8 ‘Healthy’ Breakfast Foods That Aren’t Good for You

Even if you don’t believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it can absolutely set the stage for a day’s worth of healthy eating. Some experts even suggest prioritizing your morning meal since your willpower is strongest just after you rise. With so many nutritious breakfast foods on the market, starting the day off right seems almost inevitable. But you might want to be a little more skeptical of the products you toss into your shopping cart.

Marketing departments at food companies already know we’re all looking to eat a little better, so they appeal to our desires by using certain buzzwords on packaging. Just because a box says the food is healthy doesn’t make it so. If your grocery list includes these eight foods, your morning meal could use a makeover.

1. Flavored instant oatmeal

oatmeal in a blue dish with blueberries and granola on top

Flavored instant oatmeal is loaded with sugar. | iStock.com

Instant oatmeal is a favorite breakfast food for the health-conscious crowd because it’s a quick and easy way to start your day with fiber-rich whole grains. The problem comes when you reach for the flavored options. One popular version of this breakfast staple contains a whopping 12 grams of sugar per serving. In fact, sugar is the second ingredient on the nutrition label.

You don’t have to give up a warming bowl of oatmeal, just stick with plain oats. You can add a drizzle of maple syrup or honey to add a touch of sweetness to your bowl without going overboard.

2. Juice drink blends

pouring cranberry juice into a glass

Juice contains vitamin, but you’re better off eating the actual fruit. | iStock.com

Fruit juice seems like a healthy options, but let’s take a closer look at cranberry juice cocktail. The fresh berries are brimming with nutrients like vitamin C and are low in sugar, but a typical cranberry drink from the store contains a lot of sweetener to make the product more palatable: Enough to give an 8-ounce serving 28 grams of sugar.

Going for real juice is a better option, especially if you make your own. Nutrients begin to diminish immediately after you liquefy the produce, so freshness is key.

3. Turkey bacon

turkey bacon cooking in a skillet

Turkey bacon sounds healthier than regular bacon, but it’s not really. | iStock.com

Very few people would argue bacon is a healthy choice for everyday eating, but turkey bacon is another story. Because the plain poultry is so lean, many automatically assume the same is true when you turn it into a substitute for your favorite morning meat. According to Cooking light, turkey bacon varies quite a bit and some varieties contain just as much fat and even more sodium than pork varieties.

 4. Fiber-added baked goods

close-up of a rich dark chocolate muffin

Treat baked goods as dessert and eat them minimally. | iStock.com

Breakfast pastries usually contain sugar, fat, refined flour, and not much else. Several years back, though, food companies began toying around with certain types of food additives to boost the fiber content of their baked goods. Suddenly, a chocolate muffin that sounded more like a dessert than breakfast was able to boast 6 grams of fiber. The secret ingredient in this case is polydextrose, which is made from glucose and sorbitol.

While some studies have suggested these additives may be useful for improving satiety and promoting regular bowel movements, the long-term effects are unknown. The takeaway is to eat plenty of fiber, but from foods that already contain it. This means fewer fortified muffins and more fruits and vegetables.

5. Egg substitutes

beaten eggs ready for cooking

Don’t skip the yolks. | iStock.com

Egg whites have been adored by dieters and bodybuilders for decades thanks to high levels of protein and almost no fat. The downside comes when you realize skipping the golden center means skipping many vital nutrients like lutein and carotenoids, plus more of that beloved protein. As a way to work around the nutritional shortcomings of only whites, companies started crafting egg substitutes fortified with vitamins.

While these egg impostors may not exactly be bad for you, they’re not an adequate replacement for the real thing. 

6. Whole-wheat frozen waffles and pancakes

waffles stacked on a plate

Just because they’re whole wheat doesn’t mean they’re healthy. | iStock.com

They’re whole wheat — so they must be healthy, right? Unfortunately, this logic can lead to an expanding waistline. Let’s take Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles, for example. Just two of these comes to 170 calories and 6 grams of fat — and that’s without the butter and syrup we know you’re adding on top. A quarter cup of Aunt Jemima’s Original Syrup adds over 200 calories and 32 grams of sugar to your “nutritious” morning meal.

7. Granola

granola in a bowl

This calorie-filled breakfast may not be as “healthy” as you’d imagine. | iStock.com/netoj

Sorry, granola lovers. Granola does have a reputation as being a healthy food, but it’s actually loaded with fat, sugar, and oils. Plus, it’s very high in calories, making it a poor choice if you want to lose weight.

8. Fruit smoothies

two orange smoothies

Keep your smoothies packed with fruit and veggies, not sugary yogurt. | Freeskyline/iStock/Getty Images Plus

If you’re a smoothie lover, rejoice: Not all smoothies are created equal. But if your daily smoothie is full of fruit and sugary yogurt, you’re flooding your body with more sugar than you should. One cup of mangoes, for example, has a whopping 24 grams of sugar. Use veggies as your bulk, and add one or two fruits as a sweetener.

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