Desserts have been masquerading as breakfast foods for years, particularly gaining ground in the in the 1950s during what was called the Golden Age of Cereal. This is when sugary cereals were heavily marketed to children, as well as their time-strapped, convenience-minded parents. This trend continued to rise with each passing decade and now an entire grocery store aisle is devoted entirely to these boxes of sugary, processed, artificial foods. One serving of Honey Nut Cheerios contains more sugar than three Chips Ahoy cookies; cereal should just be called crushed up cookies in a bowl.
But its not just cereal that’s the problem, a huge array of what we call breakfast foods truly are just desserts hiding in plain sight. For example, IHOP has a huge variety of pancakes with such flavors as NYC cheesecake or raspberry chocolate chip, which come with a whopping 83 grams (nearly 21 teaspoons) of sugar! You might think you’re making the healthier choice by picking a muffin from your local coffee shop, but those cupcakes sans frosting can contain about 37 grams of sugar, a little more than 9 teaspoons. Even if it’s organic, vegan, and/or gluten-free, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty of sugar. Often, because of the ingredients that have to be eliminated to meet those dietary requirements, MORE sugar is added in order to keep it from tasting like cardboard.
So what about yogurt, that’s a healthy choice, right? While pure, homemade yogurt is a highly nutritious food, brands like Yoplait and Chobani have built yogurt empires by saturating their products with sugar. With flavor names like Key Lime Pie and Philly cheesecake, it’s not too surprising that these are nothing more than sugar bombs. Yoplaits strawberry yogurt contains 18 grams, while Chobani’s blueberry fruit on the bottom yogurt contains 15 grams, the same amount of sugar as a ½ cup of Breyers vanilla ice cream! All this added sugar knocks out any good bacteria that was originally in the yogurt, so if you buy commercial brands, don’t expect to get any probiotic benefit from them.
And if you think granola is healthy, think again. Many brands pack at least 200 calories in each serving, and servings are usually listed as ½ cup (some are listed as low as ¼ cup, or 4 teaspoons!). However, most of us tend to eat much more in one sitting, or forgo measuring it altogether, and therefore could end up consuming 600 calories in one bowl. Bars don’t fare much better: a Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bar clocks in at 12 grams of sugar. For that same amount, you could eat a fun size Oh Henry candy bar!
Breakfast doesn’t have to be dessert; it can be filling and nutritious and provide the right kind of fuel you need to start your day. In America, we have been told by the food industry that breakfast=sweet, while in many other cultures, breakfast is made up of a variety of foods and flavors that we may not recognize as breakfast foods. For example, in Japan, breakfast often means a hearty mix of rice, fish, and miso soup: protein, vitamins and minerals, without any cookies-in-a-bowl or sugary dairy. Try thinking out of the box when it comes to what you fix for breakfast, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Organic eggs, particularly when eaten with vegetables, are satiating and nutrient-rich, thanks to the protein and fat from the eggs and the vitamins and minerals from the veggies. Anything that is low-fat, low-protein, and high-sugar is going to leave you feeling sluggish and hungry an hour after eating. If you want to have something with a bit of sweetness, try making a porridge out of millet, quinoa, or gluten-free oats, topped with fresh fruit and some nuts or seeds. Consider making smoothies using plenty of greens and adding a touch of sweetness with half a banana or a couple of dates. There are a myriad of recipes online that can inspire you to make the shift away from sugary breakfasts, so start searching and start experimenting today!
Ashleigh Gurtler, TP trainer and Pilates Instructor