Some days you need more than just a high-protein smoothie or granola bar to help you jump-start your day. Breakfast sandwiches can provide a great balance of protein, healthy carbs and fat for sustained energy to power your morning.
If you could paint the perfect a.m. routine, maybe it would involve sitting down to enjoy a homemade breakfast sandwich, stacked with an over-easy egg, cheese, avocado and a dash of hot sauce.
But for most people, mornings are a big blur of herding your kids to school and getting to work on time. Chances are, you don't have time to whip a hearty sammy, much less sit down to eat it.
But there are some pre-made sammies that are made with good-for-you ingredients. To help you find the right 'wich, we tapped top dietitians on what to look for when shopping for breakfast sandwiches.
How to Shop for Healthy Breakfast Sandwiches
From multi-grain flatbreads and low-carb tortillas to fiber-rich fillings like black beans and tomatoes, some of the most popular frozen breakfast sandwiches can be surprisingly wholesome.
"When looking to purchase a frozen breakfast sandwich, I recommend looking at the nutrition facts label as well as the ingredients list," Maya Feller, RD, CDN, a Brooklyn-based registered dietitian-nutritionist and author of The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes for a Healthy Life, tells LIVESTRONG.com. The healthiest choices will contain vegetables, eggs and whole grains.
What to Look For
- Whole grains: Many store-bought breakfast sandwiches are made with English muffins, biscuits, flatbreads and tortillas.
Scan the ingredients list for whole grains, such as whole wheat, instead of processed grains, like enriched flour, Brittany Michels, RD, LDN for the Vitamin Shoppe, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
- High-protein: While protein recommendations are based on an individual's needs, Michels says most adults need 20 to 40 grams of protein per meal.
"If a store-bought option doesn't offer enough protein, consider adding an egg to the sandwich or pairing it with a protein shake. A half to a full scoop of protein powder in water or unsweetened almond milk is a quick and easy way to supplement protein," Michels says.
- High-fiber: Feller says to look for breakfast sandwiches that provide more than five percent of your daily value of fiber. "The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day. As a general rule, people should aim for 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed," she says.
If your breakfast sandwich is lacking in fiber, Michels recommends adding some veggies to the sandwich or enjoy them on the side.
"Baby carrots and cut-up sweet bell peppers are my favorite side veggies. Berries are also a high-fiber side." To boost your fiber intake on the go, Michels says you can also add some fiber or greens powder to your protein shake.
What to Watch Out For
- Saturated fat and added sugars: Generally speaking, Feller says that you should pay extra attention to the saturated fat, added sugars and sodium on the nutrition facts label and that these numbers should be low.
"Close to five percent of the DV (daily value) are considered low while items close to 20 percent are high. Ingredients are listed in order of predominance so the first five ingredients are likely the majority of the product," Feller explains.
You'll be hard-pressed to find frozen breakfast sandwiches that are close to five percent of the DV in saturated fat, so the key is to look for those without cured and processed meats, like bacon and sausage. Although tasty, many breakfast sandwiches that have sausage or bacon tend to also be high in saturated fat and sodium.
- Sodium: "Stick to sandwiches with 500 milligrams of sodium or less. If you're unable to find a sandwich with 500 milligrams of sodium or less, then you can consider halving your portion and consuming it with a healthy side," Michels says.
- Trans fats and artificial additives: Feller says to look out for trans fats in breakfast sandwiches. While products aren't required to disclose trans fats on the nutrition label if they have 0 grams to 0.5 grams of trans fats, so be sure to look for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.
Michels says you should choose products made with healthier oils and fats. "Many processed foods include oil from genetically modified corn, canola and soy. Choose products with unrefined oils or those that list non-GMO sources."
Ready to stock up your freezer? Check out some of Feller and Michels' go-to breakfast sandwiches, plus ones you want to avoid.
Healthy Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches
1. Evol Egg White, Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Potato and Cheddar
Per serving: 260 calories, 8 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 290 milligrams sodium, 37 grams carbohydrates (4 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar), 10 grams protein
Feller and Michels both recommend this breakfast burrito for its simple ingredients. Unlike other breakfast burritos that tend to be complete salt bombs, this slim sandwich has just 290 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Inside its whole-wheat tortilla shell, you'll get tasty and nutritious chunks of scrambled eggs, spinach, roasted tomatoes, roasted potatoes and cheddar cheese. Evol also takes pride in sourcing quality ingredients for its frozen meals, so you can enjoy your sandwich knowing it is made with rBST-free cheese and cage-free eggs.
Buy it: Instacart.com; Price: $2.79
2. Sweet Earth Lighten Up! Breakfast Burrito
Per serving: 180 calories, 5 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated fat), 390 milligrams sodium, 29 grams carbohydrates (7 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar), 12 grams protein
Feller likes Sweet Earth's breakfast burritos because the filling has a hearty mix of vegetables, including black-eyed peas, tomatillos, red bell peppers, spinach and jalapenos.
Tofu and seitan provide hunger-curbing protein. The wrap, which is made with whole-wheat flour, oat bran, oat fiber and flax seeds, also packs some fiber and protein.
Buy it: Instacart.com; Price: $3.49
3. Good Food Made Simple Veggie Jalapeno Breakfast Burrito
Per serving: 280 calories, 10 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 330 milligrams sodium, 35 grams carbohydrates (3 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar), 11 grams protein
If you're looking for a breakfast sandwich with some Southwestern flair, this is one that'll get you out of bed. You'll wake up to the zesty flavors of chili peppers, coriander and cumin.
