The #1 Unhealthiest Breakfast to Order at 15 Major Restaurant Chains
Sometimes the perfect remedy to a night out is a greasy, savory breakfast the next morning from your favorite restaurant. Plates full of breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, sausage, eggs, toast, bacon, and biscuits feel like they can cure anything, and starting your day off right is certainly worth your money. However, if you're someone who eats breakfast out more often than not, it may be helpful to be aware of some of the more unhealthy restaurant breakfasts out there so you can find a few healthy, balanced options.
Many restaurant chains offer tasty breakfast options, but oftentimes these choices can be loaded with calories, sodium, fat, and saturated fat. They're okay to consume as a special treat from time to time, but experts suggest skipping these when you're dining out for breakfast on a regular basis.
Read on to learn of some of the most unhealthy restaurant breakfasts at major chains, and for more dining out tips, check out The #1 Unhealthiest Meal to Order at Every Major Fast-Food Chain.
Tim Horton's Vanilla Cream Donut
"A donut may be delicious to enjoy, but it isn't doing much for you in the nutrition department," says Manaker. "Packed with sugar and void of any significant amount of fiber, healthy fats, or protein to help keep you satiated, eating a donut for breakfast may leave you feeling sluggish shortly after breakfast time."
First Watch Strawberry Tres Leches French Toast
First Watch offers a seasonal menu that "follows the sun," according to their website, which is rare for many chain restaurants. One of their current seasonal options—the Strawberry Tres Leches French Toast—is considered to be one of the unhealthier choices on the menu.
"The Strawberry Tres Leches French Toast has over 100 grams of sugar, which is way more than what is recommended we consume every day, and it clocks in at almost 1,000 calories per serving, which is more than half of what some people require in an entire day," says Manaker. "And with 10 grams of saturated fat, it is clear that this dish isn't ideal for those who are focused on supporting their health."
Panera's Sausage, Scrambled Egg & Cheese on Asiago Bagel
The good news about Panera is that the chain offers plenty of healthy options for breakfast that are still delicious. However, not all of their options are nutritious. In fact, Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements suggests steering clear of one breakfast sandwich in particular.
"The Sausage, Scrambled Egg & Cheese on Asiago Bagel from Panera Bread is their most unhealthy breakfast item due to its high calorie and sodium content," says Best. "With 820 calories, it provides a significant portion of the average person's daily caloric needs, and the 1,300 milligrams of sodium is well over half of the recommended daily intake, which can contribute to high blood pressure and other health issues."
Dunkin' Sausage, Egg & Cheese
It's safe to say that Dunkin' isn't the healthiest place you can find a quick breakfast meal, but some items are much worse than others. According to Best, an example of this is the Sausage, Egg & Cheese on a Croissant.
"This breakfast sandwich from Dunkin' is their most unhealthy breakfast item primarily because of its high calorie and saturated fat content," says Best. "This sandwich provides 720 calories, which is a third of the calorie needs for most individuals for the day, and the 20 grams of saturated fat in this sandwich greatly exceeds the recommended daily limit, which can raise bad cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease."
Perkins Southern Fried Chicken Breakfast
When you see what the Southern Fried Chicken Breakfast from Perkins actually contains, you won't be surprised that it's one of the unhealthiest items on their menu. Full of bacon, hash browns, and two whole fried chicken biscuits covered in gravy, you're better off skipping this order entirely.
"The Southern Fried Chicken Breakfast at Perkins is an extremely high-calorie meal, providing 1,370 calories, which is a significant portion of a daily caloric intake for most people, and it is also laden with unhealthy fats, providing 78 grams of fat, with 43 grams being saturated, contributing to potential heart health risks," says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD.
Not only that, but Sabat adds that this meal will send your sodium levels soaring, with over 4,200 milligrams, which when consumed consistently like this "can lead to issues like high blood pressure."
Friendly's Meat Lover's Bowl
Anytime a dish contains the phrase "Meat Lover," you can safely assume that it's going to be high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Take The Meat Lover's Bowl from Friendly's, for example.
"With 1,409 calories and 89 grams of fat (31 grams being saturated), this bowl can contribute significantly to weight gain and raise cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease," says Sabat. "The 3,035 milligrams of sodium can also contribute to hypertension and other cardiovascular issues, and the low fiber content (only 3 grams) may not provide adequate satiety, leading to potential overeating throughout the day."
Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap with Sausage
When you're in need of something quick for breakfast, Taco Bell is an easy fast-food choice, and as long as you know the options to avoid, you can find a relatively healthier breakfast to go.
"The Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap with Sausage is considered unhealthy due to its high calorie and fat content, with 730 calories and 47 grams of fat," says Sabat. If consumed in large amounts on a regular basis, "The high level of saturated fat, accounting for 15 grams, can raise bad cholesterol levels and increase the risk of cardiovascular issues," she adds. "Additionally, the low fiber content of only 4 grams means the breakfast lacks essential nutrients for digestive health and may lead to feelings of hunger and overeating later in the day."
