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Top 12 Dangerous Muffins

Even though most of us know that, really, muffins are just cupcakes for adults, for many they are still the go-to to-go breakfast. Faced with the choice between a meaty-eggy fast food sandwich and a muffin, it’s pretty safe to assume that the healthy eater will  opt for the muffin. But is it really the healthier option? Looking at the nutritional content of muffins from the country’s top coffeehouse chains, I was shocked (shocked!) to see some of the numbers behind many an earnest-seeming muffin.

Although muffins don’t carry the same load of saturated fat and outrageous levels of sodium that other fast-food breakfasts do, they make up for it in calories and sugar. Would you believe that one of the muffins I found has only 40 calories less than that of Carl’s Jr Breakfast Burger–which is not just a burger, but a burger with a fried egg, bacon, American cheese and hash brown nuggets!

The World Health Organization recommends limiting sodium consumption to under 2000 mg per day for the average person–most of these muffins have at least 25 percent of that. Meanwhile, the American Heart Association recommends that the average woman should consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day–all but one of these muffins exceed that, some by more than 100 percent. And as for calories, well…the calories. The most benign of these muffins has almost the same amount of calories as an Egg McMuffin with a side of hash browns.

Though in all fairness to the muffin, the lack of meat and saturated fat does make them shine in comparison to, say, the breakfast burger–just be cognizant that by opting for one of these (or similar) muffins in the morning, you should skip dessert after dinner since you’ve already had it for breakfast.

12. Tim Hortons: Whole Grain Raspberry Muffin
This Canadian chain that merged with Wendy’s to expand their US market is the maker of some of the more innocent muffins on the block, but beware the “Better for You” options. While the Chocolate Chip Muffin categorized as “Decadent” seems properly classified, the “Better for You” Whole Grain Raspberry Muffin is only 30 calories less and has more calories from fat, more total fat, and the same amount of sodium as its chocolate chip sister.

Calories: 400
Calories from Fat: 160
Total Fat (g): 17
Sodium (mg): 580
Sugar (g): 26

11. Peet’s: Reduced Fat Pumpkin Ginger Muffin
I am always amused (in a “seriously?” kind of way) by healthy food marketing spin. So, for instance, this Pumpkin Ginger Muffin has “reduced fat,” but reduced from what? It still has 14 grams of total fat–and it is still 460 calories.

Calories: 460
Calories from Fat: 130
Total Fat (g): 14
Sodium (mg): 530
Sugar (g): 37

10. Peet’s: Double Chocolate Muffin (Vegan)
I completely applaud Peet’s for offering a vegan option, and a vegan chocolate option to boot! But don’t let the “vegan” in the name lead you to believe that it’s somehow not high in calories, fat, and sugar. Still, the vegan part is really great. Yay Peet’s.

Calories: 460
Calories from Fat: 210
Total Fat (g): 17
Sodium (mg):  135
Sugar (g): 37

9. Starbucks: Zucchini Walnut Muffin
Oh this is good–a zucchini muffin! I would fall for that one in a heartbeat. What I do like about this muffins is that every ingredient is recognizable and pronounceable, what I don’t like is the calories, total fat and the high level of sodium. Just because they put zucchini in it doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

Calories: 490
Calories from Fat: 260
Total Fat (g):  28
Sodium (mg):  480
Sugar (g):  28

8. Caribou Coffee: French Toast Muffin
When the list starts wandering into “French Toast Muffin” territory, you know we’re getting somewhere. I mean, obviously if you are ordering a French Toast Muffin you’re not expecting a spa breakfast, but are you expecting 50 grams of sugar–double the daily recommendation? Hello “sugar topping and a generous portion of maple icing.”

Calories: 490
Calories from Fat: 170
Total Fat (g): 19
Sodium (mg): 280
Sugar (g): 50

7. Dunkin’ Donuts: Honey Bran Raisin
What’s the low-calorie option at a donut shop? Of course it must be the honey bran raisin muffin, but of course, it’s not. Although this muffin does have a healthy does of iron (RDA: 25 percent), you could eat two Bavarian Kreme Doughnuts for the same amount of calories. Not that you would want to, but still…

Calories: 500
Calories from Fat: 130
Total Fat (g): 14
Sodium (mg): 450
Sugar (g): 48

6. Peet’s: Bran Cranberry Apple Muffin
Bran, cranberry, apple–sounds good so far. But, then there’s the calories, oh my, and the sodium! So much sodium; more than a third of the recommended daily limit. I think they should rename it the Bran Cranberry Apple Salt Muffin.

