The Bakery Exposé

Is your breakfast muffin or bagel a PointsPlus™ value disaster? Here's how you can tell.
Sure, it may look and sound healthy, but if your bran muffin is covered with nuts and seems large enough to feed a family of five, you might be getting more than you bargained for.

"Bakeries are supersizing breakfast," says Janet Helm, MS, RD, a New York-based dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "They're trying to make us feel as though it's OK to eat a simple muffin for breakfast." But the reality is, it's as though we're eating cake — or a glorified dessert — early in the morning.

So just how big should that muffin be? Think of a 12-hole muffin tin and then imagine a muffin that's the same size as the hole — without flopping over the top. Or, envision a baseball. Bagels should be no bigger than that, too. (A small frozen Lender's bagel is about the right size.) "Most bagels you buy at a deli are twice that size," says Helm. "Some are like eating four or six slices of white bread."

You be the judge
Size isn't the only issue with these items. Many bakeshops make their own line of treats that do not come wrapped up with nutrition facts labels. In this case, signs and ingredient stickers don't always seem to speak the truth. What the bakery might describe as low in fat and healthy could mean something else to you entirely. To determine if these baked goods actually merit a healthful report card, heed Helm's advice:

  • Read ingredient labels for healthy fat replacers like applesauce or pureed fruit.

  • See if the item contains oats or dried or fresh fruit. In other words, does it contain something more nutrient-worthy than just white flour and sugar?

  • Is it made from whole-wheat flour? Or another grain hinting at higher fiber?

  • If ingredients are listed, is butter or oil listed near the bottom, implying that not too much was used? (Manufacturers are legally required to list ingredients from the most used to the least used, but your local bake shop may be exempt from that requirement.)

  • Is it loaded with nuts or chocolate chips, which are high in PointsPlus values, or is there just a smattering of them?

  • Lastly, don't forget to check out its dimensions, watching out for oversize portions.

PointsPlus values revealed
Bakery items that list their calories, fat and fiber have much less to hide. Here is a variety of lower-fat store-bought muffins and their PointsPlus values. If you're shocked by the value of your favorite, don't despair. Nothing's off-limits if you plan for it. "You have to eat what you love and love what you eat," states Helm. In that case, split a muffin with a friend or opt for a mini one (if it's an option) and round it out with yogurt or some fresh fruit.

Item PointsPlus value per muffin Portion size
Betty Crocker Banana Nut Muffin Mix, No Cholesterol, Low-Fat Recipe (prepared) 4 1 muffin
Betty Crocker Sweet Rewards Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix, Fat-Free Recipe (prepared) 4 1 muffin
Coco's Bakery Restaurant Low-Fat Peach Muffin 7 1 muffin
Duncan Hines All-Bran Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix (prepared) 2 1 muffin
Duncan Hines All-Bran Blueberry Muffin Mix 2 1 muffin
Martha White Low Fat Apple Cinnamon Muffin 3 1 muffin
Martha White Low Fat Blueberry Muffin 3 1 muffin
McDonald's Low-Fat Apple Bran Muffin 6 1 muffin
Otis Spunkmeyer Low-Fat Banana Nut Muffin 4 1/2 muffin
Otis Spunkmeyer Low-Fat Wild Blueberry Muffin 4 1/2 muffin
Atlanta Bread Company Low-Fat Apple Muffin 6 1 muffin
Weight Watchers Banana Muffin 5 1 muffin
Weight Watchers Blueberry Muffin 5 1 muffin
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