Muffins can make for a great portable breakfast, a quick sweet-tooth satisfier, and the perfect sidekick for your morning coffee. Trouble is, they’re not usually the healthiest meal or snack option.
“A lot of store-bought muffins are like glorified cupcakes — they can be packed with added sugar and low in fiber, sending you on a blood sugar roller coaster,” says Charlotte Martin, RD, a recipe developer in Baltimore.
A blueberry muffin from Dunkin’, for example, contains 460 calories and 41 grams (g) (that’s almost 10 teaspoons) of added sugars. Compare that with a Dunkin’ glazed doughnut, which contains 240 calories and 12 g of added sugars, and you’re likely to be unpleasantly surprised. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting your daily consumption of added sugars to no more than 36 g for men and 25 g for women, so just one of these muffins will push you over the limit for the day. Per Mayo Clinic, excessive intake of added sugar is linked with weight gain, increased risk of heart disease due to higher levels of triglycerides in the blood, and tooth decay. And while fiber can help prevent a blood sugar spike by slowing the absorption of sugar from your food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that most store-bought and commercially prepared muffins are made with refined grains such as white flour, which are not considered a significant source of fiber.
The solution? Make your muffins at home. This way you’ll be sure to choose fiber- and protein-rich ingredients that will keep you satisfied until lunch — and you control the sweet stuff. Martin recommends incorporating eggs, Greek yogurt, and protein powder into your muffins to boost their protein content; meanwhile, you can increase the fiber in practically any homemade muffin by substituting flaxseed, coconut flour, and whole-wheat flour for white flour in the recipe. (Bonus: Research shows that a high-fiber diet can help someone with diabetes better manage their blood sugar.) Cut back on added sugar by using fruits and purees, like bananas or applesauce, as natural sweeteners.
For a well-balanced breakfast, pair a muffin with a veggie omelet or some yogurt and a piece of fruit, advises Yasi Ansari, RDN, a certified specialist in sports dietetics and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Los Angeles. You’ll have a quick, easy, and delicious breakfast that ticks a number of nutritional boxes.
Read on for some healthy muffin recipe ideas that put these nutritious principles into action.