Nutrition expert exposes which breakfast is worse for your health: Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts

You might assume that eating breakfast from a place that has the word "donuts" in its name inherently would be less healthy than eating at everyone's favorite coffee shop — but, that's not always the case. Depending on what you order, grabbing breakfast from Starbucks can be a mistake, if you're watching your calorie, fat, and salt intake, while Dunkin' Donuts offers a few options that pack a surprisingly leaner nutritional punch. (Sorry, none of these DD options include a Boston creme donut!) Considering you're probably washing down your breakfast nibbles with a coffee drink that could be loaded with cream and sugar, it's especially important to make sure you choose wisely. Careful scrutiny of the published nutritional facts for both Starbucks' and Dunkin Donuts' breakfast menus to figure out which is healthier could consume an entire morning — and you're hungry!

Fortunately, registered dietitian Emily Wunder, MSCN, RD, LDN, did some of this work for us. In an interview with Mashed, Wunder sorted through the macros — as well as the healthfulness of the ingredients — of breakfast wraps, sandwiches, and egg entrees offered at both Starbucks and DD.

Eating a Starbucks breakfast wrap is a higher-calorie way to start your day, dietitian says

According to Wunder, a Starbucks wrap is bigger than the one offered at Dunkin', and larger portions mean more calories. "The Starbuck's Southwest Veggie Wrap has 590 calories, 27 grams of fat with 12 grams from saturated fat, 61 grams of carbohydrate, and 24 grams of protein," she pointed out. "While a Dunkin' Veggie Egg White Wrap is much lower at 190 calories, 10 grams of fat with 4.5 grams from saturated fat, 15 grams of carbohydrate, and nine grams of protein." But you can choose a smaller wrap from Starbucks, Wunder pointed out. "Starbucks does have another veggie option, the Spinach, Feta, and Cage-Free Egg White Wrap. These facts are a little lower at 290 calories, eight grams of fat, 34 grams carbohydrate, and 20 grams of protein," she noted.

If you're watching your salt intake, though, you probably want to steer away from Starbucks. "For both of these, the sodium is higher for the Starbucks option," Wunder explained.

Dunkin' Donuts breakfast sandwiches are higher in calories than Starbucks options

Maybe DD has the healthier breakfast wrap all tied up with a bow, but their sandwiches are a totally different story, Wunder pointed out. "Let's look at a standard: sausage, egg, and cheese on an English muffin. In this case, Starbucks is looking a little better with 80 less calories, six grams less fat, and six grams less carbohydrates" than Dunkin's, Wunder said. "Starbucks will provide 18 grams of protein while Dunkin has 21 grams." Still, a breakfast sandwich, in general, is going to be a fat bomb. "Either way, be mindful, as both sandwiches will give you at least 50 percent of your recommended daily saturated fat intake and 39 percent of your recommended sodium intake," Wunder pointed out.

Wunder found a similar pattern with the bacon, egg, and cheese croissant — Starbucks options were a slight bit healthier, though this menu item is not a great idea if you are concerned about your cholesterol or waistline. "You will get at least 500 calories and plenty of saturated fat, but Starbucks is slightly lower for calories and total fat," Wunder said. "Carbohydrates are about the same and Dunkin' is lower for sodium and protein for this sandwich."

Vegetarian options at Dunkin' and Starbucks have their pluses and minuses, according to expert

Breakfast sandwiches are so high in fat and calories because of bacon — so what happens if you take advantage of a vegetarian alternative to breakfast meat? "Both chains do have a meat substitute sandwich," Wunder pointed out. "Starbucks has the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich and Dunkin' carries the Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich."

As for which one to choose, that's a bit of a toss up. "If you are looking to mix it up with a meat substitute, I lean towards the Beyond products. They are free of GMO — genetically modified organism — ingredients, which is a plus when it comes to processed foods," Wunder said. However, looking at the total nutrition of both vegetarian options, the choice becomes a little less clear. "The Starbucks option uses egg whites, which cuts back the calories and fat. Starbucks has 90 less calories, four grams less fat, four grams less carbohydrate, and 20 milligrams less sodium," Wunder said. "Dunkin has five grams more protein," she added — and protein is important for satiety, so you won't go reaching for a Munchkin after you've finished your sandwich!

The healthiest breakfast option might be Starbucks sous vide egg bites

If you're noticing a pattern with wraps and sandwiches packing in a lot more calories than what you might normally eat for breakfast at home, Wunder is right there with you. But that doesn't mean there are no options for a health seeker looking for a quick breakfast to eat while enjoying some brew. "Starbucks has a few more non-sandwich options that rate better on the health scale," Wunder pointed out. "They offer the Sous Vide Egg Bites in three varieties. The Egg White and Roasted Red Pepper option will provide 170 calories, eight grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrate, 12 grams of protein, and probably a lot less bloating than some of the other sandwiches on the menu," she said. "They also have two oatmeal options that won't send you to crazy numbers for calories or fat and are low sodium options."

You can also find a healthy choice at Dunkin' Donuts, Wunder pointed out. "One option at Dunkin' [is] not to discredit is their Veggie Egg White Omelet on a multigrain thin," she said. "While the sodium is not low, it is better than many of the other sandwiches, and will provide 290 calories, 13 grams of fat, 27 grams carbohydrate, and 17 grams protein."