Restaurants

The 20 Worst Breakfasts in America

By Dana Leigh Smith & The Editors of Eat This, Not That!

Anyone who's ever offended someone with a compliment that was intended to be genuine knows that sometimes things can go awry, even when you have the best of intentions.

And in America, the land of the free and the overfed, there's no better example of this than our breakfasts. In theory, breakfast is a good thing. Studies show that people who take time for a morning meal consume fewer calories over the course of the day, have stronger cognitive skills, and are 30 percent less likely to be overweight or obese. But when food marketers get their hands on it, "a hearty breakfast" turns into something more like "a heart-breaking breakfast" because much of what's on offer at America's restaurants and fast food joints is a collection of salty scrambles, misguided muffins, and pancake stacks taller and sweeter than my two-year-old cousin. (And let me tell you, he's really sweet and pretty darn tall for his age!)

But enough is enough. It's time for a wake-up call, America; and more importantly, it's time to to correct the restaurants that have ruined the notion that any breakfast is better than no breakfast. Here, we call out the 20 Worst Breakfasts in America—not just for nutritional justice, but so you can stay far, far away. Read it, share it, and then start losing weight with the help of these The 30 Best Breakfast Habits to Drop 5 Pounds!

1
Denny's Peanut Butter
Cup Pancake Breakfast
with Sausage

Two chocolate peanut butter pancakes, two eggs, two sausage links, and hash browns
1,740 calories, 107 g fat (33 g saturated fat), 2,925 mg sodium, 161 g carbs (10 g fiber, 73 g sugar), 38 g protein

Dessert-driven pancakes can be found on many menus, but Denny's Peanut Butter Cup Pancake Breakfast out-sweets them all. They've stuffed two buttermilk pancakes with chocolate and white chocolate chips and then topped it with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce. The result is a dish with more sugar than 5 servings of Edy's Ice Cream. (Throw in eggs, hash browns and two sausage links, and the sodium count soars, too.) Stay far, far away from this meal if weight loss is one of your health goals.

Eat This! Instead:

Build-Your-Own-Grand-Slam with two hearty wheat pancakes, maple syrup, and a chicken sausage patty
525 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 1,215 mg sodium, 109 g carbs (8 g fiber, 45 g sugar), 17 g protein

2
Cheesecake Factory
Bruleéd French Toast

Two slices french toast, powdered sugar topping
2,780 calories, N/A fat (93 g saturated fat), 2,230 mg sodium, N/A carbs (N/A fiber, 120 g sugar), N/A protein

A breakfast that's nearly 3,000 calories?! The "rustic" dish will likely rust your arteries, with a full day's worth of sodium, more than a day's worth of calories, three to four days worth of sugar, and a week's worth of saturated fat. Cheesecake Factory won't reveal the total fat count—maybe because they can't count that high? The world may never know. To quell your sweet tooth craving, place an order for a peach smoothie and then make-you-own breakfast sammie with a side order of eggs and an English muffin.

Eat This! Instead:

Peach Smoothie and an English Muffin with Eggs
860 calories, N/A fat (9 g saturated fat), 1,200 mg sodium, 95 g carbs (N/A fiber, N/A sugar), N/A protein

3
Friendly's Cinnamon
Bun Pancakes

Three buttermilk pancakes with a cinnamon sugar swirl inside, cinnamon bun icing, and pancake syrup
1,205 calories, 35 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 842 mg sodium, 212 g carbs (N/A g fiber, 140 g sugar), 6 g protein

Wolfing down this breakfast means you'll set yourself back more sugar than if you had two and a half Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Rolls. Add sausage to the mix and you've got yourself an A.M. meal with more fat than you'd find in 18 slices of pan-fried bacon. To get the mix of sweet n' salty you crave—for a fraction of the calories and fat—order two pancakes with two slices of bacon instead. Or better yet, stay home and whip up one of these 11 Best Pancake Recipes for Weight Loss.

Eat This! Instead:

Two buttermilk pancakes with two slices of bacon
750 calories, 19 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 1,880 mg sodium, 132 g carbs (0 g fiber, 59 g sugar), 13 g protein

4
Bob Evans Country Fried
Steak & Farm Fresh Eggs

Country-fried steak, gravy, two fried eggs, and hash browns
1,190 calories, 71 g fat (22 g saturated fat), 3,290 mg sodium, 99 g carbs (11 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 40 g protein

With more than a day's worth of fat, saturated fat and sodium, this Bob Evan's breakfast plate is a real doozy for your arteries. If you'd even believe it, it's even worse than the chain's Ghirardelli double chocolate hotcakes, a dish that's basically a dessert! Switch to the Sunrise platter for a tasty mix of cooked-to-order eggs, buttermilk biscuits, and hash browns. You'll save a whopping 850 calories and 1,960 milligrams of sodium—that's what you'd find in about 7 individual packets of salt!

