In the realm of sweet breakfasts, only two dishes reign supreme: pancakes and French toast. At their cores, they’re essentially the same thing: bread products slathered with syrup and butter, packed with sweeteners, devoid of fiber, and perfect for cranking up your blood sugar. But when we averaged nutrition data from the USDA and seven different chain restaurants, we were surprised to find that one plate was a decently less disastrous choice than the other. Ready to find a winner? It’s time for a food face-off.
A typical stack of pancakes has almost 500 fewer calories than a plate of French toast—as well as 20 fewer grams of sugar. Pancakes keep up their lead with 78 percent less saturated fat than their French toast counterparts. (Luckily, neither has much trans fat to speak of—we’ll call that a tie.) But French toast doesn’t go down without a fight: It’s got 3 more grams of fiber, about 20 percent less sodium, and 18 more grams of protein—maybe because of the dairy-and-egg soaking mixture used in most recipes.
Surprisingly, restaurant versions of pancakes tend to pack significantly fewer calories and sugar than restaurant French toast, so they’re generally a healthier pick. What does our expert think?
“I would recommend being mindful of the portion sizes and add-ons,” said Gina Hassick, RD, a Pennsylvania-based nutritionist. “The added butter and syrup can really do some damage.”
(Chain restaurants don’t specify whether or not butter and syrup are included in those nutrition stats we found, but it’s probably safe to assume that they’re not—that means you’re looking at even more calories, fat, and sugar.)
“I would stick with two pancakes for an appropriate serving size, top with cinnamon and blueberries or bananas, and drizzle lightly with pure maple syrup,” Hassick said.
Even better? Make your own at home, where you can actually transform these breakfast calorie bombs into super healthy meals. Start simple with these 3-ingredient Paleo-friendly pancakes, or get a little fancy with these quinoa pancakes with caramelized apples and hazelnuts—each one only has 5 g of sugar, toppings included!