Wondering if Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches are as healthy as they are convenient? Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches broken down by ingredients and macros!
If you’ve been following along on the blog for a while or following on Insta (@hungryhobbyrd), you probably already know that the Starbucks feta wrap is one of my favorite on the go breakfast options. I love it so much that I made my own copycat version.
But, are Starbucks breakfast sandwiches healthy?
That’s the question that many of my clients ask me when I suggest changing out their usual baked goods and coffee with a breakfast sandwich and modifying their coffee order. So, let’s talk about it today!
In general, I look at two things when it comes to deciding if a packaged food item is “healthy,” the ingredient list, and the macro/calorie breakdown.
The ingredients in your food are more important than the calorie and macro breakdown. I tell my clients if your grandma wouldn’t know what it is, don’t eat it. At least don’t eat it every day.
Each sandwich is different, but in general, we see a few reoccurring themes:
(Keep in mind ingredients are always listed from most to least.)
Below are the ingredients from the Starbucks website for the artisan roll (bolded ingredients are the types of flours):
[Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Canola Oil, Sour Culture, Semolina, Salt, Sugar, Yeast, Cultured Wheat Starch, Whole Wheat Flour, Enzymes]
In general, we see that most of the Starbucks breakfast sandwiches are made with white refined flour instead of whole grains. Refined flour acts similar to sugar in the body, even if it isn’t listed in the ingredient list.
The words you see underlined above are vitamins and minerals that are lost in the refining process, so the government mandates they are added back in to prevent deficiencies in the population. Unfortunately, fortified vitamins are not as absorbable as they would have been from the whole food source.
You are also missing out on the fiber and protein that would have come from having whole grains.
Whole Grains Winner: The only sandwich that uses predominately whole grains is the Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap.
Preservatives and additives in food are chemicals that provide no nutritional value to us, but extend the shelf life of food. These are approved by the FDA as generally recognized as safe (GRAS), but to me, that means very little given the fact that trans fat also had a GRAS status for way too many years.
I try to minimize the ingredients in my diet that don’t serve a nutritive purpose. All those extra chemicals and fillers require the liver to work hard to filter that crap out. So, as a general rule of thumb, if my Grandma wouldn’t recognize the ingredient list, I don’t eat it.
This is where my beloved feta wrap fails so miserably:
Wrap [Water, Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Wrap Base (Wheat Gluten, Corn Starch, Oat Fiber, Soy Protein Isolate, Soybean Oil, Defatted Soy Flour, Sesame Flour, 2 Or Less Of Whole Wheat Flour, Dextrose), Wheat Gluten, Canola Oil, Sugar, Mold Inhibitor (Cultured Wheat Flour, Vinegar), Honey, Salt, Yeast, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes], Egg White Omelet [Cage Free Egg Whites, Whey Powder, Corn Starch, Nonfat Dry Milk, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Liquid Pepper Extract], Spinach, Feta Cheese [Pastuerized Milk, Salt, Cheese Culture, Enzymes, Potato Starch], Sun Dried Tomato Cream Cheese Spread [Water, Pasteurized Milk And Cream, Tomato Paste, Whey Protein Concentrate, Dehydrated Garlic, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Sugar, Cheese Culture, Spice, Lactic Acid, Garlic, Guar Gum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Carob Bean Gum, Enzymes, Sulfur Dioxide (Preservative)], Tomato Blend [Tomatoes, Roasted Tomatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola And Or Olive Oil), Garlic, Oregano, Salt]
The black underlined ingredients are highly processed food additives that do provide nutritional value, but aren’t things I recognize as items I would cook within my own home.
The orange underlined ingredients are preservatives and additives that on their own aren’t bad, but not something I recommend consuming every day all day.
Least Process Winner: The winner for the least processed breakfast sandwich with the shortest whole food ingredient list is the Roasted Ham, Swiss, and Egg Sandwich.