Eat This! Instead:

The Rise & Shine: two egg whites, two strips bacon, and home fries
340 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 1,330 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 34 g protein

5
IHOP Fried
Steak & Eggs

8-oz Fried beef steak, sausage gravy, two fried eggs, hash browns, two buttermilk pancakes, and pancake syrup
1,700 calories, 107 g fat (32 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 4,060 mg sodium, 130 g carbs (6 g fiber, 29 g sugar), 54 g protein

Are you sensing a pattern here? Just say no to fried steak and eggs! No matter what the chefs serve it with, and no matter where you place the order, it's a bad idea for your body. If something hearty and meaty is what you crave, try iHop's T-Bone steak with three poached eggs instead. Don't get it twisted, though; this Eat This! option is by no means healthy. But it will give you the flavors you're looking for while keeping 970 calories, 69 grams of fat (that's more than you should eat in an entire day!), and 5 jumbo pretzels worth of salt off of your plate. And speaking of surprisingly salty grub, check out our report, 20 Restaurant Desserts With More Salt Than A Bag of Pretzels.

Eat This! Instead:

10-oz T-Bone steak with three poached eggs
910 calories, 45 g fat (18 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,560 mg sodium, 58 g carbs (3 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 69 g protein

6
Perkins Lemon Blueberry
Pie Pancakes Platter

Three blueberry pancakes stuffed with Lemon Meringue Pie filling, topped with powdered sugar and whipped topping, served with two slices bacon and two eggs
920 calories, 41 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 2,090 mg sodium, 114 g carbs (1 g fiber, 50 g sugar), 24 g protein

More pancakes, yes—but holy cow, Perkins! These flapjacks have more sugar than 94 M&M's! And no, before you ask, that's not a typo. Thanks to a heaping pile of lemon meringue pie filling, powdered sugar and whipped topping this breakfast this breakfast way give you an all-day sugar buzz—not to mention, a major stomach ache. It may seem like a magic trick, but this simple swap—just ordering one type of pancake over another and ditching the eggs and meat—will save you 43 grams of sugar and 430 calories.

Eat This! Instead:

Blueberry Banana Pancake Breakfast with chicken apple sausage and egg beaters
540 calories, 18 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 1,630 mg sodium, 65 g carbs (2 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 27 g protein

RELATED: What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Sugar

7
Taco Bell
Breakfast Crunchwrap

Crunchwrap with bacon, cheddar cheese, creamy jalapeno sauce, eggs, and hash browns rolled into a flour tortilla
670 calories, 42 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1,300 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 21 g protein

Fried potatoes topped with creamy jalapeno cheese and cheddar—it's no shock that the Crunchwrap is by far the worst breakfast option at Taco Bell. Consuming over half a day's allowance of sodium and saturated fat at breakfast is the worst possible way to start your day. Reach for the California-style crunchwrap and you’ll be subbing out the soybean-oil-heavy jalapeno sauce for some healthy-fat-rich guacamole.

Eat This! Instead:

California-style Breakfast Crunchwrap
630 calories, 38 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,390 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 21 g protein

8
Jamba Juice Island Pitaya Bowl

Smoothie bowl with pineapple Juice, pineapples, bananas, pitaya, strawberries, mangos, blueberries, pumpkin flax seed granola, honey, chia seeds, and coconut
470 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 100 g carbs (12 g fiber, 70 g sugar), 6 g protein

"Energy bowls" might be the biggest trend at juice places, but remember that another word for "energy" is "calories." While some of the sugar comes from fruit, a lot of it comes from honey and granola, leading to nearly two days' worth of sweetness in just one bowl. Instead, pick up a protein-rich bowl of greek yogurt topped with berries to cut out 80 calories and 28 grams of sugar. For more calorie-saving swaps, check out these 35 Ways to Cut 50+ Calories.

Eat This! Instead:

Fruit and Greek Yogurt Bowl
390 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 105 mg sodium, 62 g carbs (5 g fiber, 42 g sugar), 31 g protein

9
Dunkin' Donuts
Big n’ Toasted

Two eggs, Cherrywood-smoked bacon, and American cheese layered between two slices of Texas toast
690 calories, 43 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 1,230 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 29 g protein

Two impressively thick slices of Texas toast sandwich crispy strips of bacon, cheese, and two eggs to create a breakfast bomb that's filled with more than half a day's worth of sodium and fat. If something savory and protein-filled is what you're after, consider switching to DD's bacon, egg, and cheese on an English muffin. With an impressively low amount of sodium and calories and a solid hit of fiber and protein, this is a fast food breakfast sandwich we can get behind!

Eat This! Instead:

Bacon, Egg and Cheese on an English muffin
350 calories, 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 600 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (7 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 16 g protein

10
Panera
Pecan Roll

One roll
720 calories, 41 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (5 g fiber, 34 g sugar), 13 g protein

Don't be fooled by its healthy-sounding name and crunchy, protein-rich topping, this sticky roll will literally stick to your rolls. In fact, this sad excuse for a morning meal has more calories and fat than the chain's bacon, egg, and cheese asiago bagel sandwich. We know which one we'd rather have if we were forced to choose! If something sweet and nutty is more your taste, though, stick with the almond quinoa oatmeal. It's a hearty order with a reasonable number of calories and a solid hit of fiber and protein, too.

Eat This! Instead:

Steel Cut Oatmeal with Almonds, Quinoa & Honey
300 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (9 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 8 g protein

11
Au Bon Pain Eggs, Sausage &
Cheddar Bagel

Two Eggs, sausage & cheddar on a plain bagel
610 calories, 30 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 950 mg sodium, 53 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 33 g protein

Why order a fat, nutrient void bagel sandwich when you can order a thinner, healthier one that's just as flavorful? By simply moving your egg and sausage over to a smarter carb, you save 160 calories and an impressive 30 grams of carbohydrates without altering the taste of your breakfast. And speaking of carbs done right, check out these 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss!

Eat This! Instead:

Two eggs and sausage on a skinny wheat bagel
450 calories, 29 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (6 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 28 g protein

12
Sonic Ultimate Meat &
Cheese Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast burrito filled with bacon, sausage, tater tots, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese
800 calories, 56 g fat (18 g saturated fat), 2,140 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 29 g protein

What does bacon, sausage, tater tots, and cheddar all have in common? They're all filled with fat and salt, and they're all part of Sonic's sad excuse for a breakfast burrito. Paired with eggs—which is arguably the only healthy thing part of the entire concoction—and shoved into a nutrition-void carb blanket, this 800-calorie artery-clogger is better left unordered.

Eat This! Instead:

SuperSONIC breakfast burrito
580 calories, 32 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 1,920 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 25 g protein

13
Chick-Fil-A
Fried Chicken
Breakfast Platter

Scrambled eggs, biscuit, fried chicken, gravy
860 calories, 47 g fat (17 g saturated fat), 2,760 mg sodium, 67 g carbs (8 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 42 g protein

TBHQ, monosodium glutamate, caramel color. The first, a corrosion inhibitor also used in biodiesel; the second, an additive that increases appetite; the third, a food dye that is often contaminated with carcinogens. Along with nearly an entire day's worth of fat and far too many calories, these ingredients are just some of the things lurking in Chick-fil-A's breakfast platter. Still have an appetite? Make the smarter choice and order the chain's Egg White Grill sandwich instead. It’ll save you over 500 calories and 40 grams of gut-widening fat. To learn more about better-for-you eats from the chicken baron, check out our report, Every Item at Chick-Fil-A—Ranked by Nutrition.

Eat This! Instead:

Egg White Grill
300 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 970 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 25 g protein

14
Starbucks Iced Lemon Pound Cake

One slice
470 calories, 20 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 310 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (1 g fiber, 42 g sugar), 6 g protein

The classic recipe for a pound cake is one pound each of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar. And they did not skimp on the sugar in this recipe. Having the most sugar out of anything else on this list (and the equivalent of about 15 yellow Starbursts) has landed Starbucks' Iced Lemon Pound Cake a spot on our list. Skip the trans fat-laden lemon pound cake and opt for the Petite Vanilla Scone instead. Both options will satisfy your craving for something sweet, but indulging in the scone instead will save you 350 calories, 15 grams of fat and a whopping 34 grams of sugar! Making this swap just 3 times a week can help you lose 18 pounds over the course of a year. Now that’s what we call having your cake and eating it, too!

Eat This! Instead:

Petite Vanilla Scone
120 calories, 4.5 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 95 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 2 g protein

15
Carl's Jr. The
Breakfast Burger

Cheeseburger topped with bacon, egg and hash brown
830 calories, 44 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 1,540 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (4 g fiber, 13 g sugars), 39 g protein

Smash a plate of eggs, bacon, and hash browns between two buns and you get a breakfast sandwich that's nearly three times the calories of an Egg McMuffin. Good going, Carl—not! It's safe to say that some dishes—like burgers—are better off when they're left unaltered.

Eat This! Instead:

Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit
620 calories, 44 g fat (17 g saturated fat), 1,480 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (3 g fiber, 3 g sugars), 19 g protein

16
Hardee's Bacon
Breakfast Platter

Biscuit ‘N’ Gravy, one egg, two strips of bacon and hash rounds
830 calories, 50 g fat (13 g saturated fat, 2,160 mg sodium, 68 g carbs, 13 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 24 g protein

Hardee's earns its reputation as one of the most perilous fast-food chains by continuing to sire one crazily caloric burger after the next—and by failing to offer many impressive breakfast options. The bacon breakfast platter lives up to the chain's reputation, packing in nearly an entire day's salt into one little meal. Though it may come as a shock, this is one time opting for a starchy breakfast burrito is actually the better move for your belly. For more simple ways to eat a healthy breakfast, check out these 15 Healthy Breakfast Ideas: 5 Minutes, 5 Ingredients!

Eat This! Instead:

Loaded Breakfast Burrito
*580 calories, 30 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1,320 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 30 g protein

17
Smoothie King ‘The
Hulk’ Strawberry
Smoothie

*40-fl-oz cup
1,928 calories, 64 g fat (26 g saturated fat), 576 mg sodium, 290 g carbs (16 g fiber, 250 g sugar), 50 g protein

The USDA recommends that we eat no more than 50 grams of added sugar a day. This smoothie breaks through that barrier, blowing through five days' worth of the sweet stuff in one 40-ounce cup! Plus, liquid calories are absorbed more quickly than solid calories, because the digestion process is quicker. That's a sugar rush that will send you flying! Not only will switching to The Activator Strawberry ax 471 calories from your order, it also reels in the sugar count to a (slightly) more respectable amount. For even more ways to cut back on the white granular stuff, check out these 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar!

Eat This! Instead:

The Activator Strawberry-Banana, 20-oz
270 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (3 g fiber, 32 g sugar), 24 g protein

18
Jack in the Box
Grande Sausage
Breakfast Burrito

Burrito with sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon crumbles, shredded pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese sauce, creamy Sriracha sauce, and a side of fire roasted salsa
1,044 calories, 90 g fat (20 g saturated fat), 2,131 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 36 g protein

To put things into perspective, a 150-pound person would have to go on a three-and-a-half hour stroll to burn off this breakfast—and ain't nobody got time for that! Opt for our Eat This! suggestion instead and you'd only have to walk for two-and-a-half hours to burn it all off. Not great, but definitely an improvement if you’re in desperate need of a breakfast burrito.

Eat This! Instead:

Meat Lovers Breakfast Burrito with salsa
790 calories, 50 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 1,706 mg sodium, 50 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugars), 39 g protein

19
Burger King Ultimate
Breakfast Platter

Scrambled eggs, Hash Browns, sausage, baked biscuit, and 3 pancakes drizzled in sweet syrup
1,190 calories, 66 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 2,460 mg sodium, 123 g carbs (5 g fiber, 32 g sugar), 27 g protein

There's no way you ever thought for a second that this meal was a healthy pick, right? The biscuit and sausage alone carry 420 calories and half a day's salt. Add eggs, pancakes, syrup, "hash rounds", eggs, and something called a "butter blend" to the mix you wind up with a meal that has more calories than three orders of BK's medium fries! Order the Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissan’wich instead to save 720 calories and a whopping 93 grams of carbs—Oprah would be proud!

Eat This! Instead:

Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissan’wich
470 calories, 30 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 890 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 18 g protein

20
McDonald's
Big Breakfast
with Hotcakes

Three hotcakes, one biscuit, two scrambled eggs, one sausage & hashbrowns
1,350 calories, 65 g fat (25 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,100 mg sodium, 155 g carbs (6 g fiber, 48 g sugar), 35 g protein

Buttermilk biscuits, savory hot sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and hotcakes join together to create a meal that might just make it hard for your heart to pump. Somehow Ronald and his pals managed to shove 85 percent of the day's fat and 94 percent of the day's saturated fat. Well, your gig is up, clown. We're comin' after you and branding this breakfast as an official dietary delinquent. To learn more about the best and worst options at the Golden Arches, check out our official report, Every Menu Item at McDonald's—Ranked!!

Eat This! Instead:

Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddle
550 calories, 32 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 1,280 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (2 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 20 g protein


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