Breakfast is your first meal of the day, whatever time it is, when you break your fast from your previous meal, the night before. When done right, it fires up your engines and fuels both body and brain until your next meal, whatever time that is. So why do you often find yourself ravenous a few hours after? It’s not due to all that mental energy you’re burning but it’s got everything to do with the sugar and carbs lurking in your breakfast bowl. Chances are, they’re spiking your blood sugar levels, then crashing them, triggering cravings and hunger pangs.
Even if you’re not actively spooning sugar on top of your morning eggs, those store-bought breakfasts, seemingly healthy grab-’n’-go deli items or diner breakfast platters, are likely packing enough sweet stuff in them to make your morning meal’s sugar content roughly equivalent to that of a slice of birthday cake. Eat that way most mornings and you’ll set the stage for big metabolic trouble down the line, so now’s the time to rethink your first meal of the day. Here are few typically sugar-loaded morning meal items, and just to bring it into perspective, their teaspoon-of-sugar equivalents. My advice? Drop ‘em from your morning break fast menu without delay!
Store-made Fruit Smoothies
If you don’t blend your own low-sugar versions at home, you’re left with the commercial, smoothie bar stuff and that means roughly of 40 – 50 (or more) grams of sugar in a ‘small’ 16 ounce cup. That is simply a crazy amount of sugar to ingest first thing in the morning (or any time for that matter). Translate all that sweet stuff to teaspoons and it works out to about 10 -12 scoops dumped into your drink.
- Starbucks Strawberru smoothie = 41 grams of sugar
- McDonald’s Strawberry Banana smoothie = 44 grams of sugar
- Jamba Juice ‘Amazing Greens’ smoothie = 54 grams of sugar
No time to cook? Then you may think that grabbing a fruit-filled cereal bar or oatmeal cluster bar on your way out the door is a healthy quick fix. And you would be wrong. What you just threw in your bag is essentially a cookie in a groovier, isn’t-this-healthy-looking wrapper. These breakfast cookies can send at least 12 grams or about 3 teaspoons of sugar into your veins in minutes which is, to say the least, a massively unhealthy way to start the day.
- Quaker Oats Big Chewy Chocolate Chip – 1 bar averages approximately 13 grams of sugar
- Nutrigrain Apple Cinnamon Cereal Bar – 1 bar averages approximately 16 grams of sugar
- Cliff Bar – 1 bar contains approximately 23 grams of sugar
Sure, your yogurt comes with some protein and maybe a few active probiotic cultures. Trouble is, most of the stuff you’ll find in the grocery store or deli – with or without fruit on the bottom – will also be loaded with anywhere from 15 – 30 grams of sugar, or about 4 -8 teaspoons worth in a tiny 6 oz cup. With those kind of stats, your breakfast is far closer to a dessert pudding than breakfast item, so buyer beware.
- Activia Strawberry = 19 grams of sugar
- Dannon Peach Fruit on the Bottom = 26 grams of sugar
- Yoplait Strawberry Original = 26 grams of sugar
- Stoneyfield Organic Vanilla = 29 grams of sugar
Bagels, Muffins & Breakfast Breads
Put bread products, be they sugary or not, on your morning musts-to-avoid list. We’re talking bagels, muffins, croissants and the rest. Same goes for pancakes, waffles, French toast. They’re carb bombs, all of them, with little protein or fiber to slow their conversion to sugar in the bloodstream, putting you on the spike-and-crash sugar roller coaster. Even if the office-meeting muffin in a basket is calling your name, recognize it as a breakfast cupcake minus the frosting – and leave it where you found it.
Bottled or Boxed Fruit Juice
Skip your moring juice. Please! Fruit juices are marketed and sold as good-for-you drinks, a healthy alternative to sugary sodas, but alas, they’re not. They’re closer to liquified candy. While fruit juices may have a slight nutritional edge over a serving of Coke, you’d have to drink far too much juice – and all the sugar therein – to extract any benefit and frankly, it’s not worth it. What does a fruit juice look like in terms of teaspoons of sugar? Think 5 scoops per glass. Um, no thanks!
- Tropicana Pure Premium – 8 oz. contains approximately 22 grams of sugar
- Whole Foods 356 Organic Apple Juice – 8 oz. contains approximately 24 grams
- Pom Wonderful Pomegranate juice – 8 oz. contains approximately 32 grams
- Lakewood Organic Pure Concord Grape Juice – 8 oz. contains approximately 36 grams
Specialty Coffee Drinks
Specialty coffee drinks may be your idea of breakfast but what they really are is one heck of a morning sugar bomb with a nutritional profile not all that different from a milkshake. So don’t kid yourself – these kinds of coffee drinks are the worst of all possible worlds, delivering a powerful caffeine and sugar rush that will send you down the craving and irritability hole as soon as the rush is over. If you’re looking for a morning blood-sugar roller-coaster ride – and I cannot imagine why you would – these types of drinks are the ticket. Not surprisingly, the teaspoon count on these can easily hit an appalling 10 – 12 teaspoons (40-48gms) per drink, that is ten times the amount I’d say is acceptable.
- Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf –12 oz. contains approximately 41 grams of sugar
- Starbucks Frappuccino –12 oz. contains approximately 48 grams of sugar
- McDonald’s Frappe Mocha –12 oz. contains approximately 52 grams of sugar
Instead of brutalizing your body with sugar-loaded dessert-like breakfast treats, look for no and low sugar breakfast solutions with foods that will truly fuel, nourish and satisfy. For some delicious ways to do breakfast better, without spiking your blood sugar, check out some of our favorite 6 Healthy Breakfast Ideas.