Though certain foods might be deemed as "healthy," they can often be laden in sneaky sugars, fats, and calories, which can interfere with your mood, energy levels, and drive first thing in the morning. Eating breakfast foods high in sugar can create an imbalance in hormones, leaving you feeling more tired and less motivated just a couple hours later. Of course, the typical, sugary breakfasts stand out as major offenders: donuts and pastries, for instance. But healthier foods, however, such as granolas, fruit smoothies, and oatmeals, can also be high in sugar—even though it might be less obvious. So which foods should be classified as deceiving culprits, exactly? Health experts weigh in on sugary breakfast foods that are commonly considered nutritious but warrant a proper investigation.
Healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines, for example, explains that certain granolas can be incredibly high in sugar, so it's worth reading nutrition labels before purchasing store-bought granola. Watch for serving size, fat content, and sugar count, and the possible inclusion of added sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and fructose. Instead of going for these sugar-laden store-bought options, you can make homemade granola in the comfort of your own kitchen by combining oats and grains that are high in fiber with low-sugar fruit, nuts, and healthy fats, like coconut oil, for a nutritious breakfast.
"Healthy" muffins can also be incredibly deceiving, advises Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. “Some of the highest in sugar breakfast foods can be 'healthy' muffins like bran or whole wheat, which are often loaded with sugar. Look for less than ten grams of sugar per muffin or at least five to seven grams of protein or fiber in the muffin, instead," says Smith.
Oatmeal can also easily fool you, as some packaged brands have excess sugar per serving. "Oatmeal packets are notorious for being high in sugar, even though they may say 'flax' or protein on the label," says Smith. "The key is to buy or make the plain oatmeal packets, and then add your own fruit. Add some nuts or shredded coconut for extra healthy fat."
Avoiding the on-the-go breakfast trap is difficult because so many breakfast bars are packed with sugar. Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT suggests looking at the nutrition facts to ensure most ingredients come from natural sugar sources, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, rather than high-fructose corn syrup. "Just because a product is labeled as whole grain and natural fruit, don't take it for face value," says Shaw.
In general, you can't go wrong when creating your own breakfast from scratch since you are able to control how much sugar you're consuming. Reaching for a convenient, pre-packaged breakfast bar, however, might be okay, but you should check the nutrition label first to make sure it's low in sugar, high in fiber, and full of ingredients you can pronounce rather than chemicals.