There are many delicious, healthy, and amazing breakfast foods out there, ones that will make you feel good while giving you plenty of energy. Then, there are options that don’t do you any favors at all. Some of these easily earn the title of being the worst breakfast foods.
Many of these foods are high in sugar, are heavily processed, and don’t offer many nutrients. They’ll often give you a blood sugar spike soon after eating them and then an energy crash before too long. Some of them even seem like they should be healthy, like Cream of Wheat.
The problems may be different for other foods, like ones that are high in saturated fat or have concerning additives. Regardless of your position on fat and health, it’s clear that too much saturated fat isn’t great, especially not first thing in the morning.
Unfortunately, many of these foods are classic American breakfast foods, which may mean you need to rethink your breakfasts. While the foods on this list can be enjoyed occasionally, they shouldn’t feature too heavily on your breakfast menu.
Table of Contents
Worst Breakfast Foods
- Sugary Cereal
- ‘Healthy’ Cereal
- Pastries And Donuts
- Sausage Biscuit
- Breakfast Entrée
- Hot Pockets
- Fruit Juice
- Toaster Pastries
- Flavored Yogurt
- Turkey Bacon
- Instant Oatmeal
- Breakfast Bars
- Some Smoothies And Shakes
Cereal might grace many breakfast tables, but this doesn’t make it a good choice. The problem is that cereal is often loaded with sugar. This makes it taste good, sure, but will also have the kids bouncing off the walls in no time. Then after that sugar comes the energy crash.
Cereal doesn’t have much recommending it either. While there will be some nutrients present, the nutritional content is much lower than most other breakfast choices. In the end, this type of cereal just adds extra sugar into your day.
Still, there is good news for people who like the convenience of cereal – healthy brands do exist. Look for products that rely on whole food ingredients and have been through little processing. Many will use nuts, seeds, and whole grains, rather than offering brightly colored circles or something similar.
There are high-quality cereals out there and you can make delicious granola yourself at home. But, it’s still important to be wary of anything you see in the store.
Many brands use marketing to make their product sound much better than it is. Whole grains and antioxidants are two key terms to watch out for. A product can still be high in sugar and unhealthy, even if it does contain many antioxidants.
Pastries And Donuts
While pastries and donuts might not often feature on the breakfast table, they’re common enough choices when people are eating on the run. The appeal is easy to see, as the treats are easy to find, taste amazing, and give you a sugar boost.
Of course, that sugar boost doesn’t last long and you’re not getting many nutrients. Most pastries and donuts are high in calories too. You end up eating a decent proportion of your daily calories in one go and not getting much to show for the calorie cost.
Bagels sound healthy and they are going to be a better choice than donuts any day, but they’re still not all that good for you. After all, most bagels are made from refined white flour, which is high in carbs and low in protein.
If you load the bagel up with healthy toppings, then it might be okay. For example, smoked salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, while cottage cheese is a low calorie way to increase your protein intake.
On the other hand, the wrong toppings can make a bagel an even worse choice. For example, sugary jam will just add to the carbs you’re already getting from a bagel, while cream cheese is high in calories.
A sausage biscuit stack is a classic choice if you’re ordering breakfast on the go. It can seem like an appealing choice too, as you’re getting a decent amount of protein, especially if there’s egg present as well.
The sausage itself is a key problem here, as sausage is more processed than most other types of meat and can be high in nitrates. There is plenty of saturated fat and sodium present in the breakfast too, which isn’t what you need first thing in the morning.
The same problem is true for many frozen breakfast entrees that you can pick up from the grocery store (or hot ones from various restaurants). Even if the ingredients sound healthy, there are often unexpected additives and far too much processing.
This problem even applies to many products that are promoted as being healthy. Pay particular attention to any frozen weight loss breakfasts, as weight loss products use many tricks to keep the calorie and fat content low. Even ones that seem healthy might not be a good idea, as many will be low in calories and won’t keep you satisfied for long at all.
This entry shouldn’t be surprising. Hot Pockets are highly processed, high in sodium, and contain many carbs. Some versions do offer a decent amount of protein, but this shouldn’t be a deciding factor. There are healthier ways to add protein to your breakfast.
Other fast and easy breakfast foods face similar challenges. In the end, it’s always better to make breakfast yourself, rather than relying on something that you heat up in the oven or a microwave.
Fruit juice can be confusing, as some people call it healthy and others don’t. And, in fairness, fruit juice does have its advantages. You are getting some of the important nutrients and plant-based compounds that you would from a piece of fruit.
The main problem is the sugar content. Fruit juice gives you all the sugar from fruit without the fiber. You also tend to consume much more sugar than you’d ever get from eating a piece of fruit, which quickly leads to a blood sugar spike.
While pancakes are delicious as an occasional treat, they’re not doing your health any favors. This is even more true if you’re drowning your pancakes in sugary syrup.
