You've heard the old adage -- breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But making sure you get a healthy, balanced breakfast is frankly more of a challenge than it should be in this day and age. Grocery store shelves are filled with unhealthy options that will get your body off to a poor start. Thankfully, we're looking out for all our readers and have assembled a list of unhealthy store-bought breakfast foods for you to avoid.
There are a handful of ways to approach this topic given just how many unhealthy foods you can find in the pantry and freezer aisles alone. The methodology we chose is based on avoiding foods that will spike your blood sugar early in the day. Dietician Julie Upton warns Eat This, Not That that one of the biggest culprits for rapid blood sugar level rises is low-quality processed carbs. So, for this avoid list, we are looking for items with high carb counts and a large amount of added sugar.
We have picked items from different categories of breakfast food that stood out to us as the least healthy. If specific ingredients are included (or lacking) that might impact your health, we factored that into whether or not to highlight the unhealthy store-bought breakfast food.
Pillsbury Toaster Strudel — All Flavors
Let's deliver the good news first. There is no "worst" flavor when it comes to Pillsbury's iconic flaky, frosted, and filled pastries. No, the truth is that all Toaster Strudel flavors are bad for you.
Generally totaling 54 grams of carbs and 19 grams of sugar per serving size of two iced pastries, Pillsbury's Toaster Strudels take up big chunks of your recommended daily values. Those numbers amount to 20% of your total carb intake for the day and 36% of how much sugar you should eat, and they're not the only concerning thing about the Toaster Strudels. Most of the sugars (18 of 19 grams) are added sugars.
Added sugars are just what they sound like: extra sugar that's added into food as it's being processed. These additional sweeteners are something you really want to watch out for when choosing breakfast foods. Since they don't provide any nutritional value, these are empty processed carbs. A diet with too much sugar can lead to diabetes and other health issues associated with weight gain.
Cap'n Crunch Breakfast Cereal
Sugary breakfast cereals are far from the healthiest store-bought option you can choose for breakfast, but some are worse than others. Case in point is Cap'n Crunch cereal, which is basically as healthy as any of the breakfast cereals based on candy bars.
One serving of Cap'n Crunch contains 33 grams of carbs and 16 grams of sugar, all of which is added sugar. But that's not exactly why this cereal makes it on here, despite there being about a third of your daily recommended intake of added sugar in one serving.
Cap'n Crunch is one of the unhealthiest breakfast cereals because it contains butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT. This is a preservative which is considered safe but which may have adverse effects on your lungs, liver, kidney, and thyroid. A study published in Toxicological Sciences (via Oxford Academic) found evidence of BHT being an endocrine disruptor, as well. Overall, it's not going to be poisonous for you to consume BHT, but you might want to avoid it.
Frosted Cookies And Crème Pop Tarts
There are going to be some softballs on this list. We admit that Pop-Tarts are one of them, but unlike their flaky cousin the Pillsbury Toaster Strudel, there is more variance on the carb, calorie, and fat count in a pack of the toaster pastries. Of all the regularly available flavors of the breakfast pastry, the number-one unhealthiest has got to be the Frosted Cookies and Crème variety.
A two-pack of Frosted Cookies and Crème Pop-Tarts contains a whopping 67 grams of carbs, and 36 grams of those are added sugars. In terms of pure threat to your blood sugar levels, these Pop-Tarts are among the absolute worst store-bought breakfasts.
Pop-Tarts also include an ingredient called tert-butylhydroquinone, aka TBHQ. TBHQ is a food additive that is an antioxidant but which is also said to have harmful effects. According to a research review written up in Toxicology Reports (via ScienceDirect), long-term exposure to TBHQ via food products could have carcinogenic and other toxic effects. When it comes to food additives to avoid, consider this near the top of the list.
Eggo Minis Cinnamon Toast Waffles
Next up is a childhood favorite, so it brings us no joy to report that these are the least healthy of Eggo's frozen waffle lineup. The Eggo Minis Cinnamon Toast Waffles have 47 grams of carbohydrates per serving and 16 grams of added sugar. It's worth noting the slightly generous serving size of three sets of four mini waffles, compared to the typical Eggo serving of two waffles. That comes out to a 92-gram serving compared to a 70-gram serving for Eggo Homestyle Waffles. Still, the Mini Cinnamon Toast Waffles have about 50% more carbs and sodium than a Homestyle Waffles serving and four times the sugar. That's nothing to scoff at.
From a pure numbers perspective, any other flavor of Eggo will be better for you than this one. That doesn't make these popular frozen waffles an otherwise healthy breakfast option, though. Every variety includes enriched wheat flour as one of its primary ingredients. Store-bought items that include enriched flour have a high glycemic load and raise your blood sugar more quickly compared to those with whole-wheat grains.
Bakery Aisle Muffins
Muffins aren't nearly as healthy as they pretend to be. Even the ones with fruit are often loaded with processed carbs and added sugars. No matter how tempting they look when you walk down the bakery aisle, we recommend you stay away. These are some of the most unhealthy store-bought breakfast options we could find.
Let's take Walmart's Marketside Triple Chocolate muffins as our first example. These chocolate-loaded muffins have 47 grams of carbs and 31 grams of sugar (28 of that added sugar) per big muffin. Sure, it's a sizable portion, but your blood sugar will be feeling it. The same can be said for the Favorite Day Chocolate Chip Muffins. These Target-brand muffins aren't even as chocolatey as the last option and still contain 57 grams of carbs and 34 grams of sugar. For all the calories these pack, the majority of them are simple carbohydrates that don't provide much nutrition.
Additionally, these muffins have very little fiber. Due to the proliferation of processed foods and de-emphasis of natural plant-based foods, fiber is lacking in the average Western diet. Don't let this common problem plague you, and avoid muffins next time you take a trip to the grocery store.
Yoplait Whips — Assorted Flavors
Yogurt can be very good for you. There are plenty of low-fat yogurts out there that can make a great part of a balanced breakfast. Yoplait can be one of those, depending on which yogurts you buy, but today we are looking at the worst of what's out there. The unhealthiest of all the assorted options are the Yoplait Whips line of products.
Every flavor of Yoplait Whips contains 25 grams of total carbs and 22 grams of sugar (18 of which are added sugars) per cup. Whether you choose Strawberry Mist, Cherry Cheesecake, or Key Lime Pie, you are getting one of the highest-sugar yogurts on store shelves.
If you're looking for a healthy yogurt, you don't necessarily need to go Greek or low fat. If you've ever had whole milk yogurt and seen it separate, you are familiar with whey, the liquid on top that is the by-product of making yogurt. A research review published in the Journal of Dairy Science found that consuming this acid whey (as opposed to the sweet whey that comes from cheese) has a number of health benefits, including a possible reduction in the risk of chronic disease. Whipped yogurt, however, has the whey removed.
Applewood Bacon, Egg & Cheese Hot Pockets
Let's take a walk on the savory side for a change. Our chosen criteria definitely make this list biased in terms of overly sweet breakfast items, but we had to make some exceptions to make room for some savory behemoths. This breakfast Hot Pocket cannot escape our judgment. At 37 grams of carbs total, 4 grams of sugar, and 600 milligrams of sodium, the Applewood Bacon, Egg & Cheese Hot Pocket is a force to be reckoned with.
While this item might not be the highest in terms of pure sugar, it's worth including due to the amount of processed carbs. Eating simple carbs often leads to a faster rise in blood sugar level than healthier, complex carbohydrates.
These breakfast Hot Pockets also provide a warning at the end of the ingredients list on the box, reminding you that this item was made with a bioengineered food ingredient. If you don't know what that is, we don't blame you. These were previously known as GMOs, although the USDA stopped using that labeling after 2021.
Great Value Cinnamon French Toast Sticks
French toast sticks are an easy freezer meal to feed the whole family with. We won't say the competition is that much healthier, but we found that of all the leading French toast stick brands, Walmart's is the worst for your health. The chain's Great Value Cinnamon French Toast Sticks contain 44 grams of total carbs and 17 grams sugar per five-stick serving. Those carb values are on the higher side, for sure, but it doesn't take much more scanning of the label to find the true culprit that lands these on the list.
