10 common breakfasts and how to make them healthier

Although breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day, it definitely depends on what you eat for your morning meal.

A healthy breakfast should include a variety of nutrient-dense foods rich in fiber, protein and healthy fats to start your day off on the right foot.

Unfortunately, many of the most popular breakfast foods are processed or lacking in these important nutrients.

Here are 10 ways to give some of the most popular breakfast foods, like pancakes, muffins and toast, a healthy upgrade and start your day off right.

While breakfast cereals are often considered a nutritious option for children and adults, many types are highly processed and rich in refined grains and added sugar.

Eating a lot of added sugar may contribute to a variety of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver problems (1).

Refined grains also contain less fiber. Fiber is a key nutrient to help you feel satisfied after a meal (2).

One positive aspect of cereals is that many types are also fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, thiamine, folic acid, and vitamin B12 (3).

Ideally, look for breakfast cereals that are low in sugar and made with whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, or wheat bran. Pair your breakfast cereal with some plain yogurt or milk and fruit to balance out your meal.


Many breakfast cereals are highly processed and rich in refined grains and sugar. Ideally, look for cereals that are made with whole grains and low in sugar.

Pancakes and waffles are popular weekend breakfast choices at home or in restaurants.

Although they contain more protein than some other breakfast items, pancakes and waffles are typically made with white flour, a refined grain that doesn’t have a lot of fiber.

Additionally, pancakes and waffles are usually covered with maple-flavored pancake syrup, which contains high-fructose corn syrup and provides plenty of added sugar.

A tablespoon of pancake syrup contains 8 grams of added sugar, and it’s easy to pour a few tablespoons onto pancakes and eat more added sugar than is recommended per day (4And 5).

To give pancakes or waffles a healthy twist, try making them with whole grains or nuts instead. Try using whole wheat flour, oatmeal, or almond flour. Eating more fiber-rich plant foods is associated with lower insulin resistance (6).

You can also top it with fresh fruit, plain yogurt, nut butter, or a bit of pure maple syrup.


Pancakes and waffles are often made with refined flour and topped with syrup. Try using flour made from whole grains or nuts and pairing it with healthy toppings like fresh fruit, yogurt, or a bit of pure maple syrup.

Toast topped with ghee might sound like a classic breakfast option.

However, white bread is made with refined flour, which means it lacks fiber and essential nutrients.

Furthermore, some types of margarine contain trans fats, a type of fat that can increase inflammation and contribute to heart disease (7).

Instead, opt for whole wheat bread whenever possible and opt for healthy toasted toppings, such as sliced ​​avocado, nut butter, hummus, or ricotta.


White bread is made from refined flour, and some types of margarine contain trans fats. Using whole wheat bread and choosing healthy toppings can be a better breakfast option.

Muffins are a popular breakfast item and are usually made with refined flour, vegetable oil, eggs, and sugar.

Cakes sold in bakeries, coffee shops, and grocery stores are often quite large, which makes them higher in added sugar and calories than most people think.

In fact, the chocolate chip muffin in a popular coffee chain has an extra 36 grams of added sugar (that’s 9 teaspoons) than a frozen chocolate donut (8, 9)

There are plenty of recipes available for healthy muffins you can make at home, which often contain ingredients like whole wheat flour, fresh fruit, or Greek yogurt.

Instead, enjoy store-bought muffins as an occasional treat and try to save half for later and add a boiled egg to give you some protein and keep your portion sizes in check.


Cakes are usually high in refined flour, calories, and added sugar. Try making homemade muffins using healthy ingredients and enjoy them as an occasional treat.

While fruit juice may seem like an easy way to increase your fruit intake, many fruit drinks on the market actually contain very little fruit and are sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

Although 100% fruit juices provide more nutrients, they are often high in natural sugar and lose the fiber you get from eating whole fruit, helping you feel full (10).

Choose whole fruit rather than juice, and if you like juice, consider diluting it with water or carbonated water to help reduce the sugar in your glass.

You can also try making juices from your favorite fruits and vegetables for a refreshing drink that retains more of the beneficial fiber found in these ingredients.


Fruit juice is high in sugar and should be consumed in moderation. Try making homemade smoothies using fresh fruits and vegetables instead.

Toasted pastries are undeniably a quick and easy breakfast option. However, it is also highly processed and usually contains refined flour and added sugar.

Plus, it’s low in protein, an important nutrient that can help reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness (11).

Some companies have started offering toasted pastries that are rich in protein and low in added sugar, which can be a healthy alternative to many popular brands.

If you’re feeling creative, you can make your own at home using whole wheat flour, fresh fruits, and natural sweeteners.


Toasted pretzels are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates but low in protein. Some companies offer healthier varieties, or you can try making your own at home.

7. Cakes with jam and cream

High in sugar and calories, the jam-covered muffins are more like dessert than a full breakfast.

Scones are made by mixing refined wheat flour, butter, and sugar with desired flavors. Then the dough is formed and baked.

It is usually covered with cream, jam or jelly. The end result is a calorie-dense breakfast with little fiber and protein.

Studies have shown that fiber has many benefits, including keeping blood sugar in a healthy range. It also makes you feel satisfied so you don’t feel hungry right after breakfast (12).

While scones are likely not a staple of your morning meal, they can fit into an overall healthy diet and can be enjoyed in moderation.

Choose varieties made with whole wheat flour and decorate sweet or savory cookies with fresh fruit, cream cheese, ricotta or pesto.


Scones covered with cream and jam are high in sugar and calories but low in fiber. While they can be enjoyed in moderation, try whole wheat varieties and add a more healthy topping.

A bowl of plain Greek yogurt topped with berries is a great example of a healthy, balanced breakfast.

Unfortunately, many popular types of fat-free flavored yogurts are full of added sugar, with some containing around 60% sugar like vanilla ice cream (13And 14).

Additionally, you may be tempted to buy skim yogurt to keep the calories low, but fat is an important nutrient that helps slow the emptying of your stomach to keep you feeling full longer (15).

Removing fat from dairy products and adding a lot of sugar changes this nutritious breakfast option to one that’s better suited as an occasional treat.

Instead of buying yogurt with added sugar, opt for plain yogurt and top up the flavor with delicious ingredients like fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds.


Sweetened, non-fat yogurt is high in sugar and lacks the natural dairy fats that can increase fullness. Unsweetened yogurt is a better option and can easily be sweetened with your favorite toppings.

Although granola bars may seem like great breakfast options, they often look a lot like candy bars in terms of nutrition.

In fact, many granola bars provide only 1-3 grams of fiber and are also low in protein, with only a few grams per serving (16And 17.

Additionally, some of the more popular brands contain a blend of added sugars, including sugar, corn syrup, and honey, along with other ingredients like chocolate chips or dried fruit.

Large amounts of these sugars can increase blood sugar, insulin levels, and inflammation (18).

Look for granola bars that are low in sugar and made with nutrient-dense ingredients like oats, nuts, and seeds.

You can also make homemade granola bars using ingredients like oats, nut butter, coconut flakes, and dates.


Many types of granola bars are high in sugar but low in fiber and protein. It’s best to choose low-sugar granola bars made with nutrient-dense ingredients or try making your own granola bars at home.

10. Processed Gluten-Free Breakfast Foods

Gluten-free diets have become very popular in recent years due to concerns about the potential negative health effects of gluten (19).

Although there’s no harm in avoiding gluten, many gluten-free foods are highly processed and use refined ingredients like rice, potatoes, and tapioca, which can spike your blood sugar (20).

Additionally, gluten-free pancakes, cakes, and other baked goods are usually lower in protein and fiber, similar to traditional wheat-based versions of these foods.

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of nutrient-dense and minimally processed breakfast options, including gluten-free oatmeal, egg cups, smoothie bowls, and vegetable frittatas.


In addition to being low in protein and fiber, many gluten-free packaged foods are highly processed and refined. There are a variety of other breakfast foods that can fit into a gluten-free diet, such as oatmeal, eggs, and smoothies.

Breakfast has the power to set you up for a great day by providing a hearty dose of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

However, many popular breakfast foods are missing out on these key nutrients and can end up leaving you hungry long before lunchtime.

Try some of the healthy options above to give your morning meal a nutritious upgrade.

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