Still, even if you rely on healthy toppings, pancakes don’t have many advantages. They rely on processed white flour, which can easily spike your blood sugar. This type of flour doesn’t contain many nutrients either.
White flour affects your blood sugar because it is digested quickly. This isn’t good news for a breakfast food, as it means that you’ll get hungry before too long. The best breakfasts should leave you satisfied for hours.
Waffles face the same problems as pancakes, including the focus on white flour and the ability to increase your blood sugar levels. Waffles can even be worse than pancakes because waffles can often be purchased frozen and then heated at breakfast time.
Many such products will be highly processed, much more so than waffles or pancakes that you make at home. It’s also easy to eat too many waffles if they’re easy to reheat.
Let’s be honest. You already knew that toaster pastries are unhealthy. Didn’t you?
These pastries really do have nothing going for them. They’re highly processed, full of sugar, and they don’t even taste that good. They’re also low in fiber and protein, so they’re not going to fill you up at all.
There’s one other problem too – the nutrition labels. These can make it seem like toaster pastries aren’t that bad. The catch is that the label is generally for one pastry, but there are two in a pack and most of us eat both of them.
Yogurt itself can be good for you, offering various nutrients, along with probiotics that can help with gut health. Yet, many yogurts aren’t very good choices at all.
Companies often use additives and artificial ingredients to create a desirable flavor and mouthfeel. There is often far too much sugar present as well. The end result isn’t that different from eating a candy bar, which isn’t what you want from breakfast at all.
When looking at yogurt, focus on unflavored or minimally flavored options. You can always add flavor yourself by stirring in a little fresh fruit or some cocoa powder. Strained yogurt, like Greek yogurt or skyr, may also be appealing, as strained yogurt tends to have more protein and is often lower in sugar too.
Turkey bacon sounds much healthier than regular bacon. While turkey bacon might be relevant to people who need to watch their fat intake, for most of us it simply isn’t a good choice at all.
It takes a fair amount of processing to get turkey into a form where it can be cooked like bacon. That level of processing is never a good thing. Not surprisingly, turkey bacon also contains more additives than you’ll find with regular bacon.
The benefits of oatmeal can’t be disputed and this is a breakfast that will keep you going for quite some time. But, prepackaged instant oatmeal is an entirely different story.
This type of oatmeal is often mixed with flavors and artificial ingredients. Even the unflavored versions tend to be higher in sugar and lower in fiber than oatmeal that you would prepare yourself.
Toast might be a go-to, but if you’re relying on white bread, you’re not getting many nutrients at all. You’re also faced with that same problem of fast digestion and no sustainable energy.
Toast is even worse if you’re using sweet toppings, as these just add to the problem. If you’re going to eat toast in the morning, try to top it with something high in protein.
Switching from white bread to sprouted bread or something similar can help too. Just be wary of whole grain breads. These breads do contain more nutrients than white bread, but it’s not clear whether we can absorb most of those extra nutrients.
Even if we are, the whole grains are often ground to produce flour, which means the bread is still digested much more quickly than is ideal.
Breakfast bars offer a way to eat on the go – perfect for anyone who is running out of time in the morning. The bars even have advantages over some other options, as they can be rich in protein and fiber.
The problem is the other ingredients that are present. Breakfast bars often contain additives and far too much sugar. Some have more sugar than a candy bar, despite claims that they are healthy.
To find a good product, you’ll need to pay close attention to the ingredients label. Better yet, try making a breakfast bar at home.
Even if you do make a much healthier breakfast bar, this isn’t a breakfast option that you should rely on every day. Taking the time to slow down and eat a meal tends to be better for your digestion and will keep you satisfied for longer than scoffing down a bar ever could.
Some Smoothies And Shakes
Protein shakes and smoothies are often used as alternatives to breakfast. The idea can work well, especially if you’re using protein powder or other sources of protein to create a satisfying drink.
But, many shakes and smoothies aren’t made well at all. The sugar content is often much higher than it needs to be. You might even end up with something that tastes like chocolate milk, which is a good indication that your shake isn’t quite right.
We’re not just talking about commercial shakes and smoothies here either. It’s easy to make an unhealthy breakfast drink by including too many high sugar or high fat ingredients and not enough nutritious ones. Focus on healthy smoothie add-ins instead and make sure that you skip the fruit juice entirely.
And, on a side note, replacing a meal with a shake does have limitations. Our bodies respond to liquid calories differently than calories that we eat. You’ll find that you get hungry sooner after a protein shake than after a protein-packed breakfast, even if the nutrients were similar.
We mentioned pastries and donuts earlier. Muffins are the same in many ways. They tend to be scarily high in sugar and fat. In some cases, you’re basically just eating a cake that has some nuts or other ingredients added in.
Most muffins won’t keep you going for long and won’t provide that many nutrients either. There are some healthier options, including bran muffins, but even these can be high in sugar.