10 Fast-Food Breakfasts To Stay Away From Right Now
In a perfect world, there's always time to start the morning with a healthy breakfast. Yogurt, oatmeal, chia pudding, and a veggie omelet sound perfect, but sometimes you just don't have the time and energy to make a whole meal from scratch or even sit down and eat it.
Many of the top fast-food restaurants across America have found ways to fill this niche and give morning commuters something easy to eat on their way to work. While you shouldn't have a hard time finding a quick bite on the move, not every fast-food breakfast checks off all the nutritional boxes if you want to watch your diet. A ton of menu items pack in fat, carbs, sugar, and salt in order to help make certain items delicious. While these options have found their fair share of fans, these foods also can easily derail any eating plan.
With so many less-than-wholesome fast-food breakfast items on the market, trying to figure out which ones to avoid feels like a nightmare. Luckily, Eat This, Not That! consulted a handful of experts to narrow down the 10 worst menu items you need to cross off your list.
If you don't have the time to start your day any other way, make sure you grab one of the 14 Surprisingly Healthy Fast-Food Orders, According to Dietitians next time you visit your favorite fast food restaurant in the morning.
Jack-in-the-Box's Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito (with salsa)
Dunkin' Coffee Cake Muffin
"Not all muffins are created equal, and most are just chock full of refined carbohydrates, sugar, and fat," Trista Best, RD at Balance One Supplements, said. "While there are some versions of muffins that can help you in your health goals this is unfortunately not the case for the most popular."
The danger of the Dunkin' Coffee Cake Muffin lies in the massive amount of sugar packed into each pastry, in addition to the huge portion of refined carbs.
"Refined carbs, also known as simple or processed carbs, are grains that have been stripped of their beneficial nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, and iron making them empty calories, Best continued. "They are quickly processed by the body which raises blood glucose and insulin rapidly after meals. These characteristics all lead to a slow metabolism and weight gain. As the body is not obtaining beneficial nutrients from the refined carb muffins, but rather inflammatory and gut damaging nutrients."
If you crave a muffin and need to stick to a healthy eating plan, you can't go wrong making these pastries at home. Opt for 16 Cozy Muffin Recipes That Are Perfect for Weight Loss and discover your new favorite muffin.
Einstein Bros Apple Cinnamon Bagel
The Dunkin' Coffee Cake Muffin can't do your diet any favors, but it isn't the only fast food breakfast offering that loads up on a walloping amount of carbs. Einstein Bros' Apple Cinnamon Bagel ends up looking much closer to a pastry thanks to the massive amount of carbs and sugars the bagel packs in per serving.
"A bagel on its own is just empty carbohydrates with very little fiber," Juliana Tamayo, RD, MS at LDN at FitnessClone.com said. "Most people eat bagels with only cream cheese, which does not add any fiber or protein to your diet. In most cases, bagels are high in carbohydrates and are absorbed quickly, making your satiety short-lived." If you need to watch your daily diet, avoid this very sweet bagel.
Carl's Jr. Monster Biscuit
If you need to hit the road and don't have time for a proper breakfast, Carl's Jr. Monster Biscuit sounds tempting, especially if you wake up hungry. While this biscuit sandwich comes with sausage, bacon, cheese, and eggs, it also packs in almost half of a day's worth of calories and a ton of fat in each serving. The salt content of this biscuit sandwich exceeds the FDA recommendation of sodium you should eat each day, while the bacon in this sandwich takes the item to whole new unhealthy levels.
"Regular bacon is a fan favorite, but not necessarily a good breakfast option," Tamayo said. "It is high in sodium, saturated fats, and nitrites. Bacon is going to raise your blood cholesterol levels, while also causing fluid retention due to excess sodium. Nitrites are also known carcinogens present in deli meats and usually used [to] keep products from [spoiling]."
If you need a new breakfast sandwich, don't settle for a calorie-packed biscuit. Instead, reach for 16 Delicious Breakfast Sandwich Recipes You Won't Believe Are Healthy.
