Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. Your first meal, which doesn't have to be as soon as the sun rises, can set the trajectory for your day. Beginning your food decisions for the next 24 hours with something solid and satisfying can keep your appetite in check, provide lasting energy, help your mood, or even assist in recovery from that surprisingly tough exercise class.
As often as we might see healthy breakfast foods available such as fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, or oatmeal, we stumble upon just as much or more foods that have limited nutrition quality. Many of these breakfast foods grace grocery stores, namely convenience items, and contain high amounts of calories, saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium.
Here we collected 11 of the unhealthiest breakfast foods appearing on shelves—in meat cases and behind freezer doors—so you can try and avoid dumping them in your cart on your next shopping trip. Read on, and for more, don't miss The 13 Healthiest Breakfasts To Eat, According to RDs.
Jimmy Dean Blueberry Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick!
Now making pancakes created with refined flour (and no actual blueberries) and sausage even easier to consume on the run, these breakfasts on a stick fall short on good nourishment for your first meal of the day. One serving (one stick) instead contributes 16 grams of fat, 400 milligrams of sodium, and a long list of additives like Red #3, BHT, and sodium diacetate.
Jimmy Dean Biscuits and Gravy
With core ingredients like pork, heavy cream, and palm oil, it's no surprise that the saturated fat in these biscuits and gravy achieves an astonishing 14 grams of saturated fat (70% Daily Value or DV) per serving. The sodium content also reaches four digits at 1,160 milligrams of sodium, which far exceeds the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
Pillsbury Golden Grahams Toaster Strudel Pastries
More enriched flour, palm oil, sugar, and even high fructose corn syrup can be found here in this less-than-stellar breakfast idea. These toaster pastries (AKA desserts) come up mediocre on nutrition while providing 24 grams of added sugars (nearly half of the RDA) in one serving, which may make managing weight, heart health, and normal blood sugars difficult if eaten regularly.
Tastykake Glazed Honey Bun
These honey buns are so rich that the serving size is for only half of one individually wrapped pastry snack (which is seldom where someone would stop eating). This breakfast concept makes a significant dent in your saturated fat intake (42% DV) per serving. Reduced saturated fat intake is associated with a reduction of cardiovascular disease events like stroke or heart failure.
Cap'n Crunch Original Cereal
There's a reason this cereal tastes so great. It's those 17 grams of sugar per cup serving (100% of that as added sugar from sugar and brown sugar) that keep adults and kids alike coming back for another box. Its only redeeming quality is the added B vitamins like niacin (30% DV per serving), folate (50% DV per serving), and thiamin (25% DV per serving).
Frosted Cookies & Crème Pop-Tarts
This overly processed food may remind you of a sandwich cookie, but it is marketed as a breakfast product. All but 2 grams of sugar in one serving (two pastries) of this product are added sugar that is only empty calories. If you must add toaster pastries to your morning routine, go for just one at a time, make it unfrosted, and top it with some fresh berries yourself.
Johnsonville Country Recipe Smoked Breakfast Sausage
Sausages are not the first place to look when wanting to amp up protein in your diet. These meats are highly processed and one serving of this product contains nearly a quarter (22% DV) of your sodium allowance for the day. Add to this 5 grams of saturated fat and other additives like hydrolyzed corn protein, sodium diacetates, and sodium nitrites, and we can feel ourselves getting further and further away from a "clean" diet.
Oscar Meyer Maple Bacon
Marbling in your meat may indicate flavor, but it also indicates fat. Although bacon is considered a member of the protein group according to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) MyPlate representation, it has more calories as fat than protein (approximately 70% versus 30%, respectively).
Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars Apple Cinnamon
As one of the more unassuming breakfast products to make our list, these bars are not doing us a huge favor towards building a solid breakfast. These bars have a solid start with their first ingredient as whole grain oats, but quickly shifts gears to added sweeteners in the form of sugar, dextrose, fructose, and invert sugar (that's before you even get to the filling).
Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake Mini Muffins
These little muffins will put you back 18 grams of sugar per serving (one pouch), with 40% of all calories in this product as added sugar. It also contains more dextrose, sugar, and palm oil than actual strawberries (by weight) in its "strawberry flavored bits."
Red's Meat Lovers Sausage & Egg Burrito
This breakfast burrito might come with 15 grams of protein (all from animal protein) per burrito, but it will cost you 16 grams of total fat and 690 milligrams of sodium. This product is positioned as being non-GMO, antibiotic-free, and uses cheese that is rBST-free (an artificial growth hormone), but these are not claims related to the health of the food.
To learn more about what foods to instead try at breakfast, read 12 Best & Worst Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches, According to a Dietitian