Great Value's French Toast sticks notably do not contain any vitamin A or C and are very low on what nutrients they do provide, with only 35 milligrams of potassium and 70 milligrams of calcium. Vitamins are essential parts of a daily diet -- a lack of vitamin A in one's diet, for example, is a major contributor to vision loss and night blindness.
Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal
Oatmeal is recognized as a generally healthy breakfast (or part of one), but there are even ways to go wrong with oats. Case in point: Quaker's Maple and Brown Sugar instant oatmeal packets, which are unfortunately among the most unhealthy store-bought oatmeals you can buy. Next time you go to pick up a pack of this Quaker item, think about the 33 grams of total carbs and the 12 grams of purely added sugar you or your kids will be consuming per small bowl of oatmeal.
It's important to make note of that small serving size. While this doesn't seem like the worst on the surface, one serving is only 160 calories, and eating it by itself will probably leave you still hungry. Eating more than one serving, on the other hand, can have you overload on sugar in the morning when your blood sugar may already be high. Glucose production tends to be higher in the morning, and those with insufficient insulin production may see elevated blood sugar levels at that time as a result. This is a reason to avoid sugary breakfasts if you have diabetes or are at all at risk.
Entenmann's Crumb Topped Donuts
Nobody thinks of Entenmann's boxed donuts, muffins, and cakes as part of a healthy breakfast. Still, looking through all the brand's offerings, this one stood out as the cream of the crop. With 33 grams of carbs and 19 grams of added sugar per single donut, Entenmann's Crumb Topped Donuts are loaded with bad carbs and lacking in vitamins and nutrients. You won't be doing much better with Entenmann's other donuts, but we'll gladly shave a few carbs off by choosing the chocolate-frosted donuts instead. Plus, we just prefer chocolate over whatever those bready crumbs on top of these donuts are.
Compared to even the items on this list, the Entenmann's Crumb Topped Donuts are among the lowest in terms protein. At only 2 grams per serving, you are depriving yourself of one of the most important macronutrients in your diet. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (via the National Library of Medicine), eating a more protein-filled breakfast can make you feel fuller throughout the rest of the day. It can be beneficial in terms of both weight loss and muscle strengthening.
Jimmy Dean Biscuit & Sausage Gravy Breakfast Bowl
Biscuits and gravy are a classic Southern brunch item, but you probably shouldn't be eating them for breakfast every morning, especially not these frozen breakfast bowls from Jimmy Dean. The Biscuit & Sausage Gravy breakfast bowl has a whopping 46 grams of carbs and 880 milligrams of sodium.
If you look at the ingredients for this bowl, you will find a novella-length list of additives and flavorings. With multiple types of artificial butter flavoring in the mix, we can deduce that the carbs are not the healthy kind. It's also worth mentioning that the high level of sodium in this breakfast is more than a third of the daily recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams, putting you in position to exceed the limit in later meals. Regularly consuming more than this much sodium can put you at risk for a number of heart and kidney problems.
If you're going to make one of your cheat-day meals biscuits and gravy, we advise you to go get it somewhere fresh if you can. You aren't doing your body any favors by trying to cut corners with this frozen alternative.
Jimmy Dean Sausage, Egg And Cheese Maple Griddle Cakes
These frozen breakfast sandwiches (can we even call them sandwiches?) combine all the elements of a lumberjack breakfast into one handheld tour de force of carbs and sodium. Featuring both pancakes and sausages, the Jimmy Dean Sausage, Egg and Cheese Maple Griddle Cakes manage to contain 31 grams of carbs (including 12 grams of sugar) and 810 milligrams of sodium per sandwich.
The only thing worse than eating an overly sweet, carbohydrate-loaded breakfast is eating one with processed meats on the side. These include the typical breakfast meats bacon, ham, and sausage, like the one included in this Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich. Eating too much sausage or bacon does more than just up your cholesterol levels. A diet of too much processed meat like sausage can put you at a higher risk for dementia, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (via ScienceDirect). There can be serious consequences for not watching what you eat when it comes to breakfast.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.