Au Bon Pain Blueberry Yogurt and Wild Blueberry Parfait
At first glance, this unassuming yogurt parfait might not seem that bad, especially in comparison to greasy breakfast sandwiches or sugar-packed muffins. Underneath this blueberry yogurt's healthy-looking exterior lurks a ton of sugar that can easily derail your day before it even starts.
"Although yogurt is usually recommended, there are some types you might want to avoid," Tamayo said. "In general, plain flavored yogurt is high in sugar and preservatives and has very little protein. Greek yogurt is the recommended kind because it contains more protein and probiotics. Regular yogurt is high in calories and will often have very little protein. It can cause high blood sugar and will not keep you full [for] long."
Steer clear of this sugar-packed yogurt, even if it sounds like a healthy option
Dunkin' Glazed Jelly Stick
Few breakfast options pack in the sugar and fat like donuts. These calorie bombs have the potential to undo all of your weight loss progress and can leave you feeling sluggish. "[Donuts are] made of highly processed flour, cooked in oil and with added sugar," Blanca Garcia, RDN at Health Canal said. "So sugar on top of sugar on top of fat [is] just carbs and fat."
While single donuts on their own easily rank as one of the most unhealthy breakfast offerings out there, they aren't all created equal. Dunkin's Glazed Jelly Stick ranks as one of the worst out there, thanks to each item containing a whopping 66 grams of carbs, almost half of a day's worth of fat, and over half of a day's worth of sugar.
Donuts in general won't do your diet any good. Looking to treat yourself to some great donuts? Check out The Best Donut in Every State.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Chia Banana Boost with Peanut Butter
On paper, a breakfast smoothie looks irresistibly healthy. After all, these drinks come loaded with fruit and other nutrients, making them seem like the perfect way to quickly drink your breakfast and get all the nutrition you need to start your day.
Unfortunately, many breakfast smoothies also come loaded with calories, fat, and sugar, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe takes the cake with their signature Chia Banana Boost with Peanut Butter. This morning smoothie finds a way to deliver almost half of a day's worth of calories in one serving, while easily loading you up on sugar before you even get to lunch. If you need a healthy breakfast smoothie, stay far away from this offering.
McDonald's Big Breakfast
"In general, the worst thing you can buy are the ultra-deluxe or premium-style breakfasts," Garcia said.
"For breakfast, the general rule is to eat well and heartily," Garcia continues. "The problem with these foods is that they are very high in fat, and the portions are too large. At home, you have more control over the fat and salt that is added to your meals, but not so much at fast food chains." The McDonald's Big Breakfast takes the cake when it comes to loading you up with poor nutrition in the morning. The item features about half of your day's worth of salt in one serving and doubles down with a ton of fat.
Certain McDonald's breakfast offerings prove better for your health than others. If you can't stand the idea of completely abandoning McDonald's in the morning but still want to eat healthy, make sure you select an item from 9 Healthiest Fast-Food Breakfasts, According to Dietitians.
Carl's Jr. French Toast Dips
Whipping up a healthy French toast at home doesn't have to be impossible, but all bets are off when you grab French toast-themed items at fast-food restaurants.
"French toast typically [has] high amounts of sugar due to the syrups and toppings on [it]," Jesse Feder, RDN, CPT at My Crohn's and Colitis Team says. "Additionally [French toast does] not provide much in regards to nutritional value. [It is] usually made with highly processed ingredients that can spike your blood sugar and cause weight gain."
Carl's Jr. offers up one of the most unhealthy fast food breakfast options out there thanks to their French Toast Dips that come loaded with carbs and fat. While these French toast sticks offer up a quick bite in the morning, steer clear of these if you need to eat healthily.
Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap, Sausage
Taco Bell struck gold when they put the Crunchwrap Supreme on its menu. Thanks to the item's popularity, it continued to evolve and Taco Bell even found a way to add it to their breakfast menu. While the Crunchwrap continues to win over morning commuters, it also finds a way to put a major dent in diets thanks to its massive fat, salt, and carb content. While the item comes loaded with cheese and sausage, the inclusion of fried potatoes doesn't make this item any healthier. "Fried potatoes […] have high amounts of fats, more specifically saturated fats, which can clog your arteries," Feder explains.
A version of this story was originally published on Oct 2, 2022. It has been updated to include new information.