Eating a healthy breakfast provides energy to start the day and is important for weight control. In children, a healthy breakfast is essential for proper growth and development and is linked to improved attention and learning in school. Breakfast is often thought of as the most important meal of the day, for good reason. Unfortunately, many common breakfast foods are more similar to candy and soda than a healthy meal to start the day. This is also true for other meals and snacks throughout the day. After looking at the nutrition information, what seemed like a healthy choice might be candy or soda in disguise!
Oranges, orange juice, and orange soda.
Unhealthy choices sometimes come disguised as something healthy—juice. Many “fruit” drinks contain less than 5% juice but plenty of added sugar, so they are essentially soda without bubbles. For example, the orange drink Sunny D is a popular substitute for orange juice, but it is far from a nutritional equivalent. The same is true for other drinks, including juice boxes and pouches, that are commonly part of breakfast or snacks.
Even though the sugar and caloric content of these drinks is comparable to real fruit juice, consuming food and beverages that are flavored like fruit but are actually much sweeter may make real fruit less palatable. Children may develop an expectation that oranges or orange juice should taste as sweet as Sunny D and prefer the sugar-sweetened version over the real fruit. The same is true for food, too. A child who is used to breakfast or snack foods that taste like candy or cookies may resist real food when it is offered.
Is that yogurt… or fro-yo?
Yogurt is a healthy source of protein, calcium, and energy. But many flavored yogurts are also high in added sugar. Some even contain toppings like chocolate chips or sprinkles. When it comes to sugar and calories, many of these are more similar to frozen yogurt than they are to plain yogurt!
Is that GREEK yogurt… or is it fro-yo?
Greek yogurt is healthier than regular yogurt, right? Maybe… But many popular flavored Greek yogurts have as much added sugar and as many calories as frozen yogurt!
Oats, oatmeal, and oatmeal cookies.
A bowl of oatmeal is a healthy breakfast, containing whole grains, lots of fiber, and other nutrients to start your day. But many prepackaged oatmeal also contain lots of additional sugar, too, And a host of breakfast bars and other baked goods that contain oatmeal also have have lots of added sugar. In fact, the oats you have for breakfast (or a snack) may be more like an oatmeal cookie than a bowl of healthy oatmeal!
Go nuts! But make sure you are eating nuts, not candy.
Eating nuts can be a tasty way to make your diet more healthy. Nuts are beneficial because they are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Nuts also contain omega-3 fats and natural plant sterols which, together, may help lower your blood cholesterol and reduce your risk of heaving a heart attack.
Although the specific nutrients vary among different nuts, all nuts are thought to be healthy. This includes tree nuts such as almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pecans, which have the most research to support their health benefits. But it also includes peanuts, which are actually legumes (like beans), not true nuts.
Keep in mind that you should focus on eating plain nuts to get the biggest benefits. Many nuts have added flavors in the form of coatings, glazes, and seasonings, which may be high in sugar and salt. Honey roasted peanuts and chocolate covered almonds are good examples of nuts that are essentially candy. These types of nuts should be eaten sparingly and for dessert, not as a snack.
Spread nut butters—not frosting—for a healthy snack.
Peanut butter (and other nut butters) are healthy sources of protein and energy. But many contain added sugar as some contain other ingredients like chocolate. In fact, many “nut” butters don’t contain nuts at all and are essentially frosting!