It’s hard enough to keep up a healthy diet when you’re dining out — the burgers, fried chicken, pizza, and pastries all seem to be calling your name. The task of making a healthy choice when eating out for breakfast is even more challenging when the supposedly “healthy” foods on the menu aren’t actually healthy at all. These products may tout their low fat or calorie contents — but many of them contain exorbitant levels of sugar that are unfit for a healthful diet.
These five breakfast menu items at your favorite fast food chains and cafes may seem healthy, but contain substantially more sugar than a balanced diet requires.
1. Fruit and Maple Oatmeal (McDonalds)
Ordering the oatmeal is certainly a step up, calorie- and fat-wise, from the 670-calorie Steak, Egg, and Cheese Bagel on the McDonald’s breakfast menu. That said, the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal comes with its own share of disadvantages: It may sound healthy as can be, but its 300 calories manage to pack in 32 grams of sugar, according to McDonald’s — that’s more sugar than a Milky Way Bar!
Ordering an Egg McMuffin will fill you up with its 17 grams of protein and 300 calories — it contains 13 grams of fat, but only 3 grams of sugar. Not bad. If you’re frightened off at the prospect of fat content, spring for an Egg White Delight — 250 calories, 18 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, and 3 grams of sugar.
2. Bananas Foster Fresh Fruit Parfait (Cosi)
The word “parfait” on any cafe or fast food menu tends to evoke notions of health-consciousness among even the savviest of dieters: Fresh fruit and yogurt — what could go wrong? These choices are generally lower in fat and calories than their greasy, buttery alternatives — but they do pack some surprising health disadvantages of their own. For example, the Bananas Foster Fresh Fruit Parfait at Cosi contains an amazing 59 grams of sugar. That’s more than the amount of sugar you’d find in 2 full-sized Butterfinger bars.
Don’t think you’re off the hook by ordering a Low-Fat Raisin Bran Muffin here, either — it contains 39 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to the sugar content in a full (12-ounce) can of Sprite.
3. Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Wendy’s)
The Steel Cut Oatmeal at Wendy’s sounds totally wholesome and straightforward, but did you know it contains 33 grams of sugar? Sure, the oats themselves are a great source of fiber — but when you add in sweet cranberries, roasted pecans, and crisp apples with caramel, the sugar content in this dish gets a little out of control. It also contains 12 grams of fat for its 330 calories — not a health food in any true sense of the word.
You’re likely better off ordering the Artisan Egg Sandwich here. It may look like a heftier meal — and maybe it is — but it packs just 360 calories in for its 19 grams of protein, and contains only 4 grams of sugar.
The Greek Yogurt Raspberry Lemon Parfait may seem like a guilt-free choice when observed among the pastries and muffins at your local Starbucks — to its credit, the parfait does contain 310 calories packed with a body-fueling 17 grams of protein, and just 7 total grams of fat. For all those merits, even, the Parfait can’t stand on its own as a diet-friendly food: It contains 31 grams of sugar — that’s 4 more grams than a standard-sized Snickers bar!
5. Low-Fat Wild Berry Smoothie (Panera)
Any menu item that starts off with “low-fat” can’t be too bad for you, right? As truthful as the low-fat claim may be on this item — Panera’s 16-ounce Low-Fat Wild Berry Smoothie contains just 1.5 total grams of fat — but along with that, it contains a whopping 68 grams of sugar! To put that number in perspective, consider that you’d have to eat nearly 2½ Milky Way Bars to achieve the same sugar rush.
The smoothies are Panera’s worst breakfast offenders across the board: the Low-Fat Strawberry Ginseng options comes in a close second with 58 grams of sugar (equivalent to the sugar content of a full-sized Toblerone Honeycomb bar), while the other Panera smoothies tally in at 54, 39, 35, and 30 grams of sugar (Low-Fat Mango, Chocolate Banana Almond, Lowfat B-Green, and Superfruit Power Ginseng, respectively).