Are Pop-Tarts Healthy? Are They Bad For You?


Let’s talk about a sensation that has kept America obsessed for over half a century; the sweet and creamy Pop-Tarts.

Allow me to jump right in by answering a few questions. Are Pop-Tarts healthy? No, they’re not healthy. Are they bad for you? Let’s discuss that by way of this article. 

What are Pop Tarts made of?

Pop-Tarts are marketed as a quick choice of breakfast which requires it to incorporate all the nutrition essential to the human body when starting the day off. Let us examine whether it keeps its promise by going through the ingredients.

  • Wheat flour

This is the main ingredient in the recipe, enriched with fortifications like niacin, iron, riboflavin, and folic acid. This might sound like a healthy deal but the rest of the lineup will turn our heads the other direction.

Pop-Tarts that are made in the UK are composed of whole wheat flour opposed to those in the US that are made of highly refined flour making them less healthy.

  • Sugar

This is the second main ingredient that makes Pop-Tarts a risky choice for diabetics. Modern consumers are looking for ways to limit their sugar intake due to its negative impact, but the brand still rolls out pastries loaded with sugar and its derivatives.

In addition to this, Pop-Tarts also contain high fructose corn syrup, molasses, and dextrose that amp up the sugar content in your meal.

  • Palm oil

Palm oil is known to have high saturations of fat which can lead to cardiovascular diseases. It is commonly used as a taste enhancer in food products.

Other ingredients in Pop-Tarts include wheat starch, rice flour, leavening agents, gelatin, soy lecithin, cellulose gum, and artificial coloring agents. 

How many carbs and calories are in Pop Tarts?

One piece of Pop-Tarts contains 170 calories with 19 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of sugar. It has a fat content of 2.5 grams and 115 milligrams of sodium along with a mere 2 and 3 grams of protein and fiber respectively.

Although this information conforms to only one pastry, the pack contains two pieces that could double up the numbers. This ‘high calorie – low protein’ nature of the pastry makes it a less nutritional option for breakfast. It is only fitting to call it a snack or a treat rather than a morning meal.

Why were Pop Tarts banned in the UK and Australia?

Pop-Tarts were introduced in the UK in the year 1990 and became a quick success. But later in 2010, the EU restricted the use of six artificial food dyes due to their health impacts on children, three of which were used to produce Pop-Tarts.

Following the ban, the brand reinvented its recipe specifically for the UK region. The artificial dyes were replaced with natural colors derived from beets, carrots, paprika and by replacing the high sugar, high-fructose corn syrups, and heavily processed flours.

The brand was also withdrawn from Australia in 2005 and re-introduced in 2014 with only two flavors – strawberry and chocolate.

Do Pop Tarts have pork?

No, Pop-Tarts do not contain pork making it kosher for particular consumers. The presence of pork in Pop-Tarts was highly speculated for a very long time until Kellog’s came out with an official statement that settled the skepticism.

What gelatin is used in Pop Tarts?

The gelatin used in Pop-Tarts is derived from beef. This derivative is used as a binding agent for frostings to prevent them from melting when heated. Though the brand has stated that its gelatin sources may vary with availability, it has continued to use beef gelatin without any modifications.

Do Pop Tarts have sugar?

Yes, Pop-Tarts contains sugar in abundance – around 14 grams per serving. This can cause dental problems and gum-related diseases in children as they tend to overeat sugar-based snacks. The acids used to refine sugar can lead to the receding of enamels, causing cavities.

Do Pop Tarts have dairy?

Yes, some flavors of Pop-Tarts like S’mores, Chocolate Chip, and Vanilla Milkshake contain dairy in the form of milk, cream, and whey. Most of the fruit-based range happens to be free from dairy and its derivatives. If you are lactose-intolerant, it is a good idea to check the package before you buy. 

Do Pop Tarts have gluten?

As the main ingredient of the recipe is wheat flour, Pop-Tarts do have gluten. Customers with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease are hence advised against consuming Pop-Tarts. 

Do Pop Tarts have eggs?

Yes, some flavors of Pop-Tarts like S’mores and most of the chocolate variants contain egg whites. If you are a vegetarian, check out our section below about vegetarian options to choose from.

Are Pop Tarts vegetarian/vegan?

Yes, Pop-Tarts do have vegetarian and vegan options which need to be carefully inspected before buying. Most of the unfrosted range and chocolate-free flavors do not contain beef gelatin or egg whites making them fit for vegetarians.

The unfrosted fruit and cinnamon flavors do not contain dairy or animal derivatives making them a sweet treat for vegans. This is a very narrow lineup to choose from compared to its non-vegan counterpart.

Do Pop Tarts have fiber?