Calories: 550
Calories from Fat: 250
Total Fat (g): 28
Sodium (mg): 740
Sugars (g): 22

5. Au Bon Pain: Carrot Walnut Muffin
Again with the healthy ingredients…and the calories and sodium! I can’t conceive of how they can make this muffin so caloric and so high in sodium. This muffin has 100 calories less than the chain’s Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie, and almost as much sodium as a Burger King Whopper.

Calories:  560
Calories From Fat: 240
Total Fat (g): 27
Sodium (mg): 820
Sugars (g): 40

4. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf:  Zucchini Muffin
Another zucchini muffin, another overly-caloric and high-sodium food item. Again, I would totally fall for the zucchini muffin trick–that is if I didn’t know that three and a half bowls of the Coffee Bean’s Cranberry, Almond & Raisin Granola has the same amount of calories as one of their Zucchini Muffins.

Calories: 620
Calories From Fat 100
Total Fat (g): 11
Sodium (mg): 640
Sugar (g): 37

3. Dunkin’ Donuts: Coffee Cake Muffin
At least they’re not beating around the bush with this one, the Coffee Cake Muffin doesn’t pretend not to be a cake, but, with the muffin moniker it still evokes a healthier image than it deserves. This muffin outperforms all the others in terms of sugar, does a bang-up job in the fat department, and has only 20 calories less than a Burger King Double Croissan’wich with Sausage Egg and Cheese.

Calories: 660
Calories from Fat: 230
Total Fat (g): 26
Sodium (mg): 530
Sugar (g): 57

2. Winchell’s: Cranberry Nut Muffin
What has more calories than six Winchell’s Glazed Old Fashioned Doughnuts? One Winchell’s Cranberry Nut Muffin. You read that right. I’ve also got my eye on that total fat, sodium, and sugar. Enough said.

Calories: 670
Calories from Fat: 330
Total Fat (g): 37
Sodium (mg): 640
Sugar (g): 43

1. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: Lemon Cream Cheese Poppy Seed Muffin
Ahhh, the Coffee Bean’s Lemon Cream Cheese Poppy Seed Muffin–the world’s longest-named muffin, and perhaps the most dangerous. The calorie count–I can’t get over it! For the same amount of calories you could have this for breakfast: a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, a cup of blueberries, a cup of yogurt, a piece of toast and a handful of almonds. Or, just a muffin…

Calories: 740
Calories From Fat: 300
Total Fat (g): 34
Sodium  (mg): 540
Sugar (g): 50

Related Stories:
11 Scary Fast Food Breakfasts

10 Vegan Breakfast Ideas
Breakfast: A Smart Start

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, General Health, News & Issues, , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

401 comments

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3:23PM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

Thanks

9:07PM PST on Dec 29, 2011

Ok, thanks God I don't like muffins... I hate them x.x but it's really scary the amount of calories on them... :S

11:01AM PST on Dec 27, 2011

WOW! I'm blown away! I usually choose a muffin over a bagel or doughnut! Guess I'm probably better off just having what I really want! What gets me is the names - I would (and have) fallen for every one thinking it was a better choice!

12:03AM PST on Nov 18, 2011

Huge, gigantic muffins? Yes, these should be healthy!

6:19AM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.

11:32PM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

I knew they were high in calories but I am SHOCKED that a muffin can hold over 700 calories, and more than a day's serving of sugar, as well as more than a meal's worth of fat and sodium.

5:07AM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

over processed, overtly sugared and fatted ... could this describe the American Consumer? these muffins are definitely an indulgence ... thanks for the info!

12:52PM PST on Dec 28, 2010

guess I'll stick to making my own...

10:40PM PST on Dec 14, 2010

Saintly Bran Muffins paved the way for these health food impostors and condensed cakes, to sneak in to our health food consciousness. Thanks for bringing us the facts.

10:17AM PST on Dec 14, 2010

love muffins.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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