In the hustle and bustle of the mornings when you are trying to get your kids out the door, it is important to ensure they have a healthy, nutrition-packed breakfast that will start their day off on the right foot.  Eating a nutritious breakfast sets the tone for the day and helps maintain your child’s blood glucose levels, and jumpstarts their metabolism.  Apart from providing your kids with energy, choosing breakfast foods that are excellent sources of important nutrients, such as calcium, iron & B Vitamins as well as protein and fiber, is a top priority for all parents!  I am a firm believer that everything is okay in moderation – but read those ingredients and nutrition labels, and make sure you are informed of what it is exactly your child is consuming. While some options may seem like obviously poor choices, here is a list of 20 of the worst breakfast foods for kids, some of which might surprise you.

1. Granola or Cereal Bars

Grocery store shelves are lined with a myriad of granola bar products, but before tossing a box in your shopping cart, be sure to read the ingredients list.  Although they may be a good source of fiber, they are often very high in calories, saturated fats, and loaded with sugar.

A good rule of thumb is that if the ingredients list contains more than five ingredients you don’t recognize, it probably isn’t the healthiest food.  The fewer the ingredients the better!  A healthier alternative, time permitting, would be to make your own homemade granola bars.  Whip some up on Sunday, and they will be ready to grab-and-go all week!

2. Pancakes

Pancakes are a favorite breakfast food for many kids.  However, they can be high in calories from sugar and fat, especially if you top them with butter and syrup.  Pancakes are most often made with all-purpose flour, which adds no nutritional benefits.

Good news is, not all pancakes are created equal. You can easily make more nutritious versions for your kids by swapping out the all-purpose flour and using whole wheat flour instead, and rather than topping them with butter and syrup, try fresh fruit and Greek yogurt for added sweetness and protein!

3. White Toast

Any way you slice it, white bread is one of the least nutritious things you can feed your children.  Bad pun, I know, but the fact is white bread is made from wheat flour from which the bran and the germ layers have been removed, where most of the nutrients would have been found.

Choosing white bread over a whole-grain option will only contribute empty calories and little to no nutrients at all.   Again, ditch the refined flour — whole grains are best!

4. Margarine Spread

A common spread included in many breakfasts can be a sneakily unhealthy food, is margarine, which can be high in trans fats.  Trans fats increase the levels of small dense LDL cholesterol and lower HDL (the good) cholesterol, which can lead to an increase in abdominal fat and may lead to an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems.

However, some margarine is made from vegetable oils and contain unsaturated polyunsaturated and monounsaturated “good” fats.  These types of fat help reduce (LDL) low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol when substituted for saturated fat.   If you are on team margarine vs team butter – at the very least make sure you read the labels to make the healthiest choice possible.

5. Donuts

Even donut lovers will admit that a donut is a poor nutritional choice, but not all donuts are considered equal.  Yeast donuts usual contain anywhere from 170 to 270 calories each.  Denser cake donuts can run from 290 to 360 calories, and cream-filled options can be as high as 300 to 390 calories each.

When it comes to fats, donuts may have from 2 to 5 grams of both saturated fats and trans fat.  Eating just one donut would account for a quarter to one-half of the recommended daily limit for saturated fat.  So, if you are stopping at a local coffee shop on the way to your kid’s early morning practice or their school drop off, you might want to pass on offering up this sweet temptation.

6. Store-Bought Muffins

Most people know that donuts are not the healthiest choice, but when it comes to fat content and calories, it may surprise you that some muffins are worse for you than donuts!  Not only are muffins often loaded with sugar, but the average muffin from your local bakery contain from 11 to 27 grams of fat.  Of that total, 2 to 8 grams are saturated.

Making your own muffins, allows you to take control of what is going into your children’s body.  You can reduce the added sugar, use applesauce to replace the oil, and use whole wheat flour as opposed to its refined counterparts, all-purpose or cake flour.  Fill your kid’s muffins with omega-rich and protein-packed seeds and nuts.  You can make healthy and nutritious muffins for your kids, and not sacrifice on taste.

7. Bagels

Bagels are often made primarily of white, refined flour, which as we know provides very little nutrients and fiber.  As is the nature of any white refined bread product, your blood sugar will spike and then drop, leaving your kids with little energy and feeling hunger pangs again soon after.

Your traditional deli bagels contain 300 to 380 calories each – without and cream cheese or butter on top!  A plain bagel usually contains only 2 grams of fat, most of which is saturated, but you still must be mindful of the toppings you choose.  Bagels with cheese can have as much saturated fat as a donut!

8. Fruit Juice

One of breakfast time’s most common accompaniments is a cup of juice. However, in recent years, fruit juices are increasingly being compared more closely to sugary soft-drinks, and often are being viewed as being equally as bad for you.  I’m not sure I would go as far as saying that, but consuming fruit juice is not the same as if you were consuming the intact fruit.

Most of the vitamins, minerals, healthy fiber and antioxidants can be found in the whole fruit, which can be lost during most juicing processes.  So, if possible, go for the real deal and just eat the fruit!

9. Fried Eggs

When preparing eggs, frying is one of the least healthy cooking methods.  When we cook eggs in butter or oil, it adds additional calories, fat, and cholesterol into the finished product.   One large fried egg contains 90 calories and 6.83 grams of fat, 2 grams of which saturated.

Ideally, for a better nutritional value, try serving up your kid’s eggs poached or boiled.  If they prefer the taste of fried eggs, simply try using a lid on top of the frying pan.  This way, it can utilize the steam as well as the direct heat to cook the egg.

10. Breakfast Shakes

Many parents have turned to meal replacement shakes for their little picky eaters to ensure they are getting the vitamins and nutrients they need.  With so many options out there, it can be quiet daunting searching for a healthy breakfast shake that meets the needs of your growing child.

Children require about ½ gram of protein per pound per day.  If a child takes in more protein than their body needs, it is either stored as fat or becomes a burden on their kidneys.  Make sure to read the labels, and make sure it isn’t overloading your child with sugar, preservatives and other artificial ingredients.  Consuming whole foods still wins out as the best way for kids to get their protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

11. Toaster Pastries

Most toaster pastries are made with white flour and packed with added sugar.  Not to mention, the fruit filling often contains little to no real fruit at all.  A two-pack of toaster pastries can flood your child’s system with almost 10 teaspoons of sugar!  This will rocket their blood-sugar up, followed by a mid-morning energy crash.

If you are looking for a convenient, healthier substitute, try a mini whole wheat pita pocket spread with a thin layer of natural peanut butter and stuffed with sliced bananas or strawberries.

12. Low-Fat Yogurt

Non-fat or full-fat?  For many years we have felt this question was a no-brainer.  If we could cut the dairy fat, and sidestep calories, without missing on the good stuff like calcium and protein, would that not be a winning scenario?  The answer might not be as clear as we thought.  More recent studies show that people who eat full-fat dairy are no more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes than people who stick to low-fat dairy products.
When it comes to weight gain, full-fat dairy might be better for your little ones.  Often, when you select a non-fat product over the full-fat there is far more sugar (or artificial sugars).  One low-fat yogurt can contain as many as 30 grams of sugar.  So next time you are in your grocery store, look closely at the nutritional label and ingredients list before immediately reaching for the yogurt that says fat-free or low-fat!

13. French Toast

This carb-heavy breakfast may be a nice treat in moderation, but when breaking down its component parts: refined wheat flour, eggs, milk, sugar, and fat –its very little different than eating a slice of cake!

Often, French toast is made using white bread and topped with additional fat (butter) and sugar (syrup).  However, you can pack in some additional nutrition by serving up a revised version using whole wheat bread, and top with cinnamon, fresh fruit and a dollop of your kid’s favorite yogurt.

14. Croissants

Croissants can be a convenient grab-and-go pastry, but despite their light and flaky texture, they are loaded with carbs, fat, and salt.  Don’t be fooled – one croissant can pack almost 300 calories – primarily from butter and sugar.

