We appreciate a quick, hassle-free breakfast just like anyone else, which leads a lot of people to the frozen foods aisle. Among the myriad options, from sandwiches to burritos to waffles, frozen breakfast bowls are a popular choice, promising both a flavorful and nutritious morning meal in a matter of minutes. However, not all frozen breakfast bowls are created equal, and navigating the freezer section can be a nutritional minefield.
After examining the nutritional labels on frozen breakfast bowls, we identified the healthiest options as well as those bowls that fall short. We spoke with registered dietitians and nutrition experts to pinpoint their recommendations, and cautions, regarding the healthiest and least healthy products.
How we chose the healthiest frozen breakfast bowls:
- Empty calories: Frozen meals can rack up substantial calories, particularly if you're not paying attention to the nutrition label and serving sizes. Depending on the ingredients, the product might contain a notable amount of calories or oils, contributing to consuming more empty calories without necessarily enhancing its nutritional value.
- Saturated fat: Many frozen breakfast options are loaded with breakfast meats and cheeses, both high in saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can put one at a greater risk for heart disease, so the saturated fat content was a key aspect of the nutrition label that we took into account when evaluating the healthiness of these breakfast options.
- Sodium: Given that salt serves as a preservative, it's pretty easy to exceed the recommended daily allowance for sodium in frozen foods. The daily limit is 2,300 milligrams, so check your nutrition labels in the freezer section for added sodium.
On occasion, you may opt for convenient options like frozen breakfasts to simplify meal preparation for yourself or your family. Consider pairing your breakfast with a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts for additional nutritional value and a little more balance to the meal.
Let's take a look at the frozen breakfast bowls dietitians recommend you choose from the store. Read on, and for more, don't miss The 14 Healthiest Frozen Breakfast Foods, According to a Dietitian.
The 5 Healthiest Frozen Breakfast Bowls
Best: Amy's Tofu Scramble
This vegetarian option packs a whopping 20 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. That's tough to find in a breakfast bowl, which means this option is going to have even more staying power than other breakfast bowls on the market.
Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness loves Amy's Tofu Scramble which she says is made with organic tofu and vegetables, providing a good source of protein and essential nutrients. It is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan, making it suitable for individuals with dietary restrictions, she adds.
Best: Dr Praeger's Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Bowl
Kickstart your day with Dr. Praegers Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Bowl, recommends Bonnie Newlin, MS, RD, CLT, Founder of Crave Nourishment. "A delicious and nutritious breakfast option that is packed with protein, fiber, and essential nutrients, the bowl is made with egg whites, tomatoes, black beans, garlic, and a blend of spices. The bowl is a good source of protein, with 13 grams per serving, 5 grams of fiber, 25% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium, and 10% of the RDI of iron," Newlin comments.
This option is a bit low in calories for a meal, so you might consider adding a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit on the side to give you a little more balance at this meal.
Best: Realgood Foods Co. Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Bowl
If you are watching your carbohydrates, but are tired of eating low-carb foods that don't taste good, this option is for you. Packed with 26 grams of satiating protein and just 9 grams of total carbohydrates, this balanced breakfast bowl will keep you full without skyrocketing your blood sugar.
Real Good Food's Sausage Egg & Cheese Breakfast Bowl is one of the healthier breakfast bowls on the market, Megan Huff, RD, LD, an Atlanta-based cardiac ICU Dietitian tells us. "While relatively high in fat and sodium, it is still less than other leading brands. Free of processed grains, Real Good Foods uses cauliflower and lupin bean flour for the tots, making this bowl gluten-free," she says.
Best: Sweet Earth's Frozen Protein Lover's Bowl
This vegetarian-friendly option is made with plant-based breakfast protein in addition to eggs to give you a whopping 22 grams of filling protein at breakfast. With just 280 calories and 3 grams of fiber to boot, we love that Sweet Earth focuses on a balanced breakfast option here. Because this is lower in calories, you might find that you need a snack within a couple of hours, or you can beef it up by adding a piece of fruit with peanut butter.
Best: Dole Frozen Acai Bowl
"Acai bowls have been all the rage and for good reason—they are delicious and at a great price point as well," says Alyssa Smolen, MS, RDN. These acai bowls are easy on-the-go meals that are packed with 7 grams of fiber per serving if you include the added toppings that come with it. However, I would recommend people pair these bowls with a source of protein like breakfast chicken sausage or Greek yogurt since this bowl is low in protein and calories and folks likely will be hungry later.
The 5 Unhealthiest Frozen Breakfast Bowls
Worst: Great Value Meat Lovers Breakfast Bowl
With a whopping 980 milligrams of sodium, this breakfast bowl is extra salty and will count for over half of your recommended added salt per day making it a less-than-optimal choice for a heart-healthy meal. This bowl contains 14 grams of saturated fat, meeting the American Heart Association's recommended daily intake of 6% of calories from saturated fat. The sodium content is more than a third of the recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams per day. Between the high amounts of saturated fat and sodium, this bowl raises some red flags for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular disease.
Worst: Jimmy Dean's Meat Lovers Breakfast Bowl
Although we love that this bowl is high in protein, we don't love that it is also high in sodium and saturated fat. Coming as no surprise from a product that is labeled "Meat Lovers", eating breakfast bowls like this regularly could contribute to heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Michelle Rauch, MS, RDN of The Actors Fund cautions another reason you might want to skip this one: This variety of breakfast bowls from Jimmy Dean contains ~70% of the RDA of cholesterol (210 milligrams). Eating a diet high in cholesterol can raise your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels which in turn increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Worst: Jimmy Dean Bacon Breakfast Bowl
With 10 grams of saturated fat and 910 milligrams of sodium, this bacon breakfast bowl from Jimmy Dean is not one of the healthiest options on freezer shelves. Every once in a while, if eating convenience foods like this helps you eat breakfast more consistently, it's fine to consume easy breakfast options in a pinch from time to time. However, if you regularly rely on products like this, you might want to take a look at swapping it out for one of our healthy breakfast bowl options.
Worst: Jimmy Dean Sausage and Gravy Bowl
While this breakfast bowl looks a bit healthier than some of the other options on this list, it delivers 12 grams of protein, which is likely not enough to keep you full for very long. The recommendation for most people is to choose a breakfast option that has at least 20 grams of protein to give the meal enough stain powder to keep you full until lunch or a mid-morning snack.
Worst: Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowl, Hot Sausage & Salsa Verde
At our initial glance, this breakfast bowl appears to be modest in calories, although it is also low in total fiber and does contain a source of saturated fat and sodium. With 9 grams of saturated fat, you'll meet over half of your daily recommended intake for saturated fat with one meal here. We think you can get a bigger bang for your buck by choosing one of the options on our healthy list above. If you do decide to choose this option, consider adding higher-fiber foods to increase feelings of fullness after eating this breakfast bowl.