Five breakfast foods higher in sugar than a donut

Article By Mallory Lawson, Cox College Dietetic Intern

On average, Americans consume 160 grams (40 teaspoons) of sugar per day. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you may be consuming more sugar than you realize. Various foods contain sugar; it may be added to the food in processing or naturally occurring in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Although these foods naturally contain sugar, they also contain fiber, essential minerals, antioxidants, and other health-promoting nutrients. The concentration of sugar is often much less in whole foods than in processed foods with added sugar. Because of these reasons; fruits, vegetables, and dairy in their whole form should not be eliminated from the diet.

Sugar, when eaten in small amounts and/or infrequently, does not appear to negatively affect health. However, when too much sugar is consumed, the body releases high amounts of insulin – the hormone that ‘mops up’ sugar from the blood and stores it in the muscles. When sugar is consumed in excess, the sugar may also be stored as fat tissue. This weight gain increases the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and more.

To figure out how much sugar is in foods you are consuming, take the total number of grams per serving on the food label and divide by four to give the number of teaspoons in a serving. For example, on the food label, an item may have 20 grams of sugar. Divide that number by 4 and this is 5 teaspoons of sugar. The recommended sugar limit for men is 9 teaspoons, 6 teaspoons for women, 5-8 teaspoons for teens, and 3 teaspoons for children.

Americans know desserts are high in sugar, but it’s the processed “health foods” that are sneaky with the amount of sugar added. One Krispy Kreme donut has 10 g of sugar, equivalent to 2.5 teaspoons, which may be less than you thought. Below are five breakfast items that have equal amounts or more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut. Also included are some easy trade outs for healthier alternatives.


Five breakfast foods with equal amounts of more sugar than a donut


17 g sugar = 4 teaspoons of sugar

Trade out: Plain, Greek yogurt and add strawberries, blueberries, and some walnuts or almonds

Breakfast Cereal

One cup of Raisin Bran

26 g of sugar = 6.5 teaspoons of sugar

Trade out: Bran Flakes with Slivered almonds and a small banana

Instant Oatmeal

Package of Apple Cinnamon Instant oatmeal

12 g sugar = 3 teaspoons of sugar

Trade out: make your own oatmeal, and add your own apples and cinnamon


Bear Naked Honey Almond Granola, ½ cup

21 g = 5 teaspoons of sugar.

Trade out: Mixed nuts or almonds

Starbucks Frappuccino and other coffee like smoothies

Specialized coffee drink (various sizes)

46-84 g = 11.5 tsp- 21 tsp of sugar

Trade out: Order a tall coffee, add milk, and stevia and blend.



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  3. The Sweet Danger of Sugar. Harvard Health, 2017.,. Harvard Men’s Health Watch.