6 Worst Frozen Fast Foods You Shouldn't Buy

It’s safe to say that some foods are what we call comfort foods. You know, the ones that will always taste just as you expect them to each and every time, and that you might turn to as a treat when you need a little pick-me-up. For some people, that means heading to the drive-thru. Others, it means going into their own freezer. And the fact that there are plenty of popular fast-food and chain restaurants that make frozen foods, well, it’s the best of both worlds.

But some of these frozen fast foods aren’t necessarily the healthiest option you’ll find in the grocery store.

So to help you make the best choice next time you’re food shopping and want to stock up on frozen food inspired by one of your favorite fast-food spots, here are the frozen fast foods that are better off left on grocery store shelves. For more of what you should stock up on, check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

white castle sliders
Courtesy of White Castle

Per serving, 2 sandwiches: 510 calories, 36 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 1,190 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 19 g protein

White Castle for breakfast? Sounds too good to be true! Well, these sausage, egg, and cheese sliders aren’t necessarily the beacons of all things healthy. The issue here is that one pack comes with two sliders, and they are so small, so it makes sense to eat both. That puts you at more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium at your first meal of the day! According to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, the average frozen meal actually contains 935 milligrams of sodium, which is equivalent to 40% of your daily recommended intake. Big yikes.

If you can eat just one of these and perhaps munch on some fresh fruit along with the one slider, you’ll be in much better shape.

red robin onion rings

Per serving 3 rings: 210 calories, 11 g fat (2.5  g saturated fat, g trans fat), 440 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

If you’ve ever eaten at a Red Robin, then there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Towering Onion Rings in person. It’s a sight, surely. And now you can create your own tower at home! Well, maybe think twice, as only three of these onion rings are clocking in at more than 200 calories and 440 milligrams of sodium.

Looking for more helpful tips? Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

panera frozen mac and cheese
Courtesy of Panera

Per container: 960 calories, 57 g fat (32 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fat), 2,210 mg sodium, 76 g carbs (2 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 37 g protein

The Panera Bread mac and cheese is legendary. We will admit that. But the at-home version isn’t any healthier for you. One container is packing 2,210 milligrams of sodium. That is nearly your entire daily allotment, as The American Heart Association recommends most adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. Plus, eating all of this dish will have you consuming more than two grams of heart-harming trans fat. You should always aim to consume zero trans fats.

While this creamy blend of cheeses nestled into pasta might taste great, you’re g better off just whipping up a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese instead! If you really want to give it a try, make sure you’re splitting this dish with a few friends.

cinnabon cinnapastry

Per pastry: 450 calories, 23 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (1 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 7 g protein

No trip to the mall was ever complete with a stop at Cinnabon. Being able to have some of these pastries in your freezer seems like the ultimate treat. Just one of these little guys, though, is high in calories and fat. Plus, it’s packing 26 grams of sugar, which is more than you would get if you ate two Original Glazed Krispy Kreme Donuts…

bag of frozen pf changs orange chicken

Per serving, 1 1/2 cups: 420 calories, 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat, g trans fat), 920 mg sodium, 53 g carbs (4 g fiber, 34 g sugar), 17 g protein

Not able to dine at your local P.F. Chang’s? The chain does have quite a few frozen options in grocery stores, but one to skip is the orange chicken. Here, chicken is paired with carrots, water chestnuts, and edamame that is all glazed with a spicy orange sauce. One serving of the chicken has more than 900 milligrams of sodium and is packing as much sugar as you would get from 11 Oreo Thin cookies.

tgi fridays chicken wings

Per serving of wings with sauce: 240 calories, 16 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 850 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (< 1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

Frozen appetizers always sound like something you should have in your freezer. Hey, you never know when someone might stop by and you want to offer up a snack! However, the Buffalo-style TGI Fridays wings are yet another high-sodium option. The chain offers up plenty of other frozen options, so maybe go with the spinach artichoke dip instead?

