We know eating breakfast makes a lot of sense -- it revs the metabolism, refuels the body and curbs those late-morning cravings for a sweet, fat-laden fix. On those rush-out-the-door mornings or the days we don't feel like making breakfast, however, turning to packaged convenience foods or the drive-through window is oh so easy and simply ends up sabotaging the best of our healthy diet intentions. Here are some of the most common unhealthy grab-and-go breakfast foods along with healthier alternatives for a morning meal.
Breakfast croissants can crush your diet
There's a reason why croissants taste so buttery and delicious: They're loaded with butter -- or partially hydrogenated oil. For example, Aunt Jemima's Sausage, Egg & Cheese on a Croissant Sandwich, from the freezer to the microwave, is a mini-meal of 350 calories. It contains more than a day's worth (2 grams) of trans fat from the partially hydrogenated oil in the white-flour croissant and a third of a day's saturated fat (7 grams) from the sausage and pasteurized process cheddar cheese. There's half a day's cholesterol (150 milligrams) from the egg patty and a full day's worth of sodium (680 milligrams) from all four of these culprits.
Basically, it's a McDonald's Egg McMuffin with trans and extra saturated fats, waiting to destroy your diet.
Breakfast sandwiches can pack on the pounds
Aunt Jemima, well known for her pancakes, now offers pancake sandwiches in the freezer aisle. The pre-made frozen Sausage, Egg & Cheese on Pancakes Griddlecake Sandwich consists of sausage, egg and cheese packed between pancakes with syrup flavoring. While it has no trans fat, it does boast 8 grams of saturated fat as well as an unhealthful mix of salt (930 milligrams of sodium) and sugar (11 grams). This hearty little morning meal weighs in at 360 calories.
Breakfast biscuits may bust your buttons
If you're gunning for a fast-food fix, that Burger King Breakfast Biscuit is 300 calories -- for a plain one. Add in the sausage, egg and cheese, and you'll end up consuming a whopping 590 calories, 40 grams of fat and 1,640 milligrams of sodium!
Hardee's Monster Biscuit is another chart-topper when it comes to unhealthful breakfast sandwiches. It's a 700-calorie biscuit behemoth that contains nearly a full day's worth of sodium (2,250 milligrams) and saturated fat (7 grams).
Super-quick French toast can pad your thighs super-fast
Bread dipped in eggs has wholesome breakfast beginnings, but when it's fried and altered with artificial preservatives and flavorings, it simply isn't a good choice. Consider those handy French Toaster Sticks by Eggo. One 220-calorie serving of two slices packs bad-for-you trans fats, artificial flavors and 11 grams of sugar
Instant oatmeal provides an instant hit of sugar
How can a grain as simple and good for you as oatmeal steer your diet wrong, especially when those new bowls-to-go packages make such a convenient breakfast on the run? Many of the instant brands wear the American Heart Association (AHA) seal, but companies pay for a product to wear that sign, as the authors of Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide reveal. The fine print below the logo states that the product meets the AHA's "food criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol," but it could be high in sweeteners and contain additives, such as artificial flavorings and preservatives.
The Quaker Oatmeal Express Baked Apple bowl, for example, may be low in saturated fat, but it has 11 grams of sugar. Though it may be better than a Pop Tart (which has 16 grams of sugar), the Oatmeal Express is too sweet to be good for you.
Granola bars are more like breakfast candy
Oats, nuts and dried fruits are all good ingredients, but when they're held together with sugar -- or high-fructose corn syrup – they are nothing more than a candy bar, especially the chocolate-dipped and sugary yogurt-covered granola bars. Nature Valley's Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars, for example, have 160 calories and 12 grams of sugar in one bar (if you only eat one out of the two-bar serving package).
Healthful breakfasts to tote
There are alternatives to these diet-destroying grab-and-go breakfasts. Some may take a little more effort, but they can save you money and keep you from padding fat on your trouble spots.
Here are some of our tastiest recommendations for healthier breakfasts:
- Mix plain yogurt with a few currants or dried cherries and a little honey, agave or pure maple syrup to sweeten.
- Combine milk, soy or almond milk with fruit, yogurt and a bit of nut butter for a delicious homemade smoothie.
- Opt for quick-cooking, large-flake oatmeal, popped in the microwave with water, and finished with milk, honey and fresh or frozen berries.
- Beat high-sugar packaged versions by making your own granola bars -- they're easy, and you can portion and freeze them until later.
- Pair cheese and whole-grain crackers that are low in sodium and trans fat for a satisfying on the go meal.