12 Unhealthiest Muffin Mixes You Can Buy

Muffin mixes are handy and a pinch to whip up when you're assigned to breakfast duty. That being said, the plainest of these quick breads can rival a slice of birthday cake when you actually look at the nutrition content (read this before you take a bite of another muffin). You'll find many boxes are stuffed with sugar and sodium, as most pre-packaged products are, and that includes less-desirable ingredients tagging along for the ride. The phrase "everything in moderation" comes to mind, but perhaps you're already limiting your intake. Is scrounging through the shelves for a wholesome possibility worth the hassle when your grocery list is long and your patience is on a thread? 

We can't shop for our readers, as every individual knows their body and health needs best. Yet, decision fatigue is sure to sweep over when it's 4 p.m. on a Thursday and you need to make a choice at the grocery store, and quick. We gathered the muffin mixes with the most nutritional baggage, a task that involved looking at official guidelines by the USDA, to settle on the 12 unhealthiest you can buy. Find out the criteria for our selection in full at the end of our list. 

1. Betty Crocker Cinnamon Streusel Muffin Mix

Whether it's last-minute birthday cakes or brownies for the high school bake sale, it's undeniable that Betty Crocker is our champion for conjuring mouthwatering treats in the blink of an eye. There is no reason to doubt the Cinnamon Streusel Muffin & Quick Bread Mix isn't a win for your afternoon coffee break; just don't power up the espresso machine until you scour the nutritional information. For two muffins, the caloric expense is pretty hefty — a whopping 410 calories. Pumping 28 grams of added sugar skirts very close to the FDA's 50-gram recommendation, bringing it to over half the day's allowance. The mix also goes on to tack 20 grams of fat (5 of which are saturated) and 52 grams of carbs. 

To ensure the packaged mix retains some spark when it's stuck waiting out its time in the aisles, the dry blend will inevitably tout a lot of preservatives, monoglycerides being one example. Consuming these fillers isn't inherently dangerous; the problem that usually arises is their lack of nutritional benefits, which means they don't serve our bodies the same dietary rigor as whole, or unprocessed foods. Sorry Betty, but making your own cinnamon muffin recipe is going to beat this box any day. 

2. Duncan Hines Dolly Parton's Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mix

In our banana bread mix showdown, Dolly Parton's Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mix earned the blue ribbon on deliciousness. Nutritionally-speaking however, it's less of an award winner. It's easy to get distracted by the country songstress' radiant presence, but skimming over the bubblegum-pink packaging unveils oodles of dietary problems. Including, but definitely not limited to, empty calories and sweeteners. 

Starting off with the FDA's recommended daily intake of 2,000 calories, the dietary label already boasts 270 calories. This number doesn't seem terrible at first glance — we reckon any of the Dollywood theme park treats would wipe out your day's allotment faster. However, that's prior to noticing the sum is referring to "1/14 of the prepared package." Read a little closer and you'll see the label specifies 14 servings (in this case, muffins) per box. Do the math for two muffins, and suddenly you're 540 calories deep into the day. Further piling on the nutritional deficit are 16 grams of sugar — or 32% of the daily recommend limit — and meager levels of calcium and iron, which are nice, but too minimal to make a difference. Our mantra can't be overstated enough: Always read the label. Then, you'll be well-equipped to stuff your cupboards (and stomach) with only the healthiest choices. 

3. Baker's Corner Double Chocolate Muffin Mix

Baker's Corner is an Aldi brand catering to baking essentials — it's all in the name. Assuming you're committed to the budget chain for stashing all of your pantry necessities, any flour bag or vanilla extract you've purchased comes from the affordable private label. The Double Chocolate Muffin Mix is almost devilishly easy, demanding one egg, water, and vegetable oil before launching the tin right into the oven. But right off the bat, a quick look at the ingredients shows this kit isn't the healthiest around. 

Admittedly, controlling portions is a little tricky with muffin mixes. Unless you have a scale on hand to measure out the batter, the nutritional content is going to be all over the place. Regardless, 450 calories for two muffins verges on the higher end. The cholesterol levels aren't too bad on their own, but these chocolatey cakes boast 6 grams of saturated fat, a whopping 30% of the suggested daily dose (these fats are a notorious agent of LDL cholesterol that can wreak havoc on your heart). Semi-sweet chocolate chips and a rich, chocolate batter puts it in the dessert category, so maybe think of it as such — a treat — before preparing a nourishing version for the morning (zucchini is the perfect keto baking substitute). 

4. Krusteaz Double Chocolate Muffin Mix

Krusteaz is a workhorse brand that's stuck its floury fingers in every corner of the quick-serve segment. Considering the extensive range of products sold to amateur bakers, it's a given the average person will have one of its trusty kits on hand. A great deal of the muffin mixes aren't very nutritious as anyone is prone to suspect, so you might wonder what tipped the scales for the Double Chocolate Muffin Mix. Doesn't the Cranberry Orange flavor also possess an appalling number of preservatives along with excessive sweetness? Yes, but this one had even more if you can believe it. 

A serving size of two muffins contains 380 calories — higher than the typical boxed mix — as well as 530 milligrams of sodium, about a quarter of the amount you should be consuming on a daily basis. The real kicker, to absolutely no surprise, is the sugar content. Any chocolate-flavored baked treat is going to be decadently sweet, yet even we weren't prepared for 46 grams of sugar pummeling our digestive systems. If you're keen on keeping your intake under control and sticking to just one, halving the numbers is a little easier to stomach.

5. Betty Crocker Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin Mix

Considering there are so many muffin flavors out there, it's refreshing to see brands embrace styles past blueberry and chocolate. One classic, Lemon Poppy Seed, marries sweetness with a pleasant nuttiness, so we don't blame you if you gravitate toward this Betty Crocker mix (just look at that heavenly streusel). On the other hand, the fact that the muffin sports a sugar-encrusted topping should be the first clue into its glaring nutritional violations. 

Let's talk sugar. For one portion (which mind you, consists of two muffins) you get 28 grams, or exactly 56% of what's recommended for a healthful diet. From there, the label points to sturdier doses of sodium and carbs, boasting 430 milligrams and 55 grams respectively. That doesn't leave you much wiggle room for perusing other baked goodies from your brunch buffet, especially when the full serving clocks in 410 calories. 

Other dietary downers to halt your purchase are the fact that the muffins contain their share of sneaky preservatives, from thickeners like cellulose gum to synthetic dyes Yellow 5 and 6. Artificial colorings being, well, artificial, makes their inclusion questionable; beyond boosting the cake's golden sheen, they don't provide any substantial dietary value. 

6. Jiffy Raspberry Muffin Mix

Jiffy has been boasting a quality product that offers high value since 1930. Unfortunately, waking up with the Raspberry Muffin Mix isn't the smartest plan where proper nourishment is concerned, and that's because these muffins are synthetic. The first red flag in the ingredients are the "Raspberry-Flavored Bits," followed by Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Red 40 Lake (for the imitation fruit, we're sure), and thickeners like maltodextrin. 

Baking with salt is a must for balancing out the flavor of cakes and generally bread-y desserts, but there's still such a thing as too much of it. Unfortunately, a "baked portion" (that's how Jiffy labels a serving size — not so helpful!) harbors the highest dose of sodium on the list at 730 milligrams. For context, that's about one-third of your ration for the day, gone before you've tackled the breakfast sausage and scrambled eggs on your plate. 

We should also add that for vegetarians, this mix is a major no-go thanks (or no thanks?) in part to containing animal shortening. The greasy substance is heralded for enhancing texture and taste in any sweet confection it touches. Though the brand lists it as an ingredient, it's not made extensively obvious; with just a cursory glance, non-meat eaters would be cooked if they tossed one of these boxes into their cart. 

7. Pillsbury Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix

Health-conscious consumers should probably avoid Pillsbury's Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix. Don't get us wrong, the temptation to conjure autumnal bliss at a moment's notice is strong, and for two muffins, 280 calories actually seems pretty decent. It would be swell if the little pockets of apple-y goodness were diced chunks of actual Granny Smiths. Instead, like Jiffy, the fruit pieces are engineered out of synthetics and dyes, which are then Frankensteined into weird gluey bits that only share a passing resemblance to the crisp fruit. And the sugar ... although 26 grams could seem insignificant on its face, we can assure you it's not. It's about half a day's worth, and amping up one's consumption over time can lead to legitimate strains on the body, including diabetes, the possibility of strokes, and other alarming health concerns.  

Dumping on 6 grams of fat (and 2 grams of saturated fat), not to mention 340 milligrams of sodium and 53 grams of carbs, collectively eats through a decent helping of your daily allotment. So what's the solution? Is it possible for boxed baking shortcuts not to be nutritionally dicey? When the entire appeal of packaged mixes is predicated on convenience, it's part of the bargain that your dietary wellness will take a hit.

8. Duncan Hines Epic Cinnabon Bakery Inspired Muffin Kit

Duncan Hines' Epic Cinnabon Bakery Inspired Muffin Mix ... talk about a product to get us out of bed! The mall chain's sticky bun gets a reboot as a muffin, and all it takes to crank out a dozen, per the box's instructions, are eggs, water, oil, and butter. Sounds extremely simple, and fusing these indulgent snacks together is ingenious. Nonetheless, opting for this box is bound to throw a wrench in your wellness efforts; just take a look at the dietary digressions to see why. 

Indulge us, if you will, on the sweetness factor. It's just undeniable that the brown sugar crisp and cream cheese icing makes these babies beyond sugar-loaded, and Duncan Hines really flips the switch into overdrive. A shocking 39 grams of sugar per muffin takes the cake, to say nothing of the 22 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, and 62 grams of carbs. The real deal tucks in 880 calories — a ridiculous amount if we say so ourselves — whereas the muffin clocks in at 460 calories. It might look tame in comparison, but in reality, it's nearly on par with a food court meal — for what it's worth, 30 extra calories will get you an order of Panda Express orange chicken. 

9. Martha White Strawberry Cheesecake Muffin Mix

Given how Betty Crocker already dominates supermarket aisles, the average shopper might overlook Martha White — a Southern brand whose "Hot Rize" flour paved the way for the dump-and-stir mixes of today. None of the brand's muffin mixes are good for you by any means, so we'll focus on the seemingly worst flavor of the bunch, Strawberry Cheesecake. It's inspired by a dessert, and that's already one strike against it. The next strike that follows is the raw data, painting a picture of a vitamin-void snacking experience. The 280 calorie muffin, by proxy, drags in 51 grams of carbs, 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, and of course, 23 grams of sugar. 

We can readily admit that nothing sealed, shipped, and stashed on a shelf is going to have pristine ingredients — far from it. But between the "artificial strawberry bits" and "cream cheese blend," your breakfast is increasingly constructed out of chemicals; these pouches are stuffed with an overwhelming amount of synthetics, including cellulose gum and sodium caseinate, two compounds that crop up a lot in industrialized food stuffs. These substances are also noteworthy allergens, and might irritate folks who suffer responses to consuming them. Anyone in this camp should stay far away. For the rest of us, steer clear anyway. 

10. Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix

One of the countless ways to upgrade your boxed muffin mix is to sprinkle the batter with chocolate chips. Betty Crocker gets the idea, and the Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix crosses off this step for even easier assembly. One would expect this variety to show some restraint, given that it contrasts the super-duper chocolate-y muffins that might as well be served with buttercream and a candle. But as we've encountered in our round-up many times since, looks can definitely be deceiving. 

In this case, the nutritional low-down tells a much different story than we'd like. The package confirms exactly what we suspected, which is that these muffins are high in calories, high in sugar, and high in carbs. For a store-bought option, 6 grams of fat in a serving is pretty standard, while the sodium isn't too terrible at 360 milligrams (or a meager 17% of the recommended intake). We've even witnessed other mixes top the 31 grams of sugar present here, meaning the bar is pretty low for a mix to truly shock us. But 420 calories? For two stinking muffins? That's pretty steep, even if you couch your morning feast with some berries and yogurt. 

11. Pillsbury Banana Nut Muffin Mix

How does Pillsbury distinguish its Banana Nut Muffin Mix from Duncan Hines' competing box? Easy: There are more nuts. Whereas the Dolly Parton recipe features only walnuts, Pillsbury combines nine different kinds, including pistachios and pecans. These are the nuts you should be eating because they're chock-full of antioxidants and healthy fats, warding off potential ailments while keeping hair, skin, and nails looking sharp. The mix, in abandoning streusels or glazes, verges on oppressively-plain, especially when it's set side-by-side the icing-slicked quick cakes above. With all this said, could Poppin' Fresh have delivered our (healthy) muffin mix white whale? 

Sadly not. As it turns out, this kit wants nothing to do with the energy-powered muffins it plausibly resembles on the outside. It heaps on a fair amount of sodium (440 milligrams), and bulks out with 54 grams of carbs and 27 grams of sugar, 24 of which are added. Considering the latter has a proposed limit capped at 50 grams per the FDA, your intake will quickly skyrocket as you munch on two muffins, tacking on 320 calories in the process. So when in doubt, give the label the old once-over. If you can feel your blood sugar spike from the numbers alone, turning the other cheek is your safest bet. 

12. Krusteaz Almond Poppy Seed Muffin Mix

Krusteaz Almond Poppy Seed Muffin Mix seems promising. Boasting "real almonds" and zero of the phony enhancements plaguing the usual packaged mix, at best it warrants a secondary once-over when bopping along the aisles. We advise you to do that, and then promptly shelve it. While the nuts are indeed real, the stabilizers supposedly absent from the box are here and accounted for in the ingredients section, with some notable hall-of-fame fillers such as dextrose, xanthan gum, and to raise the roof of the dome-shaped treat, sodium aluminum phosphate. 

There are a staggering 34 grams of sugar to reckon with, plus 67 grams of carbs and 480 milligrams of sodium. Once again, two muffins constitutes a full order, yet containing 310 calories remains a noticeable decrease from the calorie-saddled choices we've looked at, both from Krusteaz and other manufacturers. We know how refined ingredients, particularly carbs, are the bread and butter of these kits. But unlike complex carbs that bring scores of benefits to the table, exclusively eating simple carbs deprives your immune system of many essential minerals. It's definitely okay to throw in a batch as an occasional treat; as long as it's a once-in-a-blue moon indulgence, not a regular part of your diet. 

How we chose our muffin mixes

We considered some key nutritional points when searching for the unhealthiest muffin mixes. Sugar, calories, sodium, and additives remained our top focus for judging a product's dietary value, along with artificial dyes and additives commonly associated with shelf-stable products overall. We backed up our claims with legitimate resources, such as the USDA, FDA, and Harvard Health. 

In many respects, a muffin shares the same qualities as a cupcake, and the sea of choices touting cream cheese frosting or brown sugar coatings helped our search move along smoothly. But in keeping with the goal of presenting the worst items, sifting through a vast array of potential choices from major grocery retailers was a must. We wanted to be thorough, and we hope this list can assist your next supermarket run.