When I first started being more strategic about my fitness goals, I looked for convenient breakfast options that aligned with my macronutrient needs. For a long time my go-to combo of old fashioned oats and peanut butter was the cornerstone of my breakfast: high in fiber, protein and super easy to make. However, as I looked around I realized that there were several breakfast foods being deceptively marketed as “healthy”.
Now, it’s not to say that I never eat any of these items; I just do my best to avoid making them a part of my regular breakfast repertoire. So before you begin cutting out these food from your shopping list, you should think about your health goals first.
1. Flavored Yogurts
Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, however, flavored yogurts tend to include added sugars. I am particularly wary of flavored yogurts that are labeled as “low fat” or “fat free”. In my opinion, the removal of fat results in a yogurt that is not as appetizing and satiating as the original version. Therefore, food manufacturers need to be add something for consumers to enjoy the yogurt. That “something” is most likely a sweetener.
What to eat instead: This Black Forest Chia Pudding is great. Or even plain yogurt with fresh/frozen fruit, spices and vanilla.
2. Most “Healthy” Cereals
Sugary breakfast cereals are usually easy to spot. Many times they’re marketed to kids and are typically brightly colored or promise rich chocolatey flavors. Picking a healthy cereal is a bit trickier since some of our favorite whole grain (or multigrain) cereals are packed with added sugar or lacking in fiber and protein. Don’t be fooled; read the nutrition label and list of ingredients of the cereal before you purchase it.
What to eat instead: Try this tropical coconut quinoa recipe or jazzing up your oatmeal with fruit and nuts. If you really just want to pour something straight from a box into a bowl, check out this list of cereals for ideas.
3. Fruit Juices
Fruit juices are a convenient way to incorporate vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into your breakfast. The downside is that fruit juices also make it easy for us to mindlessly consume large quantities of sugar. Is sugar inherently bad? Not in the right quantities (and with the right timing) but when you strip away the fiber from whole fruit to create fruit juices, you’re left with a glass of sugar. For comparison, take a look at the nutrition of freshly squeezed orange juice, coke and a medium orange. It takes approximately 2 to 4 medium oranges to make one cup (236.588 ml) of orange juice:
- 1 Medium Orange: 62 calories, 12 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber
- 1 Cup of Orange Juice: 112 calories, 21 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fiber
- 1 Cup of Coke: 93 calories, 26 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fiber
What to eat instead: Skip the juice; grab the fruit.
Many think of muffins as healthy breakfast foods. Unfortunately, even if it’s made with some bran, nuts and fruit, your muffin may be more like a sugar packed cupcake. In addition to sugar, our store-bought muffins are likely to be made of mostly refined flour and not whole grains (maybe a few whole grains are thrown in). Refined flour is stripped of its bran resulting in its products being low in fiber with a high glycemic index.
What to eat instead: Truly whole grain muffins like these homemade Carrot Apple Oat Muffins
I love granola with all its crunchy goodness. Granola is typically made with whole grains and nuts which are both great for your health. There are two things that I keep in mind when considering granola for breakfast: (1) serving size and (2) sugar content. Granola can be a pretty calorie-dense food. Therefore, it is important to keep the portions small. In addition, it is not unusual for significant amounts of sugar to be added to certain brands granola so be sure to read the nutrition label.
What to eat instead: This Spiced Quinoa Oat Granola recipe will not kill you with added sugar and uses quinoa for some extra crunch.