Tuesday 7 May 2024

25 Unhealthiest Breakfast Foods on the Planet

 Breakfast is often touted as the most important meal of the day, but not all breakfast foods are created equal. You may be surprised to learn that many of the most popular breakfast items in the U.S. are loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats, and empty calories, which can leave you feeling tired and sluggish, while jeopardizing your health in the long run. That's why we spoke with registered dietitians who have compiled a list of the 25 unhealthiest breakfast foods on the planet to help you make healthier choices at the start of your day.

It's no secret that eating a healthy and well-balanced breakfast can set you up for a successful day. However, many of the breakfast foods available today are far from nutritious. Research suggests that eating a high-quality breakfast provides several health benefits, including increased intake of macro and micronutrients, healthy weight management, better cognitive performance, and improved quality of life. So, when it comes to breakfast, choosing foods that will nourish your body and provide you with the energy you need to tackle the day ahead is essential.

If you're ready to ditch unhealthy breakfast foods that wreak havoc on your well-being and embrace a healthier lifestyle, read on to uncover the 25 unhealthiest breakfast foods on the planet.  


bacon strips on a wooden board

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but having bacon for breakfast isn't doing your health any favors. Pork bacon is high in saturated fat and sodium, which studies show can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure. Destini Moody, RDN, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian and sports dietitian with Garage Gym Reviews, tells ETNT, "One slice of pork bacon is about half protein, half fat. Bacon is also cured with a large amount of sodium, which is something else you don't want to have regularly, especially if you have high blood pressure." 


strawberry poptarts

"A popular quick breakfast option for those on the go, Poptarts are essentially desserts masquerading as morning fuel," says Gianna Masi, CPT, RDN, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian with Barbend. "They're high in refined sugars and fats and contain artificial colors and flavors. Their lack of protein and fiber fails to provide sustained energy, leading to a mid-morning crash."

High-Sugar Instant Oatmeal

oatmeal with raspberries and blueberries

Many instant oatmeal packs contain tons of added sugars, which can spike blood sugar levels and cause energy dips. "Oats are typically a super nutritious source of whole grains that are great for breakfast, but some instant oatmeal have about 12 grams of added sugar per serving. That's a lot of added sugar to have before you've left for work or school for the day," says Moody. 

Frozen Waffles

Frozen waffles

Frozen waffles tend to be high in calories and provide little nutritional value. "While convenient, many frozen waffles are made with refined flours and can contain added sugars and preservatives," says Masi. "They often lack significant nutritional value in terms of fiber and protein, which are essential for a balanced breakfast. Coupled with syrup and butter, they can become a high-calorie, sugar-laden meal." 

Low-Fiber Breakfast Cereal


Even if the cereal box says it's fortified with vitamins, many breakfast cereals are low in fiber and high in sugar, and are therefore considered to be an unhealthy breakfast food to start your day with. Moody says, "Cereals that are overly processed with minimal fiber won't do you any favors, as these high-sugar cereals digest very quickly. This causes a spike and subsequent crash in blood sugar, meaning you could feel ready to crawl back in bed by 10 AM." 

Breakfast Pastries

cheese danish

Croissants, danishes, and similar pastries are high in butter, sugar, and fats, offering little nutritional value and contributing to calorie overload. Masi tells us, "While they may be delicious, pastries offer few nutritional benefits, are high in calories, and the refined carbs contribute to rapid spikes in blood sugar."

Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches


"I get it, it's way more convenient to pop a sandwich in the microwave and have a hot breakfast in minutes rather than making it from scratch or going to a drive-thru," says Moody. "However, the problem with these items is they're often packed with preservatives, sodium, and even trans fats to keep them fresh in your freezer. They also rarely contain vegetables, which doesn't give them much nutritional value." 

Storebought Smoothies


"Smoothies from fast-food chains or convenience stores may seem like a nutritious breakfast option, but they can be deceivingly high in calories and sugars when made with fruit syrups, ice cream, or sweetened yogurt instead of whole fruits and vegetables," says Masi. Instead, consider making your own homemade smoothies so you can add whole fruits and veggies that pack a nutritional punch of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

Granola Bars

granola bars

"Granola bars are rarely made with whole grains and complex carbohydrates, which are the carbs you want first thing in the morning if you want some long-lasting energy," explains Moody. "Granola bars often have too many added sugars and not enough protein, so they won't keep you full enough to count as a breakfast." 

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon roll

Cinnamon rolls are one of the worst breakfast foods on the planet, loaded with added sugars, fats, and refined flour. "Often dripping with sugary icing, cinnamon rolls are a tempting breakfast option that packs a hefty calorie punch," says Masi. "Made with refined flour and lots of butter, they offer little nutritional value. The high sugar and fat content can lead to energy spikes followed by a sharp drop, leaving you feeling lethargic mid-morning."

Blended Coffee Drinks

iced blended coffee drink

These beverages are calorie bombs just waiting to wreak havoc on your weight, energy levels, and overall health. Moody says, "Blended coffee drinks often contain an excess of cream and sugar, along with much less caffeine than you think to make room for all the goodies. Not only are these beverages devoid of most nutrients, they aren't substantial or balanced enough to make a full meal."

