toppings. A good choice is fresh fruit, like berries, and a dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt.
Yogurt parfaits are a combo of two of the sneakiest sources of sugar: sweetened yogurt and granola. As a result, commercial parfaits are among the worst choices you can eat for breakfast. If you purchase a yogurt parfait at a breakfast spot or supermarket, it will likely have 350 to 400 calories and eight to 10 teaspoons of added sugars —more sugar than you should get in an entire day! If you want to have a yogurt parfait, make your own at home with nonfat or lowfat PLAIN Greek yogurt, layered with fresh berries and topped with no more than a tablespoon of granola. Your homemade version will have a fraction of the calories and only about a teaspoon of added sugar.
Five Ways to Plan a Healthy Breakfast with Natural Sweetness
To optimize the most important meal of the day, follow these simple guidelines:
- Calories Count: A healthy breakfast should provide between 400 and 500 calories. If you want to lose pounds, keep it to the lower end. If you’re active, shoot for the higher end of this range. If you’re considering making a breakfast recipe you found online, yet the nutritional information is not provided, find a different recipe.
- Optimize Your Protein: An a.m. meal that provides 20 to 30 grams of protein may help curb your appetite all day long and help you stay on track. Plus, high-quality protein spread in equal amounts for your three main meals helps you maintain lean muscle mass.
- Ditch Sugary Drinks: Coffeehouse specialty sweetened beverages, like hot coffee or tea with sugar, mocha cold brew, lattes and smoothies are often packed with added sugars and cause spikes in insulin and can ramp up appetite and cravings for more of the sweet stuff.
- Beware of Sweetened Yogurt. Greek yogurt is protein-rich and will have low sugar counts, but only if it’s unflavored. Also, keep in mind that commercial yogurt parfaits are almost always made with vanilla-flavored yogurt that may have up to 30 grams (7 ½ teaspoons) of added sugar.
- Trendy Doesn’t Equal Healthy. Foods that are trending on your social media feeds aren’t generally the healthiest choices. Remember unicorn frappuccinos? ‘Nuf said.