Pop-Tarts contain a meager amount of fiber; about 3 grams per pastry. This is considerably low for breakfast. This lack of fiber can lead to digestive complications and topple the diet charts of people who are on a weight loss course. It is recommended that consumers find alternate sources of fiber like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Do Pop Tarts have peanuts?

There are peanut-flavored Pop-Tarts in the market containing whole peanuts and their butter. Since these flavors are manufactured in separate, dedicated facilities, the rest of the flavors are safe for consumption for those with nut allergies.

Do Pop Tarts have antifreeze in them?

Pop Tarts contain an additive called Propylene Glycol which is also used in the manufacture of antifreeze. This additive is used to retain the moisture content of the pastries and prevent solidification under low temperatures but its increased consumption can cause rapid heart rate and low blood pressure. This can also cause irritation to the respiratory tracts resulting in cough and sore throat.

Can Pop Tarts cause cancer?

Although the FDA has not confirmed any presence of carcinogens in Pop-Tarts definitively, it has identified some petroleum-based food additives that are potentially cancerous.

Pop-Tarts uses artificial food dyes like red-40 which are banned in some European countries as they are known to damage the DNA and result in hypersensitivity in children. TBHQ, used in Pop-Tarts, is a petroleum-derived food additive that is used to extend the shelf life of packaged foods. Although it is not deemed to be carcinogenic, it is also not allowed to be consumed in large quantities due to its toxic nature.

Can Pop Tarts cause acid reflux?

Acid reflux is caused by ingesting foods that are heavy and greasy in nature, which take a long time to digest. Since the pastry has more carbs than protein, it is expected to digest more quickly which makes it the least possible cause for experiencing acid reflux.

Some heavy flavors containing peanuts and chocolate can cause acid reflux when eaten in large quantities. The high sugar and calorie content may lead to indigestion and acidity among young children.

Can Pop Tarts cause diarrhea/constipation?

Diarrhea and constipation are two symptoms of gluten intolerance. Pop-Tarts contain gluten and can potentially cause constipation and diarrhea in some people.

Can Pop Tarts cause acne?

Unfortunately, it is true that foods with high sugar levels and glycemic indices cause a breakout of acne. Frequent consumption of them carries a 30% risk of developing and worsening acne. Unhealthy, junk foods are known to cause pimples among teenagers. Thus moderate to low consumption of Pop-Tarts is advised to avoid breaking out.

Can Pop Tarts cause headaches?

Pop-Tarts can potentially cause headaches since they contain a high amount of sugar that can cause hyperglycemia, with headache as one of its symptoms.

Pop-Tarts also contain Vitamin A palmitate in its ingredient list, which is linked to causing severe headaches. 

Can Pop Tarts cause gas?

Foods that are often linked to causing intestinal gas are used in the manufacture of Pop-Tarts including high-sugar fructose, dairy products, and starch from grains. This can result in bloating, bowel discomfort, and in worst cases, breathing difficulty.

Do Pop Tarts expire?

Yes, all processed foods come with expiration dates beyond which they become unfit for consumption.

Sealed and unopened Pop-Tarts have a shelf life of at least 6 months to a maximum of 12 months. When opened, it can last from 1 to 2 weeks depending upon the humidity and storage conditions. Once expired, Pop-Tarts must not be consumed and must be disposed of immediately.

Can Pop Tarts be eaten without toasting?

Pop-Tarts are instructed to be toasted only to get the jelly warm and gooey and to achieve the perfect, crunchy crust. It is completely alright to consume Pop-Tarts at room temperature or right out of a refrigerator.

Since they are advertised as quick and convenient alternatives, the pastries come pre-cooked and sealed in tight packages to ensure freshness, making them safe to eat without being toasted. They can be enjoyed as a snack straight out of the box or the fridge. Pop-Tarts can be served as toppings on desserts and ice creams.

Why are Pop Tarts bad for you?

Pop-Tarts are bad for you and your health in multiple ways, starting off with their sugar and calorie count. Such high amounts of sugar can contribute to several ailments like diabetes, heart diseases, urinary infections, and obesity.

Pop-Tarts are also linked to accelerated cellular aging and acne problems. The ridiculously small amount of protein can leave us feeling extremely tired and hungry within a few hours of its consumption.

The low fiber content can lead to water depletion in the body and cause indigestion, constipation, and weight gain. The fortifications added to the dough cannot be completely absorbed by the body due to a lack of fiber.

The presence of food additives that are toxic in nature can have an adverse impact on the health of infants and young children.

Unless the brand figures out a way to achieve its iconic taste while including clean and healthy elements to the recipe, the product will remain in the unhealthy, unwanted segment of someone’s daily diet.


Anand Srinivasan
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