Regardless if you’re a stay-at-home parent, a full-time working adult or an elderly, few of us have that morning energy joy to get up and prepare a delicious breakfast all while getting ready for the day. This has long been an issue that left us feeling hungry because we simply didn’t have time to organize and eat properly – and food manufacturers saw it right away.
This was an opportunity.
If so many people lack the time or resources to make breakfast at home, what should the food industry do? Offer them delicious, ready-made breakfasts they can grab in a matter of minutes!
In essence, this initiative is wonderful because it’s beneficial on both sides. However, things started taking a wrong turn when manufacturers realized it’s much easier to add preservatives or freeze ready-made meals than making breakfasts that are actually healthy. Over time, this has led to a cluster of highly processed meals that taste healthy, but cause plenty of damage in the long run.
Today, we’ll have a look at 15 of the most popular fast-food breakfasts that are just too unhealthy to be worth the experience. Let’s have a look!
Burker King: The Ultimate Breakfast Platter
Sodium: 2,920 mg
Carbs: 134 g (5 g fiber, 41 g sugar)
Morgyn Clair, RDN, recommends everyone regardless of age or lifestyle to stay away from this breakfast. Although it looks (and probably tastes) amazing, this menu has twice more sodium than the recommended daily intake. Eat it too often and you’ll increase your risk of heart disease and cancer drastically in a matter of years.
The 41 grams of sugar included are also concerning because they get you dangerously close to your daily recommended intake – and your day has barely even begun. Alternatively, you could just make your own breakfast platter at home with your favorite (healthy) ingredients such as cheese, lean meat, eggs or fresh veggies.
Dairy Queen: The Ultimate Hashbrown Platter with Bacon
Sodium: 2,660 mg
Carbs: 43 g (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar)
According to Shannon Henry, registered dietitian, this seemingly delicious breakfast is nothing more than a ‘nutrition fail.’ Why? Well, first of all, each platter contains an insane amount of calories (almost half of your daily requirement, more precisely!). The worstq1q part is that they’re not even healthy – they’re just empty calories mostly due to the fried ingredients.
Another signal of alarm regarding this dish is its fat content. At 77 grams per portion, this breakfast gives you plenty of saturated fats, which are known for increasing the risk of obesity and blood circulation problems.
McDonald’s: Sausage and Gravy Biscuit
Sodium: 1,050 mg
Carbs: 36 g (2g fiber, 3g sugar)
When you compare the calorie number of this meal with other breakfasts on the list it doesn’t seem so bad, does it?
Except it is.
Trista Best, RD, registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, explains that this breakfast is very inexpensive in terms of preparation, but it also gives you little to no nutrients at all. Basically, this dish is highly refined flour, a genetically modified type of butter and artificial flavors. Furthermore, the fact that it lacks fiber and protein means that you’ll feel hungry again in no time, thus increasing the likelihood of eating even more unhealthy snacks during the day.
Lastly, the carbs found in this meal can cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels, which affects your body’s ability to recognize when it’s hungry. The result? More eating, less nutrients.
Panera: Cinnamon Crunch Bagel
Sodium: 380 mg
Carbs: 83 g (2 g fiber, 32 g sugar)
Bagels can be a healthy breakfast choice that gives you satiety, or they can be a guilty pleasure that damages your long-term health beyond repair. Allison Gregg, RDN, LDN, nutritional consultant at Mom Loves Best, points out the harsh truth about this specific breakfast choice: it has more calories than some chocolate-filled doughnuts.
And that says a lot – and we didn’t even count the cream cheese you add to it. If you just can’t imagine starting the day without a bagel, you can purchase organic varieties and add your favorite filling at home.
Taco Bell: Cinnabon Delights (12 pack)
Carbs: 104 g (3 g fiber, 59 g sugar)
According to Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD, LDN, this Taco Bell breakfast is one of the unhealthiest options on the list. Not only is it filled with calories, but it also has a nutritional value that gets close to zero.