Fast food chains are always (to borrow a one-time slogan from Taco Bell) thinking outside the bun. They all have serious test kitchens and employ skilled chefs – men and women who could just as well be working at upscale restaurants (where they likely wouldn’t make as much money) – to constantly refine their offerings and come up with new items to delight their regular patrons and theoretically win new ones. (These are the restaurant chains with the happiest customers.)

Their menus, in other words, constantly evolve. In the first few weeks of March, for instance, Chipotle introduced quesadillas for the first time, Wienerschnitzel added an Aussie Dog and a Texas Dog to their array of franks, and Sonic Drive-In rolled out, as a limited-time special, a bacon jam cheeseburger.

15 Best Fast Food Breakfasts

best healthy breakfasts at 10 fastfood chains

McDonalds/Dunkin

Breakfast may be the only time of day to find a redeeming, healthy and purely satisfying fast-food option… that isn’t a salad. If you’re away from your kitchen, or you’ve simply run out of time to make something at home, finding a cup of coffee and a shockingly light breakfast isn’t hard if you know where to look. Current federal health guidelines put an optimal breakfast as being somewhere in the 375-calorie range, chock full of fiber, protein, and healthy saturated fats.

While calorie counting alone isn’t always the way to determine a healthy breakfast, you may be surprised that some of the best fast food breakfast options are well within that range — and often provide a much-needed punch of protein or a fiber infusion first thing in the A.M. But even those with the best intentions may find themselves in a spot where there are not many choices for a hot breakfast, which is okay!

Stefani Sassos, MS, RD, CDN, the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab’s registered dietitian, knows the value of making the most of any breakfast you can get your hands on. Sassos says that making your own breakfast at home is always best, as you control all the ingredients and preparation method. But with a long day ahead of you — whether it’s work or travel or a looming workout — convenience matters and it’s super important to take a moment to eat in the A.M. By choosing breakfast items that contain a balance of protein and fiber, this will help you feel satisfied and fuller for longer.

Given that many breakfast menus have changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of your favorites may have modified or disappeared altogether, either temporarily or permanently. Finding a protein-rich, fiber-rich, or nutritionally amazing breakfast option can seem tricky with such limited availability.

We’ve done the work for you, decoding menus and breakfast orders at 10 leading national fast-food chains around the country:

  • Nutrition counts below are calculated for standard “as is” orders, per item.
  • Some of these items are more impressive than others, and if you have access to a multitude of chains, you should seek them out (we’re marking them Editor’s Choice!).

But even if there are only one of these restaurants in your area, sourcing these fast-food breakfasts may help you avoid exorbitant calories, saturated fat, sodium or sugar that can be hiding away in other options available to you. When in doubt, refer to this list that’s packed with nutritionist-approved ordering tips and tricks. Happy meal indeed!

Item and menu availability may vary by region, and it’s always best to check with the retailer directly about their breakfast hours — McDonald’s, for example, has cut away from its All-Day Breakfast options at most locations. Some drive-thrus may also have an overlap between its breakfast offerings and its lunch or regular menu, and we’re noting suggestions in the case that your location operates in this manner.

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McDonald’s: Egg McMuffin

Calories: 310

Total Carbohydrates: 30g

Saturated Fat: 6g

Sodium: 770mg

It’s a classic for a reason — McD’s fans love a hot egg on a steamy English muffin. But the simple breakfast sandwich also comes packed with 17g of protein, a boon for any breakfast lover, and can be adjusted through McDonald’s ordering app to your liking. While 770mg of sodium is indeed high, Sassos says this sandwich is the best pick nutritionally when compared to McDonald’s many breakfast sandwich options.

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Nutrition Lab Pro Tip: If you’re hoping to cut the saturated fat and eliminate over 200mg of sodium, ask for a McMuffin with no cheese. Plus, you’ll get closer to 250 calories for those who are tracking.

McDonald’s: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal

Calories: 320

Total Carbohydrates: 64g

Saturated Fat: 1.5g

Total Sugar: 31g

Before you gawk at some of these nutritionals, consider that this oatmeal carries 4g of fiber (making it a good source) and 6g of plant-based protein, plus a considerable dose of iron and potassium. “The oatmeal already is sweetened with brown sugar to start, so don’t add extra sweeteners here,” Sassos suggests.

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Nutrition Lab Pro Tip: If you’d like to half the sugar here, order your oatmeal without the added cranberry raisin blend. You’ll still enjoy sweetness from the bowl’s diced apples and brown sugar base.

Taco Bell: Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burrito, Potato

Calories: 340

Total Carbohydrates: 43g

Saturated Fat: 3.5g

Sodium: 750mg

There are burrito options at Taco Bell that involve bacon or sausage, but you can get an equal amount of protein (minus additional salt!) by ask for light potatoes on this option and extra eggs, Sassos recommends. Build your custom burrito using the chain’s app — while the cheese sauce only has 30 calories total, you can also nix that if you prefer a cheeseless ‘rito.

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Nutrition Lab Pro Tip: Rather than double up on extra cheese, consider ordering a few packets of Taco Bell’s salsa packets, which only contain 50mg sodium (calorie free!). If you catch your Taco Bell location in between breakfast and lunch hours, Sassos recommends springing for a soft chicken taco “al fresco” — it comes loaded with fresh ingredients and contains half the calories of this breakfast alternative.

Panera: Avocado, Egg White and Spinach Sandwich

Calories: 350

Total Carbohydrates: 40g

Saturated Fat: 6g

Sodium: 700mg

Made with fresh eggs, Panera’s lean take on a breakfast sandwich is packed with both protein and fiber. The sprouted grain bagel rounds out the 5g of fiber, and egg whites are the base of 19g of protein. Creamy avocado is an added bonus. If you order this sandwich on the regular, try swapping scrambled eggs in for egg whites every once in a while.

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Nutrition Lab Pro Tip: Sassos is a fan of Panera’s Cool Food Meals Line, which features dishes aimed to help fight climate change. These menu items have a smaller carbon footprint than the traditional American Diet and are often nutritious choices, making them good for you and the planet.

Panera: Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries

Calories: 360

Total Carbohydrates: 52g

Saturated Fat: 2g

Total Sugar: 17g

Steel-cut oatmeal packs in even more nutritional goodness than you may believe, as they’re the least processed out of all the options on the market (this Cool Food Meal bowl touts 9g of fiber alone). These whole-grain carbs are sweetened with fresh fruit, but the cinnamon crunch adds in the bulk of the sugar here.

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Nutrition Lab Pro Tip: Ask for half the regular amount of cinnamon topping here to reduce the total sugar count; in any case, don’t add extra sugar before you taste, as it should be quite sweet all on its own.

Dunkin’: Veggie Egg White Omelet

Calories: 290

Total Carbohydrates: 27g

Saturated Fat: 5g

Sodium: 550mg

At under 300 calories, the 17g of protein and 5g of fiber in this take on a fast breakfast is quite impressive. The multigrain thin bread is also a superior nutritional choice to any other bakery item on the menu due to its low-carb count. You can customize ingredients to swap cheeses or add meat if you find yourself eating this regularly; but go for bacon, as it provides the most flavor with the least nutritional drag.

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Nutrition Lab Pro Tip: Unless you’re following a vegetarian diet, don’t spring for the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich. It contains more calories and saturated fat than an actual bacon, egg and cheese wrap.

Dunkin’: Plain Croissant

Calories: 340

Total Carbohydrates: 37g

Saturated Fat: 8g

Total Sugar: 5g

If you’re on the hunt for a bakery item and not a full breakfast, stay away from donuts and the chain’s line of muffins, which range up to 600 calories and 34g of added sugar. Dunkin’s croissant actually manages to offer 6g of protein and a manageable 5g of added sugar. Have a sweet tooth? Ask for one or two old fashioned Munchkin donut holes, which contain just 1g of added sugar and are a perfect addition to any coffee order you have in mind.

