Starbucks may be the grand imperator of assembly-line egg sandwiches, unethical bean farming and oceanic annihilation, but even the wokest among us rarely venture elsewhere for our mocha frappuccino needs. Indeed, weaning off a Starbucks addiction is an arduous undertaking. But ordering healthy food at Starbucks is a step in the right direction.
For advice, I asked Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, to help me rank an assortment of Starbucks breakfast items by how healthy they are — from kinda healthy to dessert. That way, we can (hopefully) unearth the healthiest breakfast at Starbucks.
Immediately, Hunnes notes that every Starbucks breakfast option is “either too high in sodium, too high in sugar, contains too many processed ingredients, like white flour, or contains far more meat and cheese than I’d like to see.” (Too much meat and cheese is widely considered to be a leading cause of early death.)
Now put down your pumpkin spice latte while we take a closer look.
The Healthiest Breakfast at Starbucks
1) Classic Oatmeal: Our number one pick, Starbucks’ classic oatmeal is a whole-grain packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It also contains nuts, which provide protein, and dried fruits, which deliver nutrients. “I’m not really sure why it needs guar gum or added sodium, but it’s still probably the best choice,” says Hunnes. (Even with added sodium, this oatmeal still only yields five percent of your recommended daily intake.)
2) Spinach, Feta & Cage-Free Egg White Wrap: Egg whites are generally considered to be a healthy choice, since they contain protein without as many calories and as much fat and cholesterol as eggs with the yolk. Spinach, meanwhile, is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. Compared to many other cheeses, feta is low in calories and fat. All of this results in a somewhat healthy wrap, although the ingredients list is still longer than you’d normally like to see.
As a slight aside, while you can feel better about eating cage-free eggs — most hens in America are confined to 67 square inches of cage space — cage-free and cruelty-free are very different things. If you want humane eggs, look elsewhere.
3) Impossible Breakfast Sandwich: The Impossible sandwich comes next, mainly because it contains more sodium, more cheese and fewer vegetables than the above wrap. “I love that they replace meat with an Impossible burger, but it’s all covered in cheese,” Hunnes laments. As we already discussed, cheese (and cheddar in particular) significantly pumps up the amount of cholesterol and fat in this sandwich, especially compared to the egg white wrap. On the plus side, the Impossible patty does provide a decent amount of protein, fiber and even some nutrients.
4) Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon & Cage-Free Egg White Sandwich: This comes on a whole-wheat muffin, which at least means more nutrients than white-flour muffins. And while not particularly healthy, turkey bacon does have fewer calories and less fat than regular bacon. For a Starbucks breakfast sandwich, this is the lesser of (more than) two evils.
5) Egg White & Roasted Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites: While egg whites and vegetables are good for you, these egg bites hardly have enough veg to be considered any more than mild flavoring. “Not only are they processed and high(ish) in sodium for what they are, I’d be hungry in a couple hours,” Hunnes says. Indeed, these egg bites contain way too many ingredients (more than 30!) for what should be eggs, vegetables and a sprinkling of cheese.
6) Bacon & Gruyère Sous Vide Egg Bites: These are similar to the above egg bites in that they again contain way too many ingredients, but they have more meat and cheese, which means a higher likelihood of contributing to your sooner-than-expected death.
7) Roasted Ham, Swiss & Egg Sandwich: The meat and cheese on this sandwich are obviously unhealthy, as is the white croissant roll it’s served on. Not only is white bread empty calories, but this croissant roll in particular is pumped with sugar — the sandwich itself has 8 grams. Overall, Hunnes has “not much good to say about it.”
8) Classic Coffee Cake: This is essentially sugar and white flour, meaning it contains some bad and no good. With virtually no nutrients at all, Hunnes says, “You’ll be hungry in no time.”
9) Iced Lemon Loaf Cake: “This is even worse,” Hunnes says. It has more calories than the coffee cake, more than double the sugar — one lemon loaf contains 42 grams, which is more than the recommended daily intake for both men and women — and again, no redeeming ingredients whatsoever.
10) Birthday Cake Pop: No surprises here, I suppose. Besides being high in sugar, the unhealthy cherry on the unhealthy cake for these unhealthy cake pops is the sheer number of ultra-processed ingredients it contains.
Now you better hurry up and order. People get pissed when they have to wait too long for their Starbucks.