America's Worst Breakfast Foods

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of eating breakfast. Studies show that people who take time for a morning meal consume fewer calories over the course of the day, have stronger cognitive skills, and are 30 percent less likely to be overweight or obese. Beyond that, people who skip breakfast are more likely to drink alcohol and smoke, and they’re less likely to exercise.

But just because breakfast is the most important meal of the day doesn’t grant you permission to go into a feeding frenzy. But that’s exactly what many of the country’s most popular breakfast joints are setting you up for, by peddling fatty scrambles, misguided muffins, and pancakes that look like manhole covers.

These foods are loaded with unhealthy fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates, which catapult your blood sugar, sap your energy levels, and tell your body to store fat.
 
To help you avoid the morning mishaps, we searched out the good, the bad, and the greasy, and uncovered some of the worst breakfast foods in America. We’ve presented a sampling of the worst offenders below. It’s like a lineup down at the local police station, except in this case, they’re all guilty as charged.

Worst Side Dish
Burger King Hash Browns (large)
620 calories
40 g fat (11 g saturated; 13 g trans)
1,200 mg sodium
60 g carbs
 
Yes, you’re ingesting more than a meal’s worth of calories from a side dish, but the real cause for concern here is that these little potato cakes pack seven times more trans fats than you’re supposed to eat all day! Until BK learns to cut out the partially hydrogenated oils, avoid encounters with potatoes of any kind at that fatty food joint.
 
Eat This Instead!
Burger King Egg & Cheese Croissan’wich
300 calories
17 g fat (6 g saturated; 2 g trans)
740 mg sodium
26 g carbs

Worst Breakfast Sandwich
Hardee’s Monster Biscuit
710 calories
51 g fat (17 g saturated)
2,250 mg sodium
37 g carbohydrates
 
When they say “Monster,” they mean it. This 700-calorie behemoth should be enough to scare anyone: It contains nearly a full day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat. Instead try the Sunrise Croissant with Bacon. It’s not exactly diet-friendly, but if you’re stuck at Hardee’s, it’s a way to escape without too much damage.
 
Eat This Instead!
Hardee’s Sunrise Croissant with Bacon
450 calories
29 g fat (12 g saturated)
900 mg sodium
28 g carbs

Worst Kids Meal
Denny’s Big Dipper French Toastix with margarine and syrup
770 calories
71 g fat (13 g saturated)
107 g carbs
 
As important as it is for mom and dad to eat a good breakfast each morning, it’s even more critical that their kids do. After all, breakfast affects their energy levels, metabolism, and performance in school. Better think twice before feeding them these dubious little sticks. For more healthy kids’ choices, check out Eat This, Not That! for Kids.

Eat This Instead!
Kid’s D-Zone Smiley Alien Hotcakes
340 calories
12 g fat (5 g saturated)
49 g carbs
 
Worst Pastry
Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll
813 calories
32 g fat (5 g trans fat)
117 g carbs
 
You wouldn’t start your day with three brownies, would you? As far as your body knows, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you wake up with this cinnamon-swirled disaster area. In fact, because Cinnabon offers no healthy alternatives, you’ll have to  invite friends (or enemies?) to share the risky roll, or steer clear of Cinnabon altogether.
 
Worst Smoothie
Smoothie King Grape Expectations II (40 oz.)
1,102 calories
256 g sugars
740 mg sodium
 
Why Smoothie King would even offer a 40 oz. serving size is beyond us. With more than half the calories you need in a day and the sugar equivalent of 12 Haagen Dasz ice cream bars, this “drink” should be renamed "diabetes in a glass." Just goes to show you the importance of drinking responsibly.
 
Drink This Instead!
Smoothie King Low Carb Strawberry Smoothie (20 oz.)
268 calories
3 g sugars
176 mg sodium
 
Worst Combo Meal
McDonald’s Deluxe Breakfast
1,360 calories
64 g fat (22 g saturated)
2,325 mg sodium
160 g carbs
49 g sugars
 
With four vehicles for refined carbohydrates (biscuit, hash browns, hotcakes, syrup), this “deluxe” disaster will send your blood sugar soaring. Why blow nearly an entire day’s calories under the arches, when a perfectly satisfying Egg McMuffin will save you more than 1,000 calories?

Eat This Instead!
McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with coffee
310 calories
12 g fat (5 g saturated)
820 mg sodium
30 g carbs
3 g sugars

Worst Omelet
IHOP Big Steak Omelet
1,490 calories
(No additional nutrition information available)
 
IHOP doesn’t provide nutritional information aside from calorie counts, but with a boatload of steak, a bucket of cheese, and handfuls of hash browns, this omelet’s fat and sodium numbers are surely just as appalling.

Eat This Instead!
IHOP For Me Garden Scramble
440 calories

The Worst Breakfast in America
Bob Evans Stacked and Stuffed Caramel Banana Pecan Hotcakes
1,543 calories
77 g fat (26 g saturated; 9 g trans)
2,259 mg sodium
198 g carbs
109 g sugars

It’s not a good sign when it takes you nearly five seconds to spit out the name of your breakfast. This bad boy packs in more than 75 percent of your calories for the day, along with more sugar and fat than nine glazed Dunkin’ Donuts, and nearly as much sodium as five Bloody Marys.
 
Eat This Instead!
3 Scrambled Egg Beaters with 2 slices of bacon and fresh fruit
314 calories
19.5 g fat (5 g saturated)
700 mg sodium
21 g carbs
18 g sugars

To steer clear of the quickest way to pack on pounds — by sipping them through a straw — check out the 20 Unhealthiest Drinks in America.

And see how all of these restaurants (and 34 others of your favorites!) stack up nutritionally by checking out our definitive Restaurant Report Card.

Have your own big offenders — and secrets for protecting your waistline? Share them with the rest of us here.

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