Cured vs. Uncured Meats
The last point I want to make about the Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches’ Ingredients is about the sandwiches containing processed meat like bacon. Sodium nitrates and nitrites used to cure processed meats are known carcinogens.
It’s one of the reasons why we think processed meat has such a strong association with the risk of many types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. I buy uncured bacon, sausage, etc… in my own home. Surprisingly, many of the sandwiches using meat are, in fact, uncured.
The only two sandwiches containing meat are:
- Chicken Sausage & Bacon Biscuit
- Double- Smoked Bacon Cheddar & Egg Sandwich
The rest do not use sodium nitrates or nitrites, so they are all winners!
Macros & Calorie Breakdown
Where the ingredient list has it’s issues, the macro & calorie break down of every single sandwich shines! It’s for this reason that I would still recommend you chose a Starbucks Breakfast Sandwich as a healthier option over a baked good every time.
In general, all the Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches are:
Under 500 Calories
Whether you are trying to drop a few pounds or not, the calorie level is manageable for just about anyone. I’ve recommended to some male clients in the past they eat two sandwiches (for sandwiches in the 300 range.) But, if you are trying to lose weight, 400 – 600 calories for breakfast should be okay (depending on height, physical activity level, etc!)
Most Starbucks breakfast sandwiches have at least 14 grams of protein. I like females to have a minimum of 20 grams, and males have 30 grams in the morning. Protein helps to keep you fuller for longer and helps to stabilize energy levels throughout the day (preventing huge swings in energy levels.)
If you don’t have protein at breakfast, your breakfast is not healthy. That’s my opinion, anyway. Take it or leave it.
That’s why I recommend the breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks over any other option, including less processed good old oatmeal. Unless you’re adding protein powder to it or something, I think the breakfast sandwich is a better option.
The highest protein option is the Feta Wrap.
Starbucks breakfast sandwiches have the perfect amount of carbs for most people, around 30-45 grams per sandwich. That’s the amount I aim for in each meal of WTE? Meal Plans.
It’s actually considered the “diabetic diet” friendly guideline, but I find that number to be good for the general population and too high for those with diabetes.
About 30-45 grams of carbohydrates will give you energy, but not cause a huge blood sugar spike and crash, especially when those carbs are paired with protein!
The lowest carb option is the Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Sandwich.
The fat in Starbucks breakfast sandwiches is predominately animal-based, coming from dairy, eggs, and meat. That means the sandwiches all have a decent amount of saturated fat in them.
Personally, saturated fat doesn’t scare me, especially if it’s in terms of an otherwise healthy diet. Saturated fat has been associated with increased cholesterol levels, yes, but is also associated with changing the type of cholesterol to a less dangerous form (less likely to lodge in the arteries and cause plaque build-up.)
If you are eating ONLY animal-based fats, then yes, you might want to start thinking about your fat consumption and risk of heart disease. However, if it’s in terms of an overall healthy diet, which includes lots of plants and plant-based fats as well, then it’s okay.
Eggs, meat, and cheese for breakfast are going to be better for you for breakfast than a muffin, croissant, or bagel any day of the week.
So, Are Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches Healthy?
First of all, the term “healthy” is subjective, anyway. But, since you are asking my opinion, it’s my recommendation that…
Starbucks breakfast sandwiches are a convenient and much healthier option than sugary refined carb-based options like muffins, croissants, and bagels you find at Starbucks.
They are not as healthy as making your breakfast sandwich at home with a 100% whole-grain English muffin, pasture-raised eggs, organic cheese, and uncured bacon.
Personally, I eat at Starbucks for breakfast 1-2 times a week (when I get out of the house to work) and when I don’t have any homemade feta wraps on hand, as part of an overall healthy diet.
What’s the Healthiest Breakfast Sandwich At Starbucks?
Given all the considerations above, my healthiest Starbucks Breakfast Sandwich picks are the Spinach Feta Wrap (best macros) or the Ham, Swiss, and Egg Sandwich (least processed.)
I hope that helps answer your question!
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