Are Hot Pockets Healthy? Junk Food or Okay for You?

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 15 February 2022

Instead of preheating the oven, defrosting frozen vegetables, and spending hours slaving away in the kitchen, hot pockets allow for a quick and convenient “meal”. So it’s no wonder we question if hot pockets are healthy, junk food, or okay to eat in moderation. 

Are Hot Pockets Good For You or Healthy?

Despite being inexpensive, easy-to-make, and yummy, these turnover bites are full of processed ingredients, fats, and sugars so they’re not really all that healthy. Even though we love the thought of gorging on mouth-watering flavors like Pepperoni Pizza and Ham & Cheddar, we don’t love the idea of 14 grams of fat, 630 milligrams of sodium, and food coloring.

Since Hot Pockets contain food coloring, textured vegetable protein, imitation cheese, and sodium citrate, we do not recommend eating these every day. If possible, we recommend avoiding these in your diet if you want to stick with whole foods and all-natural ingredients for a well-rounded diet.

Despite Hot Pockets lack of nutrition, having one on occasion isn’t the end of the world either. Which makes you wonder, there must be some resounding qualities to Hot Pockets, right? Or are Hot Pockets kind of healthy? 

Are Hot Pockets a Good Source of Protein?

Protein is found throughout the body and is essential to chemical reactions and to be fair, Hot Pockets contain 18 grams of protein per 1 piece (226 grams) [1]. Eighteen grams of protein makes up approximately 26% most people’s daily protein requirements since the daily recommended intake for protein comes to 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight [2]. 

Even more redeeming, most Hot Pockets have meat in them and animal protein sources are typically considered superior in terms of quantity and quality of protein (i.e. meat, eggs, and milk) [3]. On the contrary, the ingredients are generally low-quality sources. 

So technically, Hot Pockets are a good source of total protein even though it’s low quality protein. But when it comes to health, protein only paints part of the picture.

Lean Pockets vs. Hot Pockets (Calories & Nutrition)

If you’re considering using Hot Pockets as lazy girl weight loss hack, Lean Pockets might sound like a smart substitution at first. However, understanding the nutrition facts of each handy snack may be even more influential in deciding to give up this turnover altogether. Even though the company may claim that Hot Pockets are healthy, the ingredients tell a different story

Lean Pocket Nutritional Info

  • Serving Size: 1 Hot Pocket (127 grams) 
  • Calories: 280 calories
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 3.5 grams
  • Cholesterol: 25 milligrams 
  • Sodium: 560 milligrams 
  • Carbohydrates: 40 grams 
  • Dietary Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Protein: 12 grams 

Hot Pocket Nutritional Info

  • Serving Size: 1 Hot Pocket (127 grams) 
  • Calories: 310 calories
  • Fat: 13 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 6 grams
  • Cholesterol: 25 milligrams 
  • Sodium: 630 milligrams 
  • Carbohydrates: 37 grams 
  • Dietary Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 9 grams
  • Protein: 11 grams

Some of the ingredients included in Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets can be considered dangerous, processed foods that are not conducive to a healthy diet.

Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets both contain dextrose. Dextrose can lead to extremely high blood sugar levels and fluid within the body, causing external swelling and internal fluid buildup in the lungs. Both options contain margarine, a butter substitute that has high levels of trans fats that raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol [4].

The main ingredient in both Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets is enriched flour. Enriched flour can lead to increased cholesterol levels and the prevalence of heart disease [5].

Are Hot Pockets Junk Food or Bad for You?

So we’ve established that Hot Pockets aren’t healthy, but are they considered junk food or bad for you? 

The list of ingredients on the Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets nutritional info contains numerous processed ingredients, unhealthy substitutions, and extremely high levels of fats, sodium, and saturated fat so they’re considered junk food. Plus, the additives and preservatives included in all Hot Pocket and Lean Pocket flavors make these unhealthy snack foods. 

In early 2021, Hot Pockets were called nationwide due to the prevalence of glass and hard plastic in their products. Consumers told the manufacturer, Nestle Prepared Foods, about foreign particles within their Hot Pockets. Not only is this dangerous for consumption, but the lack of food quality control is alarming. 

Furthermore, Hot Pockets were recalled back in 2014 due to concerns about the quality of meat in the products. Nestle USA recalled 238,000 cases of Hot Pockets because they contained “unsound” beef products. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service workers stated the products contained meat from “diseased” animals. 

Not only are Hot Pockets bad for you in terms of nutrition and ingredient quality, but the concerning prevalence of using unsafe ingredients and lack of quality control should raise alarm bells for all consumers. Instead of risking your health with Hot Pockets, there are other healthy alternatives that taste better, contain all-natural ingredients, and do not pose any safety risks. 

Hot Pocket Alternatives for Weight Loss

Even though Hot Pockets are easy to make, they are not worth the harmful ingredients and there’s plenty of tasty alternatives

The best Hot Pocket alternatives for weight loss include a vegetable wrap, egg white sandwich with multigrain English muffin, low-fat lean turkey and feta sandwich, air-popped popcorn, or Amy’s Kitchen non-GMO frozen food options. 

Individuals should focus on only having nutrient-dense foods instead of nutrient-poor and energy-dense foods [6]. Planning snacks accordingly can provide nutritional benefits [7]. Snacks can provide energy in the middle of the day, decrease your hunger, and avoid overeating during meals [8]. 

Some of the best snacks to help quell hunger, fill your stomach, and provide nutritional benefits include:

  • Savory — cubes of natural cheese, a handful of nuts (almonds are best), 1 tbsp. of nut butter on a rice cake 
  • Sweet — chopped mixed fresh fruit (berries, apple, melon), 2 square of dark chocolate bar, Greek yogurt with chia seeds, chia seed pudding
  • Creamy — cottage cheese, hummus and carrot sticks, Greek yogurt [9]
  • Crunchy — vegetable sticks (celery or carrot), handful of mixed nuts, seeds, apple [10]. 

Overall, Hot Pockets are not a healthy choice for weight loss and should be excluded in no junk food challenges. Since they contain numerous processed ingredients, additives, preservatives, and potentially-toxic ingredients, they should be avoided at all costs. Even though Lean Pockets are touted as a healthier alternative to the original Hot Pockets, they are equally as bad. When asking yourself if Hot Pockets are healthy and good for weight loss, the short and long answer is both a resounding ‘no’.

References

[1] Protein. (n.d.). Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/

[2] Trumbo, P., Schlicker, S., Yates, A., & Poos, M. (2002). Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids. J Am Diet Assoc, 102(11), 1621-30. 

[3] Watford, M. & Wu, G. (2018). Protein. Advances in nutrition, 9(5), 651-653. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmy027

[4] Butter vs. Margarine. (2020). Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/butter-vs-margarine

[5] Flour. (2022). Food Source Information. Retrieved from https://fsi.colostate.edu/flour-draft/#consumption

[6] Potter, M., Vlassopoulos, A., & Lehmann, U. (2018). Snacking Recommendations Worldwide: A Scoping Review. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)9(2), 86–98. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmx003

[7] Snacks can Provide Healthy Nutritional Benefits. (2018). Penn State Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/snacks-can-provide-healthy-nutritional-benefits

[8] Bridges, M. (2020). Snacks for adults. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000338.htm

[9] Yogurt. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/yogurt/

[10] The Science of Snacking. (n.d.). Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/snacking/

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.