Would you eat four candy bars for breakfast? What if your kids asked for this for breakfast, would you let them? The answer is likely no, because it’s candy and we don’t eat that for breakfast. But did you ever stop to think that the things you typically grab for breakfast, for yourself or your kids, might as well be candy? It’s true! Most of our go-to breakfast items have as much sugar as our favorite candies. No wonder our kids can’t concentrate in school and we don’t have the energy to get through a 10 a.m. meeting without bum-rushing the coffee machine.
If you’re looking to make some healthy changes for the new year, we can tell you that changing the way you do breakfast should be a priority. The cliche that it’s the most important meal of the day is very true, and if you can conquer that meal, then you’ll be able to start conquering the others.
We compared 10 of the most popular breakfast items, some of which actually give the illusion of being health foods, to our favorite candies to show you that a cup of yogurt or bowl of cereal is sometimes no better than the treats Santa left in your stocking.
Yoplait Light Fruit-Flavored: 100 calories, 14g sugar
- As much sugar as: 9 Gobstoppers
- Time to burn: 28 minutes walking
- Alternative: This yogurt seems innocent, but it’s full of sugar that your body doesn’t need. Instead, choose a Greek yogurt like Chobani or Voskos that is naturally flavored with whole fruit and doesn’t have added sugar.
Krispy Kreme Glazed Donut: 200 calories, 10g sugar
- As much sugar as: 1.5 rolls of Smarties
- Time to burn: 23 minutes jogging
- Alternative: Doughnuts have no redeeming qualities. Instead, make a quick ham and egg scramble on an English muffin, which you can eat on the go. Save the doughnuts for an occasional dessert.
Strawberry NutriGrain: 130 calories, 12g Sugar
- As much sugar as: 5 packs of SweeTarts
- Time to burn: 20 minutes cycling
- Alternative: A bowl of steel cut oatmeal mixed with a dollop of all-natural strawberry preserves tastes great and has satisfying fiber that will keep you fueled until lunch. Pack it in a thermos and eat at your desk.
Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon PopTarts: 210 calories, 16g sugar
- As much sugar as: 1 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds
- Time to burn: 17 minutes swimming
- Alternative: If this breakfast treat is one you really crave, toast a piece of whole grain bread, use two sprays of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and Truvia. Scramble two eggs on the side for a more balanced breakfast.
Banana Berry Jamba Juice: 409 calories, 84g sugar
- As much sugar as: 4 Mounds bars
- Time to burn: 113 minutes walking
- Alternative: Learn how to make a healthy smoothie and you can make this at home in minutes, saving calories and money. You’ll need plain Greek yogurt, bananas, berries, ice, a blender, a travel mug and five minutes.
Frosted Mini Wheats with Skim Milk: 291 calories, 24g sugar
- As much sugar as: 1 Nestle Crunch bar
- Time to burn: 31 minutes cycling
- Alternative: Skip the frosting by eating a bowl of Shredded Wheat with skim milk and fresh berries. It’s a sweet and healthy swap.
Blueberry Eggos with syrup: 370 calories, 38g sugar
- As much sugar as: 2 Almond Joy bars
- Time to burn: 22 minutes jogging
- Alternative: Try the Belgian blueberry flavor of Van’s frozen waffles and sweeten with a drizzle of honey on top or a schmear of plain fat-free cream cheese for a richer flavor.
McDonald’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait: 160 calories, 21g sugar
- As much sugar as: 1 Payday bar
- Time to burn: 44 minutes walking
- Alternative: Make this when you get to work. Keep homemade granola at your desk, and take a cup of Chobani’s or Voskos’ fruit Greek yogurt. Sprinkle the granola on top and for an affordable, time-saving breakfast parfait.
Banana Nut Otis Spunkmeyer Muffin: 458 calories, 32g sugar
- As much sugar as: 1 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar
- Time to burn: 70 minutes cycling
- Alternative: On Sundays bake muffins and seal them in a plastic baggy. Each morning grab one on your way out the door. This lets you control the ingredients, like whole grain flour and real fruit, and portion size. Try the Biggest Loser Banana Muffins, Pumpkin Walnut Snack Muffins or Cranberry Orange Muffins.
Maple Brown Sugar Quaker Instant Oatmeal: 160 calories, 13g sugar
- As much sugar as: 7 Pixy Stix
- Time to burn: 13 minutes swimming
- Alternative: Make your own steel cut oatmeal at home and top with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of 100% pure maple syrup for only five grams of sugar. That’s a huge savings that still allows you to enjoy your favorite breakfast!
It’s important to remember to read food labels and know what you’re eating. It might be fast, easy, cheap or even appear to be healthy, but often times the foods we choose are not. The good news is that more times than not you can enjoy something similar and give your body more nutrients, and maybe even save some money while cutting calories, too!
4 Breakfasts Worth Waking Up For
The Healthy Fix for Lunch’s Middle Child Syndrome
Nutrition information via CalorieKing.com and ACalorieCounter.com.