This is a special situation because of how the dish is advertised too. Taco Bell mostly advertises its Cinnabon Delights as a delicious dessert, but it’s not really listed on the Dessert section of their menu. Although it may taste like an actual delight, the breakfast is actually overloaded with trans fats, which can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer to shocking levels.
In conclusion, everyone should avoid this dish whether they consume it as a dessert or breakfast. This advice is especially important for diabetics, as the Cinnabon Delights can lead to a dangerous spike in your blood sugar levels.
IHOP: Cupcake Pancakes
Sodium: 2,030 mg
Carbs: 134 g (4 g fiber, 59 g sugar)
To me, few things sound better than eating cupcake pancakes for breakfast; I mean, their name alone suggests sweetness, softness and flavors that simply melt in your mouth. However, this sweet dream is nothing but a nutritional nightmare in disguise.
Caitlin Self, LDN, MS, explains that this option can give you 85% of your daily recommended sodium intake before you even start the day. If you were to read the ingredient list (which unfortunately many of us don’t), it’s basically a strange combination of artificial flavors, stabilizers and preservatives.
Hint: this is much more than any homemade cupcake or pancake would ever give you – and it’s just not worth it.
Starbucks: White Chocolate Mocha with Whole Milk and Whipped Cream (Grande)
Sodium: 550 mg
Carbs: 122 g (1 g fiber, 95 g sugar)
Okay, I’ll admit: this isn’t a breakfast choice per se, but I wanted to talk about it because so many people add it to their breakfast or consume it instead of a food-based breakfast. I think I’ll just let registered dietitian Silvia Carli explain it for you:
“The nutrition composition of this combination is alarming because of the poor nutritional value of it. It contains 38 grams of fat, and 21 of these are saturated, and 1 gram is trans fats. Trans fats are well established to be pro-inflammatory and contributors to the development of heart disease.”
If that information didn’t convince you, here’s an addition: each beverage gives you 122 carbs, 95 of which are just refined sugars. This type of sugar is absorbed by your body instantly and it leads to an insane spike in blood sugar levels. The results? A confused body that can’t distinguish hunger and satiety properly, as well as an upcoming sugar crash that will ruin your rest of the day.
Dunkin: Sausage, Egg and Cheese on a Croissant
Sodium: 1,120 mg
Carbs: 42 g (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar)
It may not have the scary amount of sugar Starbucks beverages do and it might not be as filled with as many trans fats as a bagel either.
But that doesn’t make this Dunkin breakfast healthy either.
The problem, in this case, is that this croissant gives you way too many carbs compared to its dietary fiber content. In other words, you’ll get almost no dietary fiber at all and that’s exactly what you would need for satiety. Without dietary fiber, you’ll only trick your body into thinking it has had enough before hunger strikes again in a short time.
Subway: Bacon, Egg and Cheese Flatbread Sandwich
Sodium: 1,000+ mg
Carbs: 47 g (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar)
This is one of my favorite examples of a breakfast subtly marketed as healthy when in fact it’s not. Most of the times, we associate terms like ‘flatbread’ or ‘egg’ with healthy or safe foods, which can easily make this option seem like a good one.
However, the 1,200 mg of sodium included in each of these sandwiches is dangerous to say the least. In fact, it’s more than 50% of your daily recommended intake, so if you add any other snacks or ready-made meals you’re already increasing your long-term risk for heart disease – and frankly it’s just not worth the risk.
Jack in the Box: Sausage Breakfast Burrito With Salsa (Grande)
Sodium: 2,200 mg
Carbs: 70 g (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar)
According to Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, the 21 grams of fat included in this breakfast choice are literally more than what specialists say you should eat in a day. This statistic alone turns this dish into a caloric bomb that damages your diet first thing in the morning.