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Burger King: Egg and Cheese Croissantwich

Calories: 340

Total Carbohydrates: 29g

Saturated Fat: 8g

Sodium: 610mg

BK’s breakfast menu isn’t the most nutritionally robust on this list, but their standard egg and cheese breakfast sandwich (12g of protein!) is the safest option if you find yourself in their drive-thru. Their biscuit sandwiches contain much higher sodium counts, so stick to Croissantwiches if possible. Skip sides like juice or hash browns to keep added sugar and sodium counts in control; black coffee is best here.

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Chick-fil-A: Egg White Grill

Calories: 290

Total Carbohydrates: 31g

Saturated Fat: 3.5g

Sodium: 970mg

With nearly 30g of protein in one sandwich, what’s not to love? The sodium count on this breakfast sandwich is high, Sassos admits, but you can reduce it by modifying the order with other options at CFA. If you regularly visit the chain for breakfast, you can shake up your routine with a Greek Yogurt Parfait cup if you’d like.

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Nutrition Lab Pro Tip: Since the calories on this sandwich are under 300, you should feel free to add a fruit cup on the side (added fiber is great!).

Chick-fil-A: Sunflower Multigrain Bagel

Calories: 290

Total Carbohydrates: 43g

Saturated Fat: 4.5g

Sodium: 460mg

This hearty bagel is normally served with cream cheese, but you can line order substitutions like scrambled eggs instead. While the fruit parfait may be lower in calories, the serving size isn’t on par with the bagel itself — and the added sugar doesn’t justify it over the noticeable fiber uptick in this bagel option. Packed with 3 grams of fiber, this is considered a good fiber source.

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Wendy’s: Sausage Burrito

Calories: 410

Total Carbohydrates: 34g

Saturated Fat: 11g

Sodium: 89omg

If you’re pressed for a breakfast sandwich at Wendy’s, the bacon and swiss option is one of the only offerings under 1,000mg of sodium. This option also has the least amount of saturated fat of all breakfast sandwiches on the menu. If you’re open to it, try nixing the cheese to lower calories and sat fat even further.

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Subway: Egg and Cheese Sandwich

Calories: 390

Total Carbohydrates: 46g

Saturated Fat: 4.5g

Sodium: 950mg

The nutritionals here are for a flatbread option — but swapping for 9-grain wheat will instantly slash calories, carb and sodium counts. Subway’s breakfast is exciting in that you have access to all the vegetables and toppings you do during lunch and dinner hours. Feel free to add spinach here for a protein and fiber boost… and really any vegetable topping your heart desires! Just refrain from adding any of the pre-made sauces at Subway, as they’re often high in sodium.

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Subway: Veggie Delight Wrap

Calories: 330

Total Carbohydrates: 30g

Saturated Fat: 3.5g

Sodium: 800mg

Technically, you can order any Subway sandwich at the time your local restaurant opens — they’ll have access to the full suite of toppings and fillings. We love the idea of starting your day right with a veggie-filled wrap (which cuts back on refined carbs considerably) that can be customized to your liking. Rather than add cheese here, add a generous swipe of the chain’s guacamole, which will add even more fiber than the starting 10g on the as-is order.

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Wendy’s: Bacon, Egg & Swiss Croissant

Calories: 410

Total Carbohydrates: 34g

Saturated Fat: 11g

Sodium: 89omg

If you’re pressed for a breakfast sandwich at Wendy’s, the bacon and swiss option is one of the only offerings under 1,000mg of sodium. This option also has the least amount of saturated fat of all breakfast sandwiches on the menu. If you’re open to it, try nixing the cheese to lower calories and sat fat even further.

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Sonic: Jr. Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito

Calories: 410

Total Carbohydrates: 34g

Saturated Fat: 11g

Sodium: 89omg

Sonic’s breakfast options often range into too-high saturated fat counts and exorbitant sodium levels for single meal items. The trick is to choose one of its “junior” breakfast items, as these will save you from a breakfast that may derail your lunch due to empty calories and carbs. You can choose to remove the meat from this wrap, which can improve the nutritional value of this grab-and-go option overall. But you should also add jalapeno or tomato into the mix, as they’re virtually calorie-free additions that can help elevate Sonic’s freshness factor.

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Hungry for More?

Our Ultimate Breakfast Guide Is Here

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