Additional calories can quickly add up if you add jam or even ham and cheese.  They may seem like an ordinary bread or bun, but they are most definitely something to be reserved for a treat, rather than a breakfast.

15. Scones

Scones are another convenient and tasty pastry to grab on the go, but scones are a complete nutritional loss.  Not to mention, they are typically high in calories from the heavy cream and butter.

Even when served with fruit, they still can contain more calories and fat than a sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich!  Yikes! While they may be incredibly delicious, reserve enjoying scones on special occasions like a tea party.

16. Instant Oatmeal

When serving up a bowl of oatmeal to your kids, you might want to pass on the instant variety and use a rolled oat or steel-cut oat variety instead.  Not all oatmeal is alike.  Instant oats, also referred to as quick oats, are the most processed of the three oat varieties.  They are pre-cooked, dried, and then rolled and pressed slightly thinner than rolled oats.  Because of this processing, it results in a quicker cooking time, but a slightly mushy, less desirable texture.  Not to mention, most instant oatmeals are loaded with sugar.

So, instead of instant – try to make your kids your own steel-cut oat or rolled oat oatmeal!  This way you can not only control the amount of added sugar but the more of the whole grain they eat, the slower it will be digested, which will help them stay fuller longer. An easy way of preparing them is by making Overnight Oats.

17. Processed Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches

Buying a box of frozen sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches will save you money compared with grabbing a similar breakfast from your neighborhood fast food restaurant – but you won’t necessarily be saving calories, sodium or fat.   Although the sandwiches provide plenty of protein, they are packed with sodium, and are low in fiber, and high in fat.  The average breakfast sandwiches can have 22 grams of fat, 8 grams of which are saturated.

Bottom line, when deciding between store-bought or homemade – preparing a batch of your own breakfast sandwiches, wrapping them individually, and freezing them so your kid can grab and go in the busy morning, is the far better option.   Use a whole wheat English muffin, and swap out the sausage or bacon with a slice of ham instead!

18. Raisin Bran Cereal

Raisin Bran is a popular breakfast staple that combines whole grain wheat flakes and raisins.  This tasty cereal is high in fiber, low in fat and provides about 190 calories for a 1-cup serving.  However, there is a catch.  Those raisins aren’t your typical raisins, in fact – they are coated in sugar!

When combined with the wheat flakes themselves which have three forms of sugar added to them too (Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Invert Sugar) – you would be better finding a basic bran cereal and adding your own unaltered raisins, making a far more nutritious option for your kiddos to enjoy!

19. Krispy Rice Cereal

Krispy rice cereal is a low-sugar alternative to many of the high-sugar kid’s cereals out there.  They are a good option for families with children with food sensitivities and allergies, as the cereal when consumed dry, contains no wheat, soy, milk or nuts.  1 ¼ cup serving contains only 130 calories and has zero grams of saturated or trans fats. All this said, each serving contains 29 grams of carbohydrates, and includes only 1 gram of dietary fiber.

Even though this cereal is advertised to be low in sugar, with only 4 grams of sugar per serving, it may not necessarily make it the most nutritious option.  A whole grain cereal high in dietary fiber can be the better choice and will help keep your child fuller longer.

20. High-Sugar Cereals

No surprise seeing high-sugar cereals as the finale of our list.  For the fussy eater, it may be easier to get them to eat a bowl of this sweet stuff, but simply put, these sugary cereals lack fiber and protein and other important nutrients.  Consuming these types of cereals can cause a rapid blood sugar spike and crash before lunch time!  Not to mention, excess consumption of sugar may also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

If you’re feeling stuck after reading this list and wondering “well, what should I be feeding my child?” don’t fret, we’ve got some suggestions with our 20 Best Breakfasts To Feed Your Kids. Remember, happy mornings, mean happy days!

jessica jowett

Growing up in a house with 4 siblings, Jessica has many fond memories of hours spent in the kitchen preparing delicious creations with her family. After graduating University, she backpacked through Europe, fueled by her love of food and travel. She still loves to travel and experience different cultures through its food and she looks forward to continuing with her childhood traditions in the kitchen with her growing family!

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