The Best (and Worst) Fast Food Breakfasts in America

It’s safe to say a healthy breakfast should be a part of everyone’s day. Crazy schedules make it difficult to find time to cook, so fast food is often the easiest option.

Regardless, what you actually order can make all the difference. A giant doughnut and scrambled eggs with whole-wheat toast both count as breakfast, but they’re drastically different as far as nutrition goes. Here, we look at some of the most popular fast food offerings to show you which meals you should go for and which ones you should avoid.

Worst: Hardee’s Breakfast Platter with Bacon

Hardee's for breakfast

Hardee’s for breakfast is one to skip. | iStock.com

This massive spread from Hardee’s takes the approach that bigger is way, way better. It includes one egg, two strips of bacon, a mound of hash brown patties, and two biscuits smothered in gravy. Since this meal is almost entirely carbohydrates and fat, it’s no surprise this platter is a serious don’t.

The damage is 760 calories and 45 grams of fat. The sodium level is also sky high at a total of 1,670 milligrams. Add salt to those potatoes, and it only goes up.

Best: Starbucks Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon and Egg White Breakfast Sandwich

sign outside of a Starbucks coffee shop on a rainy day

Starbucks has some surprisingly healthy options if you look. | Karen Bleier/Getty Images

Once a chain that offered little more than sugary pastries alongside their coffee drinks, Starbucks has made efforts to start catering to the more health-conscious crowd. Skip the low-fat scones and go for this breakfast sandwich filled with egg whites, turkey bacon, and cheddar cheese. It clocks in at just 230 calories. You’ll even get 19 grams of protein and only 6 grams of fat.

Worst: Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap with Sausage

store sign at a Taco Bell

This Taco Bell breakfast needs to be avoided. | Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Breakfast inspired by Mexican cuisine can be perfectly healthy when it includes chilies, beans, and eggs. Unfortunately, not everything on Taco Bell’s morning menu is quite as saintly. Order this Crunchwrap and your breakfast will include a sausage patty, hash brown cake, creamy jalapeño sauce, an egg, and cheese all wrapped inside a giant tortilla.

This meal contains 700 calories and 46 grams of fat, and that’s just the wrap. If you make it a combo with a drink and the Cinnabon Delights, things only get worse.

Best: McDonald’s Egg McMuffin

egg McMuffin fast food sandwich

McDonald’s Egg McMuffins aren’t as bad as you may think. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While popular eats like fries and burgers will never disappear from their menu, McDonald’s was one of the first fast food chains to start offering healthier options. The funny thing is, one of their regular breakfast items is actually a pretty healthy choice. The Egg McMuffin is a combo of American cheese, Canadian bacon, egg, and an English muffin — coming in at a pretty tame 300 calories. The fat tally is still a little high at 12 grams, but you’ll also get 18 grams of protein.

Worst: Panera Bread Cinnamon Crunch Bagel with Plain Cream Cheese

Cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera

This bagel from Panera is one of the worst. | iStock.com

Some folks seek out bagels as a healthier alternative to other caloric pastries such as cinnamon rolls or doughnuts. Sadly, bagels aren’t much better.

Take Panera’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagel, for example. The baked good alone is 430 calories, but the real kicker is the amount of sugar at 32 grams. While 7 grams of fat isn’t all that bad, adding cream cheese packs on another 18 grams and 190 calories. Since this meal is almost entirely sugar and simple carbs, you’ll have a huge energy crash in just an hour or two.

Best: Au Bon Pain Egg Whites, Cheddar, and Avocado on a Skinny Wheat Bagel

People outside of Au Bon Pain

Au Bon Pain offers this healthy and satisfying breakfast choice. | Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Though this chain is known for its baked goods, you can still score a healthy breakfast with this egg white and avocado sandwich. It’s 360 calories and gives you a huge dose of healthy fat from the avocado. You’ll also score 19 grams of protein and a whopping 9 grams of fiber, a combination that will keep you feeling satisfied well past mid-morning. It also scores bonus points for using cheddar cheese rather than processed American cheese food product.

Worst: McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hotcakes

McDonald's sign

McDonald’s is notorious for their unhealthy eats. | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

The name says it all with this offering from McDonald’s. Everything about this breakfast is big. It actually weighs close to a pound, and features scrambled eggs, hash browns, a biscuit, a stack of pancakes, and a dab of butter.

The whole shebang contains 1,350 calories, 65 grams of fat, and more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium. Shockingly, the calorie total doesn’t even take into account the syrup for the pancakes. Swapping to egg whites is an option, but it really won’t make much of a dent. It’s better to skip this one entirely.

Best: Panera Bread Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans

oatmeal with fruit and nuts

Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts is a good way to go. | iStock.com

If you simply must have a sweet breakfast, go for Panera’s oatmeal topped with strawberries and pecans, which is just 340 calories. What this breakfast lacks in protein it makes up for in 9 grams of filling fiber. If there’s one downside to this breakfast it’s the 16 grams of sugar. Ask them to hold the cinnamon topping to cut back. You’ll still get plenty of sweet flavor from the fruit. Better yet, pour some milk on top to get a dose of calcium and more protein.

Worst: Dunkin’ Donuts Sausage, Egg, and Cheese on a Croissant

Dunkin Donuts offers fast food breakfast

Dunkin’ Donuts’ croissant is a breakfast no-no. | iStock.com

This monster somehow turned out to be worse than the chain’s sandwich made with a glazed doughnut. A stack of sausage, egg, and cheese on a croissant might not sound that bad, but it will load you with 700 calories and 50 grams of fat. Maybe more disturbing is the lengthy ingredient list. This breakfast sandwich has more preservatives than recognizable ingredients. If you add a sugary coffee drink to the mix, you’ll be well on your way to fulfilling your caloric needs for the day without getting any vital nutrients.

Best: Subway Egg and Cheese Omelet Sandwich

storefront at a Subway restaurant

Subway even offers a healthy option. | iStock.com

Subway’s evening eats have been hailed as some of the most nutritious fast food options around, so it’s not surprising they can do a decent job with breakfast. The best option here is the Egg and Cheese Omelet Sandwich. This morning meal contains 380 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 2 grams of fiber. This tally doesn’t include any veggies, but feel free to add as many as you’d like. You’ll get more fiber, vitamins, and minerals without adding many calories.