Your 'Healthy' Breakfast Could Have More Sugar Than a Dessert. Here's How to Fix It
There’s no shortage of trendy, healthy breakfast options online. We’re talking smoothie bowls, overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, and even flourless breakfast cookies. Pinterest and Instagram feeds are filled with thousands of melt-in-your-mouth posts gushing about how these nutritious and balanced morning meals will jumpstart your day by giving your body the fuel it needs to conquer the world.
There’s just one problem: While the Insta-famous breakfasts tend to have sinful names—think: hot chocolate oatmeal and blueberry pie smoothie—and are promoted as clean, wholesome, and nutritious, the truth is many of these meals resemble a decadent dessert rather than a powerhouse breakfast. If nutritionists were asked to rename these recipes, we’d most likely call them berry milkshakes, yogurt sundaes, and oatmeal cookies!
Before mistaking a sweet treat for a morning meal, check out these breakfast culprits to be wary of.
It’s a healthy breakfast essential, undoubtedly made with good-for-you ingredients like oats and nuts. But most commercial varieties are packed with added sugars and fat. A poll conducted by the New York Times found that 80% of shoppers said granola was a healthy option, while only 47% of nutritionists felt the same. That’s because most granola is calorie-dense, with some having up to 600 per cup; it can also pack up to 10 grams of added sugar per serving. The recommended serving size for granola is just 1/4 to 2/3 of a cup to keep calories, fat, and sugar in check–but that amount does little to keep you satisfied.
I’ve seen smoothie bowl recipes online with 19 grams of sugar–and that’s before adding the toppings like granola, chocolate, and berries featured in the eye-catching pics. Depending on your preferred toppings, a smoothie bowl could easily exceed your total daily added sugar allotment of 6 teaspoons or 25 grams per day.
Breakfast cookies and overnight oats
Oatmeal is considered a healthful whole grain, but oat-based flourless breakfast cookies and overnight oats aren’t always sugar-conscious. Most recipes for overnight oats and oatmeal breakfast cookies include a variety of ingredients to sweeten them up, whether it’s sweetened almond milk, dried fruit, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, honey, or maple syrup.
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 8 to 10 teaspoons of added sugars—more than you should get in an entire day!
Instead, plan a healthy breakfast with natural sweetness
Even though they look gorgeous, social media food trends aren’t always healthy. (Remember unicorn frappuccinos? ‘Nuf said.) If you’re considering making a breakfast recipe you found online but the nutritional information is not provided, find a different recipe.
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I recommend Greek yogurt for breakfast, because it’s protein-rich and will have low sugar counts if it’s unflavored. An a.m. meal that provides 20 to 30 grams of protein may help curb your appetite all day long. Sweeten with fresh berries–which provide more filling fiber than blended fruit–and no more than a tablespoon of granola. You can use these toppings to sweeten oatmeal too, or add just a bit of your favorite sweet granola to a low-sugar, high-fiber cereal.