Some classic morning meals are serious diet offenders (I’m looking at you, Pop Tarts and waffles), but other breakfast staples may not seem so unhealthy at first glance. Either way, take a look at and see if you can swap one of these 10 worst breakfast foods for a more nutritious choice.
Cold Cereals1 of 11
There's no getting around it: Most breakfast cereals contain less nutrition than the boxes they came in. While we'd all love for cereal to remain the poster child for a "healthy" breakfast, the truth is that most cereals are made out of highly refined grains and loaded with more sugar than a glazed donut. And because most cereals have also been stripped of their nutrients during processing, manufacturers have added low-quality chemical versions of vitamins and minerals so they can boast that their cereal is "fortified."
Try This Instead: If you are craving carbs, reach for healthy sources like homemade oatmeal with fruit or heirloom grains such as buckwheat, quinoa or amaranth. If you must have cereal for breakfast, make sure it is low in sugar and high in fiber. Pay attention to portion sizes, and read the ingredients list to avoid unhealthy additives.
The Grande Starbucks Drink2 of 11
Yes, we know mornings are hectic and there are some days where it's tempting to just supersize that Starbucks drink and call it "breakfast." But downing a 400-plus-calorie fat and sugar bomb first thing in the morning is a one-way ticket to an energy crash and mid-morning hunger pains. Though a grande butterscotch latte may seem like a meal, your body doesn't receive the same satiety feeling from drinking calories as it does when you chew them.
Try This Instead: Opt for a black coffee and choose a breakfast you can chew. If you aren't a fan of plain coffee, adding a splash of whole milk or a bit of natural sweetener (honey is a great choice) to your brew will keep the calories low and save room for a breakfast with healthy carbs, fat and protein to keep you satisfied until lunch.
High-Calorie Granola3 of 11
Despite its long-standing reputation as a "health food," granola can be one of the least healthy ways to start your day. Most prepackaged granolas contains way too much sugar and very little fiber—and can pack a whopping 600-plus calories in a single cup serving.
Try This Instead: Make your own granola or choose one with reduced sugar. Aim for 8 grams per serving or less. Watch the calorie count (healthier granolas usually have less than 200 calories in a 1/4-cup serving) and keep the portion size small. Rather than filling up a bowl with only granola and milk, use a few tablespoons of granola to enhance other healthy foods such as Greek yogurt and fruit.
Bagels4 of 11
Bagels have a bad rap for several good reasons. The average deli bagel can have over 350 calories and 50 to 60 grams of carbohydrates—the equivalent of three to four slices of bread! Even whole-wheat bagels are only partly whole wheat. The majority of the flour in a bagel is highly refined white flour, which lacks vitamins, minerals and fiber. Without fiber to slow absorption, the carbohydrates digest quickly, converting to sugar and then, very possibly, to fat.
Try This Instead: Choose a 100 percent whole-wheat English muffin or slice of bread with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. If only a bagel will do, look for a whole-grain bagel made with 100 percent whole-wheat flour. To slim down this grab-and-go breakfast, you can also mini-size your bagel or scoop out the soft interior, which saves about 100 calories.
Processed Breakfast Meats5 of 11
We really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's time to back away from the bacon. Processed meats like bacon, breakfast sausages, salami and ham are some of the worst things you can add to your plate, thanks to sky-high amounts of sodium, saturated fats and nitrates. New research shows that even a little bit of processed meat puts you at a much greater risk for heart failure and cardiac-related disease than skipping it altogether.
Try this Instead: Contrary to popular belief, there is life without bacon. To get your crunchy, salty fix without harming your health, try a potato hash with tomatoes and greens. The potatoes mimic the crisp texture of bacon on your taste buds and the sautéed garlic, tomatoes and baby spinach pack a healthy punch into this spicy dish.
Orange Juice6 of 11
Orange juice has long sported a "health halo" thanks to its high levels of vitamin C. But the modest amount of vitamin C that your daily glass confers is no match for the truckload of sugar the beverage delivers. With over 9 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce glass, OJ packs the same sugary punch as a 12-ounce can of Coke! Without fiber to slow the absorption of the carbohydrates in juice, the body experiences a rapid spike of insulin—and the subsequent energy crash that follows.
Try this Instead: Stick with water, coffee or tea for your breakfast beverage and aim to get your daily dose of vitamin C from healthier sources. Kale, broccoli and bell peppers are all great sources and provide plenty of healthy fiber and additional nutrients.
Processed Energy Bars7 of 11
Advertised as the "perfect grab-and-go breakfast," a sea of energy bars compete for our attention on supermarket shelves. And despite all the health claims on their brightly colored wrappers, many are simply candy bars in disguise. With a laundry lists of additives and plenty of added sugar in various forms (brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc.), your portable breakfast may be satisfying your hunger but damaging your health.
Try This Instead: If the convenience of a bar is important, choose one made with zero added sugars and containing only real, minimally processed ingredients. You can also make your own for a completely customizable, healthy grab-and-go breakfast.
Calorie-Packed Smoothies8 of 11
Smoothies can be a wonderfully nutritious way to start to your day, but all too often that seemingly healthy breakfast can turn into a high-calorie sugary treat. Containing high-calorie ingredients like yogurt, nuts and seeds, milk or avocado, smoothies can easily pack 300 to 600 calories in a 16-ounce portion. And it's easy to eat much more than you realize. Smoothies go down faster than food that needs to be chewed, so your brain doesn't get the signal that you are full until you've already overeaten.
Try This Instead: Keep an eye on portion sizes and pre-measure ingredients so you know how many calories your smoothie contains. Make sure your smoothie has more vegetables than fruits and isn't sweetened with fruit juice or added sugars. Also, don't be afraid to slow down. Eating your smoothie with spoon instead of slurping it down quickly with a straw can help prevent overeating.
Sweetened Yogurt9 of 11
Yogurt—plain, unsweetened yogurt—is actually a fairly healthy food. But the sweetened, low-fat, fruit (or mix-in) filled containers that make up the majority of yogurts in stores are anything but nutritious. With more sugar than seven Dunkin' Donuts, many of the "fruit-on-the-bottom" yogurts should really be relegated to the candy aisle. Beware the "lite" yogurts as well. To compensate for the fat removed, manufacturers often add thickeners such as gelatin, gum or starch, along with sweeteners and flavoring agents.
Try This Instead: Opt for plain, unsweetened yogurt and add any sweeteners or toppings at home. Greek yogurt can be topped with fresh fruit, a sprinkling of nuts or a handful of granola for a great mix of healthy carbs, fats and protein.
Muffins10 of 11
You may be tempted to pat yourself on the back when you pass up that fast-food sandwich or chocolate croissant for a zucchini-walnut muffin, but let's face it: Most muffins are just cupcakes without frosting. Even those with "reduced fat" and "whole grain" labels can pack loads of sugar and a calorie punch, with upwards of 450 calories and 35 grams of sugar in a single muffin.
Try This Instead: Bake your own muffins at home with healthier ingredients and reduced amounts of sugar. Or choose a 100 percent whole wheat or sprouted grain English muffin topped with nut butter or fresh fruit for a healthier way to start your morning.
11 of 11
Nutrition Events Near You
The Best Fruit and Vegetable Supplements of 2023: Boost Your Micronutrient Intake
The 7 Best Lion's Mane Supplements of 2023, According to a Dietitian
High-Protein Snacks to Help You Hit Your Macros
The 9 Best Nitric Oxide Supplements of 2023: What to Take Before Your Next Workout
Best Supplements for Bloating: 2023 Review
Discuss This Article