White Toast with Margarine

butter toast

"Simple white bread offers little beyond quick-digesting carbs that can spike blood sugar levels. Topping it with margarine adds trans fats, which are linked to heart disease. This breakfast lacks fiber, protein, and essential nutrients, making it a poor choice for a wholesome start," says Masi. 



Donuts are a calorie-dense and nutrient-poor breakfast option. "Donuts are typically deep-fried and full of fat, added sugar, and refined carbs—not the best way to start your day," says Moody. Though they may satisfy the taste buds for a while, the lack of fiber and protein won't keep your stomach satisfied. That's why you usually find yourself returning to the box repeatedly, which will put you in a bad spot if you're trying to lose weight."

Fried Chicken and Waffles


While this indulgent combo is undeniably delicious, this unhealthy breakfast food is high in calories, unhealthy fats, and refined carbs that can result in weight gain and health issues when consumed regularly, according to research. "Fried chicken offers a crunchy but unhealthy addition due to being deep-fried in oil, while waffles are typically made from refined flour, adding a sugary carbohydrate load. This meal often leads to a spike in blood sugar and can contribute to weight gain when eaten regularly," explains Masi.


blueberry muffins

Despite their popularity, muffins can be high in calories and lacking fiber and protein, leading to hunger and energy crashes. "Let's face it—muffins are handheld cakes, with some being better than others," says Moody. "Most muffins aren't made with whole grain flour, meaning they lack many nutrients you want to have from your breakfast grains. The big ones you pick up at places like a coffee shop or continental breakfast can also be astronomical in calories, with one containing as much as 800 calories." 

Breakfast Sausages

breakfast sausage with eggs

According to a 2022 study, processed meats like breakfast sausages are high in saturated fats and sodium, which can increase your risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia. 

Sugary Yogurt

woman eating yogurt, concept of can eating yogurt help you lose weight

Instead of buying sugar-sweetened yogurts, opt for Greek yogurt containing protein and fiber. "Non-Greek yogurt, like the kind you see with fruit on the bottom, used to be marketed heavily as something that should be a staple in your morning routine but isn't the best," cautions Moody. "The fruit on the bottom tends to be made using fruit with a lot of sugar added to balance out the acidity of the yogurt. Much of the protein gets displaced to make room for all of this sugar, meaning you'll get left with only about 3 to 5 grams per serving." 

Fast-Food Breakfast Burritos

breakfast burrito

"While a homemade breakfast burrito can provide a well-balanced meal, ones from fast-food chains are often filled with processed meats and excessive cheese and are wrapped in a refined flour tortilla. They're high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium," says Masi. 


biscuits in basket

"Biscuits are practically devoid of the nutrients you want in a healthy breakfast, including fiber," says Moody. "They're also made with trans or saturated fats to give them their flaky texture, which are unhealthy fats detrimental to your heart health. When you start adding butter and gravy to these little guys, you end up with a breakfast void of nutritional value, leaving you sluggish due to the high-fat content."

Fast-Food Breakfast Sandwiches

fast food breakfast sandwich

Fast-food breakfast sandwiches, like the ones commonly found in fast-food chains, are loaded with processed meats, cheese, and eggs on refined bread—a winning combination for weight gain and elevated chronic disease risk. Masi says, "Breakfast sandwiches offer little nutrient density and can contribute to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease risk."



"Fried food is an indulgence you should enjoy sparingly, but it's not a breakfast food you want to eat every morning," Moody explains. "Though potatoes are a wonderful vegetable, without their skin, you lose much of the fiber, and the frying takes away many nutritional benefits while adding in some sodium and fats that aren't the best for you. If you're craving spuds in the morning, stick to baked breakfast potatoes instead."

French Toast with Syrup

french toast

While French toast may occasionally be a sweet treat, enjoying it regularly means sugar and refined carb overload.  "This classic breakfast dish typically consists of white bread soaked in eggs and milk and fried in butter or oil. When served with syrup, it becomes a high-calorie meal rich in sugars and saturated fats. The combination of refined carbs and sugar can lead to spikes in blood sugar and provide little nutritional benefit," explains Masi. When you can, skip this unhealthy breakfast food, or just enjoy it on occasion.


stack of pancakes with syrup and butter

"Pancakes lack protein and fiber, which are essential to keep you going throughout the day. Additionally, it's already a food that's high in refined carbs. When you start pouring on the butter and maple syrup (more refined carbs), pancakes become quite an unhealthy breakfast option," says Moody.


orange juice and oranges

Despite being perceived as a healthy option, most commercial juices are high in sugar and lack the fiber found in whole fruits, potentially leading to blood sugar spikes. Masi says, "Most commercial juices are packed with sugar and lack the fiber that whole fruits provide. A glass of orange juice can contain as much sugar as several oranges, minus the beneficial fiber, making it a less satiating and blood sugar-spiking option."


Bagel and Cream Cheese

Bagel with cream cheese

"Bagels are high in calories and refined carbs, with one standard bagel having roughly the same number of calories and carbs as four pieces of toast. Cream cheese contains a lot of saturated fat and hardly any of the high-quality protein you can enjoy from other dairy products," says Moody.

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