Start Your Day Right: 15 Scrumptious, Sugar-Free Breakfast Recipes - Everyday Health

Sugar: Effects on Health and Healthy Breakfast Recipe Ideas

The Negative Effects of Sugar on Health

Sugar may be sweet, but the effects it can have on your health are decidedly not. While some foods naturally contain sugar — fruit and milk, for example — many foods have sugar added to enhance their flavor, including some you might not suspect because they don't taste overly sweet.

Processed foods, baked goods, and even condiments like ketchup and salad dressing often contain added sugars. "Added sugars contribute sweetness and palatability to foods, but don't add any beneficial nutrients. This is why they're called 'empty calories,'" says Brittany Poulson, RDN, CDCES, a certified diabetes care and education specialist in Grantsville, Utah.

Overdoing it on sugar has been linked to a wide range of health problems. An umbrella review published in BMJ in April 2023 found associations between excess sugar in the diet and 45 different health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, asthma, cancer, and depression. Sugar is thought to contribute to these and other health issues by wreaking havoc on blood sugar and causing cellular inflammation, a marker of many chronic diseases, according to a study published in Frontiers in Immunology in August 2022.

Healthy Breakfast Recipe Ideas

Breakfast provides an excellent opportunity to cut back on added sugars, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN, the founder of Nutrition Starring You in Green Brook Township, New Jersey. Many traditional morning foods, including cereal, pastries, pancakes, French toast, and even yogurt may be loaded with the sweet stuff, and lack nutrients like fiber or protein that blunt the impact on blood sugar (the reason the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables tends not to have similar negative effects). "Swapping out added sugars for natural sugars, such as fruit, increases nutrients while still bringing the sweetness many people desire in their morning breakfast foods," Poulson says.

Fortunately, rustling up a breakfast with no added sugar is easier than you might think, and doesn't have to mean sacrificing taste. Here are some healthy breakfast recipe ideas:

Quinoa Flake Porridge with Raspberries

Freshen up classic oat porridge with this quinoa-flake version, which adds protein, since quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain. Raspberries add natural sweetness along with a host of nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, Poulson says. The best part is you can whip up this healthy breakfast in just two minutes.

Nutrition per serving (serves 2): 124 calories, 1g total fat (1g saturated fat), 3g protein, 26g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 5g sugar, 8mg sodium

Cherry-Beet Smoothie

This pleasantly tart smoothie blends frozen cherries (go for unsweetened), marinated beets, light coconut milk, banana, and cinnamon. Plus, it's ready in just five minutes. Pair it with some scrambled eggs and veggies for a complete meal.

Nutrition per serving (serves 4): 127 calories, 4g total fat (3g saturated fat), 1g protein, 21g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 12g sugar, 100mg sodium

Mushroom and Veggie Breakfast Bowl

This savory — and meat-free! — breakfast bowl is a satisfying way to start your day. With quinoa, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, eggs, and avocado, it packs in 7 grams (g) of filling fiber and 15 g of protein.

Nutrition per serving (serves 2): 377 calories, 21.5g total fat (3.7g saturated fat), 15g protein, 34g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 2.2g sugar, 71.4mg sodium

Baked Banana Oatmeal

When you get bored of preparing oatmeal the usual way, try baking it! You get all the cholesterol-lowering power of oats in a delicious, dessert-like package. Sweetened only with fruit, this recipe is easy to make ahead and can be customized to be vegan-friendly, or dairy- or nut-free, depending on your needs. Enjoy a slice on its own or with another protein.

Nutrition per serving (serves 2): 508 calories, 17g total fat (3g saturated fat), 24g protein, 67g carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 12.3g sugar (0.2g added sugar), 149mg sodium

Veggie-Packed Tofu Scramble

Try this veggie-packed tofu scramble when you need a high-fiber, high-protein breakfast option. Simply cook up some crumbled tofu, frozen spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and spices, and then top with a spoonful of salsa. This recipe is also freezer-friendly, so you can store and enjoy later.

Nutrition per serving (1½ cups; serves 4): 260 calories, 16.3g total fat, 23.4g protein, 11.7g carbohydrates, 5.9g fiber, 625.4mg sodium

Sheet-Pan Veggie and Egg Bake

This simple sheet-pan recipe offers plenty of veggies and protein with next to no effort. Load up a sheet pan with eggs, chopped sweet potatoes, broccoli, sweet pepper, and spices and bake.

Nutrition per serving (serves 2): 300 calories, 16g total fat (4g saturated fat), 17g protein, 35g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, 12g sugar, 582mg sodium

Banana-Bread French Toast

Bananas and maple syrup add sweetness to this breakfast favorite without too much sugar. Simply soak whole-grain bread cubes in mashed bananas, eggs, unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Then, top everything with fresh blueberries before baking. To cut back on saturated fat, swap coconut oil for vegetable or avocado oil.

Nutrition per serving (serves 8): 259 calories, 11g total fat (7g saturated fat), 8g protein, 34g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 14g sugar, 305mg sodium

Banana Raspberry Smoothie

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