Much like the cupcake pancakes, this burrito contains more genetically modified ingredients than things you’d actually find in nature. Here are just a few of them:
- Disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate: helps your burrito have appetizing colors
- Sodium nitrite: a popular preservative in ready-made meals
- Propyl gallate: a food additive that’s nearly 100% artificial
- Hydrogenated oils: make the tortilla taste good
However even if you were to read the ingredient list, you’d probably never know what those terms stand for, right? Luckily, now you can look for them in other foods too so you know what to avoid.
Chick-fil-A: Hash Brown Scramble Burrito with Sausage
Sodium: 1,440 mg
Carbs: 46 g (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar)
Since we started the topic of burrito, here’s another option that looks and taste delicious without offering any real nutritional value. Aside from containing some of its Jack in the Box’s competitor weird ingredients, this dish also has way more sodium than you’d need on the first meal of the day.
Also, while it may have 46 grams of fat, it’s not the monosaturated kind your body needs the most (because it’s the healthiest).
McDonald’s: Big Breakfast with Hotcakes
Carbs: 158 g (5 g fiber, 48 g sugar)
Let’s face it: we all dream of starting every single day with fresh pancakes soaked in syrup, sausages, a biscuit and hash browns – especially if we don’t have to cook them. However, McDonald’s offer also gives you more than 1,300 calories, which is more than 50% of your recommended intake per day.
And I don’t think you eat a total of only 700 calories throughout the rest of the day to make up for this caloric bomb. Note that calories aren’t the only scary number about this meal: the 2,070 mg of sodium are way more than your body needs especially right after waking up.
Dunkin: Caramel Swirl Frozen Coffee with Cream and a Jelly Stick (Medium)
Sodium: 650 mg
Carbs: 200 g (1 g fiber, 166 g sugar)
The American Heart Association recommends adults to stick to a maximum of 13 grams of saturated fats daily. Now, this liquid caloric bomb contains 61 grams of fat with over 50% of them being saturated. Furthermore, the protein found in the beverage is only 12 grams, which means you’ll get very little satiety or macronutrients.
Do you know what you will get, though? An instant sugar rush, meaning a spike in blood sugar levels, because your body will ingest 166 grams of sugar first thing in the morning.
Jack in the Box: Steak and Egg Burrito with Salsa
Sodium: 1,700 mg
Carbs: 58 g (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar)
If you look at the breakfasts offered by Jack in the Box, they seem delicious to say the least – and they probably are! However, all those flavors come at the cost of your long-term health.
One of the biggest issues regarding this meal is the fact that it has three types of meat included and they’re all fatty (and probably genetically modified, since most fast food meats are too). I’m not even mentioning the 1,700 mg of sodium since you already know how much damage it can cause to your health.
Starbucks: Pistachio Coffee Frappuccino with Whole Milk (Grande)
Sodium: 280 mg
Carbs: 58 g (0 g fiber, 56 g sugar)
If Caitlin Self could choose one thing to never, ever have for breakfast, it’s a Starbucks specialty drink – and we can’t even blame her for it.
This Pistachio Coffee, for example, gives you more than twice the daily recommended level of sugar; can you even imagine? What’s worse, Starbucks has been advertising this type of beverage as a breakfast option more than once, thus tricking customers into believing it’s fairly healthy.
In reality, the only thing you’ll get is an insane spike in blood sugar levels, a sugar crush that leaves you beyond tired; in the long run, you may even start suffering from digestive problems, since the last thing your body needs after waking up is 56 grams of refined sugars.
If you start with baby steps and take each change one day at a time, you can create a balanced lifestyle that satisfies your nutritional needs and your taste buds. It may feel difficult at first, especially if you’re used to eating fast food but it’s so, so worth it in the long run! Here’s a recipe book that we recommend; it has many breakfast recipe ideas so you definitely won’t get bored having to cook and eat the same three or four meals.
Lastly, if you have any tips and tricks on your journey to stay healthy (such as how you avoid unhealthy cravings or your weight loss eating schedule), please share them in a comment section. This way, we can help each other thrive and stay healthy along with our loved ones – because we all deserve it, right?
You may also want to read 10 Canned Foods You Should Avoid at All Costs.