Fast food restaurants are best known for their burgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries, and refreshing fountain drinks, but those aren’t the only delicacies these chains offer. Whether you’re making your way through the drive-thru in the morning or looking to cap off your meal with a treat, you’re likely placing an order for a sweet baked good like a cookie, slice of pie, or cinnamon roll. Unfortunately, some of these fast-food baked goods are nearly as unhealthy as the main event, and they can take your already calorically dense meal over the edge. But if you know what to look for, you can still enjoy a sweet treat with a little more peace of mind.
“When considering the unhealthiest baked goods at fast-food restaurants, we want to look at the total calories, fat, and sugar,” says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD. “Fast-food baked goods are often unhealthy due to their high levels of sugar, unhealthy fats (such as trans fats and saturated fats), and refined carbohydrates, and too much of these ingredients can contribute to excessive calories and a lack of essential nutrients.”
Of course, it’s important to treat yourself to your favorite desserts from time to time, but being aware of the worst ones can help you find more balance. “So while most fast-food baked goods are not going to be super healthy choices, the following are the worst ones available right now,” says Sabat. Read on to discover which sweet treats are better left untouched, and for more, don’t miss The #1 Unhealthiest Meal to Order at Every Major Fast-Food Chain.
PER ORDER: 540 calories, 16 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 90 g carbs (4 g fiber, 43 g sugar), 10 g protein
According to Sabat, McDonald’s certainly has its fair share of unhealthy baked good options, starting with the cinnamon roll.
“The McDonald’s Cinnamon Roll is considered unhealthy due to its high calorie content (540 calories), significant fat (17 grams), and large amount of sugar (43 grams),” says Sabat. “Consuming such a treat regularly can lead to weight gain, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, and poor satiety due to its low nutrient content.”
She adds that “While occasional consumption is not harmful, moderation and balance are crucial for maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.”
PER ORDER: 510 calories, 29 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 360 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (2 g fiber, 25 g sugar), 5 g protein
Similar warnings can be said for the McDonald’s Apple Fritter. Sabat considers this one unhealthy primarily because of its high calorie, fat, and sugar content, compounded by the fact that it is a fried pastry. “With 510 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar in a single serving, consuming this treat regularly can contribute to weight gain and obesity, and the high-fat content can raise bad cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease,” says Sabat.
Sabat also warns that when you consume something with this much sugar and very little fiber, “the substantial sugar content can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, causing energy crashes, increased hunger, and potential long-term health issues.”
PER ORDER: 310 calories, 18 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (1 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 3 g protein
The Burger King Pie is tempting just by the looks of it alone, and while you don’t need to avoid it entirely, this one may contribute to potential issues if consumed on a regular basis.
Sabat put this pie on the list because of “its high calorie, fat, and sugar content, and the high fat content on a regular basis can contribute to raised bad cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues,” she says. “Additionally, the significant sugar content can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.” Because of these qualities, Sabat argues that “regular consumption of this pie can contribute to an imbalanced diet and should be limited as part of a healthy eating pattern.”
PER ORDER: 360 calories, 18 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 220 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (2 g fiber, 31 g sugar), 6 g protein
“The Starbucks Chocolate Chunk Cookie has 360 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 31 grams of sugar in just one cookie, and it can contribute to weight gain and other health issues if consumed frequently,” says Sabat. She adds that on its own, this cookie is loaded with sugar and fat, but, “People might grab it as an add-on to their already high-sugar drink, such as a sugary coffee or frappuccino, unintentionally compounding the sugar intake of their overall order. This combination can lead to excessive sugar consumption in a single sitting, which can negatively impact health and contribute to an unhealthy diet.”
PER ORDER: 240 calories, 16 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 3 g protein
Popeye’s is famous for its fried chicken, spicy chicken sandwiches, and its handheld apple pie. But unfortunately, Sabat puts the Popeyes Cinnamon Apple Pie on the list of unhealthy fast-food baked goods because “despite being a quick option, it is still considered an unhealthy choice due to the fact that it is fried.”
She adds that “While it may seem appealing, the frying process adds unhealthy trans fats to the pastry, and these fats can raise cholesterol levels.” Furthermore, “consuming fried foods regularly can have detrimental effects on your overall health, making it important to be mindful of such choices and opt for healthier, nutrient-rich alternatives.”
PER ORDER: 580 calories, 36 g fat (19 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 520 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (1 g fiber, 41 g sugar), 7 g protein
Even though the handheld pie at Popeye’s is deep-fried and loaded with sugar, it’s not as bad nutritionally as the Popeye’s Oreo Cheesecake Cup. It has 19 grams of saturated fat, which is more than what the American Heart Association recommends for an entire day, and it contains 1 gram of trans fat, which nearly meets the World Health Organization’s suggested limit of 2.2 grams. When you consider the fact that these numbers are coming from just your dessert, it may make you think twice before consuming this one on a regular basis.
PER ORDER: 463 calories, 25 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (2 g fiber, 36 g sugar), 7 g protein
Even though most people head to Arby’s for their roast beef and curly fries, this fast-food joint also offers yummy baked goods, like the Arby’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookie. However, even though it’s delicious, you may want to consume this cookie infrequently and avoid the added saturated fat and sugar on top of your already calorie-heavy meal.
“This cookie may seem like an innocent treat, but it is an unhealthy baked good for several reasons,” says Sabat. “With 463 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 36 grams of sugar in a single cookie. The significant fat content—especially the saturated fat—can raise bad cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.”
Sabat also adds that Moreover, the substantial sugar content can lead to rapid blood sugar spikes, causing energy crashes and heightened cravings. Consuming such sugary and high-calorie treats regularly can disrupt a balanced diet and negatively impact overall health. It’s crucial to be aware of the nutritional content of such indulgences and opt for healthier choices to maintain a more well-rounded approach to eating.
PER ORDER: 240 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (1 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 2 g protein
The White Castle Fudge Dipped Brownie is one of the more unique desserts on our list, and “while it may seem like a tempting treat, it is considered unhealthy for a few reasons,” says Sabat. “With 240 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 26 grams of sugar in one brownie, it contains a significant amount of empty calories.” Not only that, but this much sugar in just one sitting, with only 1 gram of fiber, can instantly spike your blood sugar.
“It’s essential to be mindful of such indulgences and opt for healthier snacks and desserts to support a more well-rounded and nourishing approach to eating,” adds Sabat.