Denny's Moons Over My Hammy
Denny's has plenty of breakfast options for you to choose from, but there are a few orders that you may want to avoid, or at least save for special occasions only. One of these items is a sandwich meal called Moons Over My Hammy.
"Typically composed of ham, scrambled eggs, and cheese nestled between bread slices, sometimes accompanied by hash browns, Denny's Moons Over My Hammy packs a caloric punch from its combination of ingredients," says Sabat.
She recommends skipping over this order when you're dining at Denny's, as "The ham, cheese, and eggs contribute to its high fat content, including unhealthy fats that can impact heart health, and the processed meats and cheese add to its sodium levels, potentially contributing to elevated blood pressure."
Sabat adds that, in regard to unhealthy restaurant breakfast options, "While occasional indulgence is acceptable, regular consumption of such processed and nutrient-poor meals may adversely affect one's health."
IHOP Chicken and Waffles
Chicken and Waffles is a classic Southern dish meant to satisfy your sweet and savory cravings in one meal, but with refined flour-filled waffles and fried and breaded chicken, this order is best left untouched—or at least shared between more than one person.
"The Chicken and Waffles dish at IHOP is undoubtedly an unhealthy choice due to its high caloric content and unhealthy fat and sodium levels," says Sabat. "With a staggering 1,030 calories, it can contribute significantly to weight gain and obesity when consumed regularly, and its 54 grams of fat—of which 14 grams are saturated—can contribute to elevated cholesterol levels and and increased risk of heart disease."
Sabat also notes that for those with hypertension or other cardiovascular issues, "The excessive 2,030 grams of sodium pose a serious concern." And on top of all of that, "The dish's carbohydrate count is quite high at 93 grams, with only 5 grams coming from fiber, meaning that it lacks essential nutrients and may lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes."
Cheesecake Factory Breakfast Burrito
The nutrition information for the Cheesecake Factory Breakfast Burrito is shocking, with numbers exceeding what is recommended for an entire day.
"With a staggering 2,260 calories, Cheesecake Factory's Breakfast Burrito provides an excessive amount of energy, far exceeding what an average person would want to consume for a single meal," says Sabat. "The 151 grams of fat—including 72 grams of saturated fat—can contribute to an alarming risk of heart disease and obesity, as saturated fats are known to raise LDL cholesterol levels, increasing the likelihood of clogged arteries and cardiovascular problems."
When it comes to sodium, "the 4,620 milligrams of sodium are well above the recommended daily intake, which can lead to high blood pressure and water retention," adds Sabat. "Consuming this breakfast burrito regularly can have severe long-term health consequences and should be avoided in favor of more balanced and nutritious meal options."
Starbucks Bacon, Sausage & Egg Wrap
Even though you may normally head to Starbucks for your coffee, the famous coffee chain also has a handful of breakfast options you can choose from as well. While some of them are relatively low in calories, fat, and sodium, there's one on the menu that you may want to think twice about before ordering.
The Starbucks Bacon, Sausage & Egg Wrap has a day's worth of saturated fat and close to half of a day's worth of sodium, which if consumed on a regular basis, means that you may be regularly exceeding your recommended daily limits before the day is done.
Waffle House Texas Breakfast Melt With Hash Browns
It's tempting to go for the deliciously greasy Texas Breakfast Melt with Hash Browns from Waffle House, but this meal provides too many calories, as well as too much saturated fat and sodium for just one meal. With 1,920 milligrams of sodium, you'll get close to your daily recommended limit before reaching lunchtime, and the 22.5 grams of saturated fat is almost double what is recommended for an entire day.
Carl's Jr. Breakfast Burger
Treating yourself to a delicious burger from time to time is fine, but why start your day off with a Breakfast Burger that is going to push you over your limits of fat, saturated fat, and sodium before the day has even gotten started?
The Breakfast Burger from Carl's Jr. isn't just a burger—it's also covered in bacon and hash browns—which is what sends the saturated fat and sodium levels overboard. It also contains a gram of trans fat, which is known as the "worst" type of fat and one that many experts say should be avoided whenever possible.
Bob Evans Banana Berry Farmer Breakfast
A pancake or two can be a sweet and satisfying treat, but when you pair three pancakes with eggs, sausage links, and breakfast potatoes, you'll rack up more calories, saturated fat, and sodium than you'd ever need in just one meal.
That's why it's best to skip the Bob Evans Banana Berry Farmer Breakfast with Sausage Links and Freshly Cracked Eggs, or at least save it for a special occasion.
Cracker Barrel Homestyle Chicken n' French Toast
Breaded and fried chicken, multiple layers of French toast, and maple syrup make for a meal that is better left avoided or split between two (or three) people. The Homestyle Chicken n' French Toast from Cracker Barrel has close to a day's worth of sodium and almost triple the amount of the recommended daily limit of saturated fat, so consuming it for breakfast won't be the best way to start your day.
- Source: https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet#:~:text=Americans%20eat%20on%20average%20about,recommended%20limits%20are%20even%20lower.
- Source: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats#:~:text=AHA%20Recommendation,of%20saturated%20fat%20per%20day.
- Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/transfats/