Avoid Sugar at Breakfast

Contributions by CSPI, Alison Marras, Jackie Newgent, and Institute for Responsible Nutrition CSPI

“Approximately 80 percent of the 600,000 consumer packaged foods in the United States have added caloric sweeteners.”

~Dr. Robert Lustig_

What’s Inside

What’s In & What’s Out

  • No white, brown, turbinado, raw or powdered sugar. (Even in your coffee…)
  • No simple syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, date sugar, coconut sugar, molasses etc. Sugar has many names! Check out this list of 56 Different Names For Sugar!
  • No sweetened yogurt. Buy plain and add naturally sweet, fresh fruit on top.
  • No sweetened cereal or granolas. Read the label! Buy unsweetened muesli instead.
  • No sweetened beverages. Even bottled iced tea and packaged nut milks are likely to contain added sugar.
  • Jam, jelly, preserves and marmalade made from only fruit are fine, but be sure to check the ingredients as most contain added sugar. And remember that whole fresh fruit has a lower concentration of sugar, so try to stick with fresh.
  • Naturally occurring sugars in unsweetened dairy products and fruit are a-okay.
  • Naturally occurring sugars in dried fruit are okay in small quantities, but make sure to check the ingredients for sugar, and choose the organic kind without sulfites. Try for fresh whenever possible and used dried fruit as a back up.
  • Smoothies sweetened with whole fruit are great! Just make sure the milk or yogurt you use doesn’t have added sugar.
  • If you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track tomorrow.

Why This Is A Good Idea

We all know that we shouldn’t eat too much dessert. But did you know that breakfast is often the most sugar-centric meal of the day? Pastries, sugary cereals, “fruit” flavored sweet yogurts and coffee beverages load our bodies with more sugar than we should be eating in an entire day, all before we get to work. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 24 grams) of added sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (about 36 grams). For reference, a regular can of soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar, and a 16 ounce chai latté from your favorite coffee shop can easily top 11 teaspoons! Yikes!

Cutting added sugars can significantly decrease your risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, tooth decay, and much more. Why? Excess sugar can cause an above-average spike in blood sugar, triggering you to feel even more hungry, store excess fat, and lead to prediabetes more quickly. To be clear, not all sugars are created equal. The natural sugar from your apple doesn’t have the same effect as the added sugar from that chai latté we mentioned, because the apple has fiber that causes your body to digest the sugar more slowly and helps keep you full, while the chai latté does not. Plus, ditch the extra sweetness and you’ll even have sharper taste buds—you’ll soon be able to experience more nuanced flavors in your food, and the natural sweetness of whole fruit.

Over 70% of strokes and colon cancer can be avoided, as can at least 80% of heart disease and 90% of type 2 diabetes, and diet is a significant factor. Along with exercise and not smoking, developing good eating habits (less animal products, less processed food and more veggies and fruit) can help cut your risk of diabetes by 95%, your risk of heart attack by 80% and risk of a stroke by half.

Basic Tips & Useful Hints

  • Be sure to check in after breakfast everyday—it’s more effective than waiting till the end of the day. Draw a check mark if your meal had no added sugar or use a free pass if you had added sugar in your meal.
  • Hang tight—you’re probably going to crave sugar for the first few days. But once you get through that first stretch, it WILL get easier.
  • Eat protein and healthy fats which help keep you full and regulate blood sugar levels; beans, nuts, eggs, lentils, yogurt, cheese and avocado are all great sources to include in your breakfast.
  • If you think you might cry without something sweet for breakfast, satisfy your craving with fruit and nuts, yogurt with fresh fruit, or a fruit-sweetened smoothie. The key to this Challenge is added sugar, so the natural sugar in whole fruit is fine. Just try to pair it with protein of some sort to stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Clean out your pantry. If your favorite cereal is staring you in the face, you’re much more likely to slip.
  • Replace sugary cereals with unsweetened muesli and or oats.
  • Bulk up breakfast with veggies! Eggs and veggies are a match made in heaven.
  • Channel your inner savory self. Eggs are incredibly nutritious, and filling enough to last you through the morning.
  • Start the morning with a big glass of water.
  • Stay away from processed foods. They are very likely to contain added sugars.
  • Just say no to the pastry case. Muffins, scones, croissants and the like are all code for “dessert for breakfast”. If you’re tempted by sweets when you get your coffee, make coffee at home, or bring nuts with you for something to snack on to distract you from the sweets at the coffee shop.
  • Read all labels. Sugar is hidden in everything—from almond milk to yogurt, instant oats and granola. Even in “all natural” peanut butter! Names for added sugar include: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, syrup and white sugar. Other types of sugar you might commonly see on ingredient lists are fructose, lactose and maltose.

Shopping List

  • Hit the produce section for fresh fruit like peaches and nectarines, berries and bananas (think smoothies or an unsweetened yogurt bowl).
  • Grab some veggies too, such as lettuce, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, squash and sweet potatoes (think omelettes, frittatas, breakfast salads and savory grain bowls).
  • Mushrooms too!
  • Hit the bulk bins, the mothership of protein-rich, nutritious whole grains like amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa. These can all turn into delicious savory breakfast bowls.
  • Stock cinnamon, vanilla extract, and cardamom for adding on top of yogurt, oatmeal and fresh fruit.
  • Organic cage-free eggs are a must.
  • A hard cheese such as manchego or pecorino, or goat cheese for the eggs.
  • Avocado
  • Whole grain Ezekiel bread (avocado toast, nut butter with banana…)
  • Nuts and nut butter to pair with fruit for a quick breakfast.
  • Frozen fruit for smoothies
  • Rice cakes (for nut butter and banana of course)
  • Plain unsweetened yogurt
  • Unsweetened nut or hemp milk for smoothies

Recipes

Savory Kale and Cremini Oatmeal with a Fried Egg by Newgent Savory Kale and Cremini Oatmeal with a Fried Egg

Cheesy Scallion Scrambled Eggs by annefood Cheesy Scallion Scrambled Eggs

Kimchi Frittata by gingerandchorizo Kimchi Frittata

Avocado Toast with Lemony Arugula Salad and Egg by Newgent Avocado Toast with Lemony Arugula Salad and Egg

“Trash” Hash by Newgent
Trash Hash

Creamy Green Smoothie by annefood Creamy Green Smoothie

Yogurt Breakfast by annefood Yogurt Breakfast

Grilled Grapefruit with Pistachios, Goat Cheese and Basil Vinaigrette by Newgent
Grilled Grapefruit with Pistachios, Goat Cheese and Basil Vinaigrette

Turmeric Breakfast Scones by palaknyc Turmeric Breakfast Scones

Grain-free Cocoa Granola

Grain-free Porridge

Grain-free Strawberry Tigernut Muffins

Smart Things To Read And Watch

Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.