How much sugar is in your breakfast? (Spoiler alert: A lot!)

Have you ever wondered if muffins only look like cupcakes on the outside (minus the frosting, of course)? They’re both typically made up of the same ingredients (white flour, sugar, eggs, flavorings, etc.) so how different could they really be on the inside? This inspired me to look into how much sugar you’d find in each, along with many other “sweet” items you commonly find at the breakfast table for today’s new post!

Before we dive in though, I have to say my research led to some shocking findings. When I asked (on social media) which of these breakfast items has the most sugar, I was surprised how many people got it wrong. What’s your guess?

How much sugar is in your breakfast on 100 Days of Real Food

There were loads of guesses for the donuts, which certainly have the reputation for being sugar bombs. But as it turns out, those are basically the LEAST sugary items there! And the muffins? Well, I have to admit I was pretty floored when I turned over that box. Read on for the details!

How much sugar we should be eating…

A quick reminder that the recommended daily allowance of added sugar is:

  • 12 grams for children
  • 24 grams for women
  • 36 grams for men

Sugar itself is not the enemy, it’s the amount in which we are consuming it! It’s in everything these days so it ADDS UP FAST and is causing many diet-related illnesses as a result. Even our own government agrees:

Americans are eating and drinking too much added sugars which can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. – CDC

How much sugar is in your breakfast?

Here are 15 breakfast “treats” to be on the lookout for … plus I’ll be sharing a “healthier” makeover for one of the more sugary items (coming to the blog later this week)!

I also shared these breakfast foods on the Charlotte Today Show yesterday. Here’s the clip if you prefer to watch instead of reading!

Charlotte Today Show Appearance


15 “Breakfast” treats  and their sugar content (some may surprise you)

  1. Donuts: 9 grams sugar per serving
    How much sugar is in glazed doughnuts
  2. Cereals: 9 to 14+ grams sugar per serving
    How much sugar is in cereals
  3. Cinnamon Rolls: 10 grams sugar per serving (get my healthier recipe here)
    How much sugar is in cinnamon rolls
  4. Packaged Overnight Oats: 10 grams sugar per serving (get my healthier recipe here)
    Sugar in overnight oats
  5. Flavored Oatmeal Packets: 12 grams sugar per serving, includes naturally occurring sugars (get my healthier recipe here)
    Sugar in oatmeal packets
  6. Bars: 13+ grams sugar per serving
    Sugar in chewy snack bars
  7. Danish: 14 grams sugar per serving
    Sugar in a packaged danish
  8. Pop Tarts: 14 grams sugar per serving, includes naturally occurring sugars (get my healthier recipe here)
    Sugar in Pop Tarts
  9. Chocolate Chip Pancakes: 15.5 grams sugar per serving, at Denny’s (get my healthier pancake recipe here)
    Sugar in chocolate chip pancakes from Denny's
  10. Banana Bread: 25 grams sugar per serving (get my healthier recipe here)
    Sugar in typical banana bread recipe
  11. Crumb Cake: 26 grams sugar per serving
    Sugar in crumb cake
  12. Yoplait Yogurt: 26 grams sugar per serving, includes naturally occurring sugars (get my homemade berry sauce recipe for yogurt here)
    Sugar in Yoplait yogurt
  13. Coffee Cake: 30 grams sugar per serving
    Sugar in typical coffee cake recipe
  14. Muffins: 30 to 35 grams sugar per serving, includes naturally occurring sugars (get my healthier blueberry muffin recipe here)
    Sugar in grocery store muffins
  15. Monkey Bread: 36 grams sugar per serving (be on the lookout for my healthier recipe later this week, get on my newsletter so you don’t miss it)
    Sugar in typical monkey bread recipe

And back to those cupcakes…

For comparison, cupcakes typically range from 25 to 35 grams of sugar per serving (25 – 30 grams at the supermarket and 34 grams at Starbucks). And that includes the frosting!
Starbucks muffin and cupcake sugar content

Just to recap:

How much sugar is in your breakfast?
Item Sugar per serving
Donuts 9 grams
Sugary Cereals 9 to 14+ grams
Cinnamon Rolls 10 grams
Packaged Overnight Oats 10 grams
Flavored Oatmeal Packets 12 grams*
Bars 13+ grams
Danish 14 grams
Pop Tarts 14 grams*
Chocolate Chip Pancakes (Denny’s) 15.5 grams
Banana Bread 25 grams
Crumb Cake 26 grams
Yoplait Yogurt 26 grams*
Coffee Cake 30 grams
Muffins 30 to 35 grams*
Monkey Bread 36 grams

*Also includes naturally occurring sugar

I am not saying don’t ever eat any of these things again … just consider them an occasional dessert, not a healthy breakfast!

And that brings me to a question. How did we get in the habit of serving sweets for breakfast that are sugary enough to be passed off as a dessert anyway? I think this can be confusing for our kids when we make “healthier” whole-wheat versions of these items at home, but then they don’t realize the store bought muffins (or banana bread or cinnamon rolls) are completely different animals! This is something I need to talk to my own kids about more. What are your thoughts on the topic?

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20 thoughts on “How much sugar is in your breakfast? (Spoiler alert: A lot!)”

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  1. I have cut out processed foods from my diet for the past 2 1/2 months and it has worked wonders. I have lost more than 21 pounds since then and I exercise at the gym 3-5 days per week. I look a lot younger than my age and I am happier and have less stress (Im still stressed out but not nearly as much as when I are processed junk food). Thank you for the great article. Best of luck to you! :)


  2. I was surprised by one comment in this video regarding sugar in yogurt. I thought I had read it from a 100DRF resource, but perhaps I am remembering incorrectly. But can’t you just read the label on plain yogurt to at least determine the amount of natural sugar in yogurt and be able to parse that out of the added sugar calculation? I usually try to compare within the brand and with the same fat content.

  3. I was diabetic for 10 years, I was taking metformin 1000 mg twice daily. Last A1C was 750. My symptoms were always weight loss, blurred vision, thirst. stomach and bowels. I am a 54 year old male, the metformin wasn’t really working so I went in search of alternative treatments, January 2018 I started on the Diabetes natural herbal formula I ordered from GREEN HOUSE HERBAL CLINIC, I spoke to some previous people who used the treatment here in the United States and they all gave a positive response, my symptoms totally declined over a 7 weeks use of the Green House Diabetes disease natural herbal formula. I am doing very well, the disease is totally reversed! Visit their website www . Greenhouseherbalclinic . com I am thankful to nature, herbs are truly gift from God. i see much better and feel comfortable doing so, I will keep sharing more awareness!!!

  4. Lindsay Untherbergus

    I am just floored that some people actually eat these things for breakfast. I guess I have been eating real food for so long that I forget that people actually eat these things on a regular basis. Even when I was growing up and didn’t eat all read food, my breakfast would be plain Cheerios or corn flakes with milk. Not really healthy, but even I knew better than to fill myself up with sugar first thing in the morning.

  5. Very helpful, thank you! I will avoid these items thanks to this information, but I would also love to see more posts on suggestions of what to buy for breakfast. I appreciate that you included homemade recipes. I will try a few. But can you suggest some safer lower sugar cereals? Are plain Cheerios the best option? What about the lowest sugar english muffin or toasts? Thanks!

    1. If you really want cereal, the lowest sugar options are plain Cheerios or plain Rice Krispies. In our house, we also buy plain Chex and corn flakes. When you’re in the grocery store, examine the cereal boxes – they have basic nutrition on the front these days.

      We usually add fruit (fresh or frozen) and nuts to top our othewise plain cereals, which helps a bit. My kids know that even “treat” cereals are going to be under 9g sugar.

      1. If you are buying Rice Krispies, consider switching to Nature’s Path “Crispy Rice”. They are Rice Krispies only made with brown rice flour. I think Barbara’s make sure something similar.

      2. Just be aware that even those are likely sprayed with artificial preservatives (usually sprayed on the bag, so it’s not an “ingredient”).

    2. The only two cereals with ZERO added sugars I have ever found are original grape nuts and the Post Shredded Wheat big biscuits.

      1. Mom’s Best also has a no-sugar toasted wheatfuls (shredded wheat, but bite size).

  6. We don’t buy store bought breakfast stuff. It’s not just the sugar you have to watch for, but all the preservatives, food coloring and more. It’s cheaper and healthier to make stuff from scratch. We have everything from homemade granola to muffins. Because we have 2 special needs children we have to do it gluten free from scratch and they get everything from protein to grains in one breakfast item.

  7. We occasionally have sweet breakfasts, but it’s not all that often. Just this morning, I had my boys help me make blueberry pancakes. As we made them, they realized that the ingredients were almost the exact same ingredients in cookies and cakes that we make. Even though they are pretty young, a light bulb went off a bit to help them visualize why these foods are dessert and not healthy breakfast.

    1. Consider changing your pancake recipe. Nearly any pancake recipe can be made sans sugar. I omit the sugar and substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the AP flour. Pancakes in our house are usually topped with a light drizzle of warmed maple syrup(warming thins it so my kids use less) or fresh fruit, so the pancakes are plenty sweet. That way pancakes do not have to be a “treat” in your house.

  8. My family and I have been focusing on the sugar thing for the last 3-4 months and the fact is sugar is added to EVERYTHING (even meat!) and taking steps to reduce our sugar intake is, let’s face it, a full-time job… but being aware of what we’re eating is the first step so I know we’re on the right track. Thanks for shedding light on the truth. It’s time we consumers take control of our health and stop accepting the food marketers half-truths as facts.

    1. Lindsay Untherbergus

      I agree! I recently took a 30 day pledge to eat no added sugars, only naturally occurring sugar. And so many times I had to put things like chicken broth back on the shelf because they had added sugar in them. Just why?

      1. Same here, I started with Whole30 in January and it snowballed from there (btw I completely gave up looking for a sugar-free ketchup LOL). If you watch “Fed Up” documentary it really explains where this sugar obsession came from. It does change your thinking! The food industry has manipulated us for too long.

  9. I never buy any of the above breakfast items for the same reasons you mentioned excess sugar, white flour, and other questionable ingredients. Instead, we make healthier whole wheat/grain, real ingredient versions at home. However, my oldest daughter recently returned from a sleepover which had sugar cereal, which I guessed to be Honey Nut Cheerios after she described it to me. She proclaimed them delicious and asked why we don’t buy them, then I told her how much sugar is in them. One morning is fine, but she had multiple servings, so I think it is important to let all my girls know why sugared cereal and other goodies are occasional treats. I do not want my girls to feel deprived when out with friends, but do want them to understand the importance of making homade healthier versions of packaged food. Funny part is that I sent along homemade muffins and granola balls, but my child only took the cereal “since it was something she couldn’t get at home”.