We've all been there, me included: standing in line at a fast-food spot or convenience store for a quick breakfast trying to decide what the healthiest meal is to order.

You scan the menu for healthy descriptors-reduced fat, yogurt-and order accordingly. And then, if you're like me, you log on to the chain's website later to find out how many calories you actually ate, only to discover that healthy-sounding food was actually a diet-buster.

Yes, even though I'm a registered dietitian, I've been duped before. So, in the interest of not making that mistake again, here are some healthy-sounding fast-food breakfasts that you should skip-and lighter alternatives you can feel good about ordering.


You might think that choosing a reduced-fat option would save calories, but that's not always the case.

  • Diet-Busting Muffin: Dunkin' Donuts Reduced-Fat Blueberry Muffin, 450 calories, 10 grams fat.
  • Lighter Option to Order: Dunkin' Donuts Egg and Cheese on an English Muffin, 320 calories, 13 grams fat.
    Savings: 130 calories.
  • Better Option to Make at Home and Bring Along: Banana-Bran Muffin, 196 calories, 6 grams fat.
    Total Savings vs. Diet-Busting Muffin: 254 calories, 4 grams fat.

Granola Bars

Granola sounds healthy, but it's often high in calories and fat.

  • Diet-Busting Granola Bar: Cosi's Break Bar, 359 calories, 18 grams fat.
  • Lighter Option to Order: Cosi's Low-Fat Bran and Raisin Muffin, 130 calories, 2 grams fat.
    Savings: 220 calories, 16 grams fat.
  • Better Option to Make at Home and Bring Along: Fruit & Pecan Granola Bars, 119 calories, 3 grams fat.
    Total Savings vs. Diet-Busting Granola Bar: 240 calories and 15 grams of fat.


Yogurt is a great way to get bone-strengthening calcium, but not all are created equally and when eaten in a parfait it's easy to consume even more calories thanks to those granola fixings.

  • Diet-Busting Yogurt Parfait: Starbucks' Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfait (about 8 ounces), 310 calories.
  • Lighter Option to Order: Starbucks' Orange Mango Vivanno Smoothie (16 ounces), 260 calories.
    Savings: 50 calories.
  • Better Option to Make at Home and Bring Along: Breakfast Parfait, 248 calories.
    Total Savings vs. Diet-Busting Yogurt Parfait: 62 calories.


Instant oatmeal is awfully convenient, but the flavored varieties typically deliver a lot of added sugars.

  • Diet-Busting Oatmeal: Quaker Oatmeal Express, Baked Apple flavor, 200 calories and sugar is the second ingredient on the list.
  • Lighter Option to Order: Quaker Organic Instant Oatmeal, Regular flavor, 100 calories and there's no sugar added.
    Savings: 100 calories.
  • Better Option to Make at Home: Overnight Oatmeal, 193 calories, 0 grams added sugars.
    Total Savings vs. Diet-Busting Oatmeal: Only 7 calories, but there's no added sugars and you get 9 grams of fiber with the Overnight Oatmeal and only 4 grams with the Quaker Oatmeal Express, Baked Apple flavor.