This delicious wrap features organic eggs, salsa, cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses, jalapenos, white kidney beans, roasted potatoes and red and green peppers. Plus, the part-whole wheat and unbleached wheat tortillas contain no hydrogenated oils.
The best part is Good Food Made Simple's breakfast burritos contain zero artificial preservatives, flavors and colors.
Buy it: Instacart.com; Price: $1.89
4. Amy's Light-In-Sodium Cheddar Cheese, Bean & Rice Burrito
Per serving: 370 calories, 11 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 290 milligrams sodium, 53 grams carbohydrates (7 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 14 grams protein
While Amy's has other breakfast sandwich options, Feller recommends this one for its low-sodium content.
Plant-based eaters will love this delicious burrito that's bursting with organic pinto beans, brown rice, tomato puree, bell peppers and white and Monterey jack cheeses. You won't miss the eggs. The beans and veggies make it extra filling — enough to pack 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber.
Buy it: Instacart.com; Price: $2.99
5. Kellogg's Special K Spinach, Egg & Cheese Medley Flatbread
Per serving: 170 calories, 7 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 550 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrates (2 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, 2 grams added sugars), 10 grams protein
Between two multi-grain flatbreads is a delicious egg patty made with spinach and a slice of part-skim mozzarella cheese.
This breakfast sandwich is on the higher end of the recommended sodium spectrum, so if you're trying to limit your intake, split half with your partner or roommate and enjoy it with another protein and fiber source, like a smoothie.
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $5.79
Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches to Avoid
1. Jimmy Dean Sausage, Egg and Cheese Croissant Sandwich
Per serving: 400 calories, 26 grams fat (10 grams saturated fat), 610 milligrams sodium, 29 grams carbohydrates (2 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar), 13 grams protein
Jimmy Dean was a country music singer and actor — and founder of this eponymous frozen foods brand. But if he were still around, he probably wouldn't be singing the nutritional praises of this frozen croissant sandwich.
It has 10 grams of saturated fat — that's about 50 percent of your daily value — and 610 milligrams of sodium. It also has some frightening ingredients like artificial flavors and colors and preservatives. This is a sandwich you don't want to start your day with.
2. Special K Bacon, Egg & Cheese Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich
Per serving: 190 calories, 9 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated fat), 580 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrates (2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 3 grams added sugar), 11 grams protein
On the surface, this breakfast sandwich might look like a good choice because it's lower in calories and fat. Nothing wrong with multi-grain flatbread and some eggs, right?
But dive a little deeper into the nutrition information and ingredients list, and you'll find that it has 25 percent of your daily value of sodium and some added sugars. It also has cured bacon with nitrites and other preservatives.
FYI, cured meats have been linked to heart disease, according to a February 2020 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, so it's best to leave this one out of your shopping cart.
3. El Monterey Meat Lover's Burrito
Per serving: 270 calories, 11 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 510 milligrams sodium, 31 grams carbohydrates (1 gram fiber, 1 gram sugar), 11 grams protein
Cured bacon? Check. Pork sausage? Check. This breakfast burrito is loaded with processed meat, and with that, a lot of sodium and saturated fat.
Not only does it have processed meat, but it also has processed cheese sauce and a bunch of unwanted preservatives and stabilizers. In fact, you're probably better off making your own breakfast sandwich at home with a slice or two bacon.
4. Hot Pockets Applewood Bacon, Egg & Cheese
Per serving: 320 calories, 14 grams fat (7 grams saturated fat), 590 milligrams sodium, 37 grams carbohydrates (1 gram fiber, 3 grams sugar), 12 grams protein
With a flaky, buttery croissant crust, this breakfast pocket might be hard to resist, but for a dish that claims to have just bacon, egg and cheese, there's a long list of other ingredients littered with unhealthy oils and preservatives.
Not to mention, it has 35 percent of your daily value of saturated fat and 25 percent of your daily value of sodium.
5. Bob Evans Single-Serve Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit
Per serving: 380 calories, 26 grams fat (13 grams saturated fat), 910 milligrams sodium, 25 grams carbohydrates (1 grams fiber), 12 grams protein
At 910 milligrams of sodium per sandwich, you're nearly at the ideal daily recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams, according to the American Heart Association, and that's just one meal.
It's safe to say that this breakfast sandwich is definitely an indulgence, so if you do have one, make sure to drink plenty of water with your meal and limit your sodium intake for the rest of the day.
6. Trader Joe's Chicken Sausage Breakfast Burrito
Per serving: 570 calories, 25 grams fat (9 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 850 milligrams sodium, 60 grams carbohydrates (2 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, <1 gram added sugars), 25 grams protein
We love many of Trader Joe's food products, but this is one we'd skip.
Despite it having what seems to be basic burrito ingredients, like chicken sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions and white cheddar cheese, its sodium content is sky-high at 850 milligrams. It also high in calories for just one meal and is low in fiber.
7. MorningStar Farms Sausage, Egg & Cheese Vegetarian Breakfast Sandwich
Per serving: 200 calories, 8 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 620 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrates (3 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 2 grams added sugar), 15 grams protein
Don't let the veggie sausage fool you: Read through the ingredients list of this breakfast sandwich, and you'll find plenty of preservatives and artificial additives, including food dyes.
Plus, it has 620 milligrams of sodium — 27 percent of your daily value. If you want to stick to a veggie-filled breakfast sandwich, scramble some eggs with chopped peppers, broccoli, spinach or whatever vegetables you have on hand instead.
- American Heart Association: "Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?"
- JAMA Internal Medicine: "Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality"