05/13/2014 09:18 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Best and Worst Breakfasts for You and Your Family

Photo credit: Flickr / Pierre Tourigny

Fast, easy and healthy breakfasts should be everybody's goal. But for time-pressed parents, it's all too easy to fall into some of the dreaded Breakfast Traps (not to be confused with waffles and their syrup traps). Whether it's breakfasts that are boring and simply make you wish you were back in bed or massively unhealthy calorie-fests, check out our roadmap of breakfasts you should be avoiding -- followed by a list of options that are healthy, delicious and easy to make.

Bagels And Cream Cheese: There's no getting away from the fact that a bagel is a glorious thing, but for breakfast foods, you could do a lot better. A bagel alone isn't a terrible choice (not compared to, say, the fry-up), but it does often contain sugar and is a fast-digesting carb that will cause your insulin to spike -- and then crash. Once you load it up with fatty cream cheese, you up the saturated fat levels and the calorie count to get somewhere into the realms of the two-doughnut mark. And you wouldn't start your day off with two doughnuts. Choose wheat bagels -- and double check they are whole wheat. The mixed-grain ones won't cut it. Check the label to make sure they are made with whole grains (and stick with a low-fat topping). Instead of cream cheese, opt a nut butter that is made from nuts only, as this will boost your energy levels.

Pancakes: A pancake is typically a mixture of flour, eggs, milk, and butter. It'll be almost always a whole (full fat) milk too. The flour is a simple carb, broken down quickly (as with bagels), causing insulin spikes and crashes. And that's not even mentioning the toppings (take your pick -- they're virtually all killer, unless you go for fresh fruit and fresh fruit alone). Once you get into the realms of maple syrups, (powdered) sugar and bacon, the calories skyrocket. If you have to get your pancake fix, though, avoid the boxed stuff and try making them with whey powder, along with cottage cheese, and sweeten them up with some vanilla.

Muffins: Muffins are the on-the-go breakfast of choice. They're something that you grab from the deli, sandwich shop or coffee spot when you've run out the door late for work. You're basically jump-starting your system with a large dose of sugar that will cause energy spikes followed by a crash. Because they're relatively cheap to produce, they are normally much bigger than those you might make at home (or the wife might) and, thus, pack a high-calorie punch. Muffins are also made with high fat quantities, a decent portion of which is saturated. Forget the low-fat versions, too; they still contain a similar quantity of sugar to the regular versions. Don't be fooled by the bran or muesli muffins that contain fruit because they contain too little goodness to negate the sugars and fats. Scrap this entirely, and if you do really want muffins, make them at home. Or get someone who loves you to.

The Fry-Up: Known in the UK as the "builder's breakfast," this is a greasy, fatty mess. The go-to hangover cure of choice for most of us, it's ridiculously high in calories (and eating pretty much anything when you're hung over will make you feel better). Loaded with fat-packed sausages, nitrite-rich fatty bacon, butter-fried eggs, hash browns or fries, the cooked breakfast was traditionally conceived for the working class who actually worked (i.e. hard, physical labor). They ate a 3,000-calorie breakfast and burned it off by lunchtime.

Whether you're sitting at your desk answering phone calls or working retail, your calorie burn will be massively lower than this, which equals one thing: obesity. Approximately 1 in 18 men will get bowel cancer, and starting your day with a fried breakfast raises your chances of getting this type of cancer by 63% according to the World Cancer Research Fund. As an alternative, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms on toast are delicious and healthy, and both are packed with antioxidants and a host of other goodies.

Cereal: It might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people (grown-ups included) reach for a sugary cereal box every morning. It's convenient, quick, and if you opt for one of the ones that aren't coated in sugar, you probably think they're pretty good for you, right? Wrong. It might seem a controversial choice on this list as one of the worst breakfast foods, but plenty of regular cereals are actually packed with sugar and, thus, warrant a place here for the simple fact that you're getting a dose of something you aren't fully aware of.

The sugar will make weight loss very difficult and will drain your energy. By the time you get to your desk at the office or your kids get to school, the possibility of crashing hard and the temptation of reaching for a snack may become too strong to resist. If you do opt for a cereal, check the ingredients list. Most of the time you'll see sugar as the second ingredient. Choose a high-fiber one that is low in sugar.

Now we know what we shouldn't be feeding our kids. But what are the best breakfast options for you and your little ones? We did our research and compiled five of the best breakfast recipes out there. We suggest you go with any of the following:

Banana-mocha smoothie

Hot oatmeal


Power pancakes

Breakfast burrito

Parents... what's your secret solution to kicking off the day just right? Let us know in the comments!