Published August 20, 2012
| The Daily Meal
Let’s get real — why do most people head to their favorite fast-food chain for breakfast? Perhaps it's the convenience or the consistency, or maybe because it’s cheaper than grabbing a cappuccino and scone from that expensive artisanal bakery on the corner. Chances are, the vast array of nutritionally sound options is not coming into the decision-making process — but maybe they should be.
A host of major fast-food giants are making an effort to offer customers lighter and more nutritious ways to start their mornings, and there’s no denying the importance of a healthy breakfast to set you on the right track for the day.
According to nutritionist Kelly Aronica, M.S., the best morning choices with regards to proteins include eggs, smoked salmon, Canadian bacon, and yogurt. On the flip side, steering clear of super-sweet items, such as French toast sticks, pancakes, and pastries is a very smart move. She adds, "Go for high-fiber carbs like oatmeal (ideally without the serving of brown sugar or syrup) or granola. I'd say stay away from toast, but if it's necessary, whole-wheat is better than white." The same thought holds true for bagels, which are loaded with carbs and are often double what a person should be eating for breakfast (sometimes equaling four slices of bread). "A slice of whole-wheat toast alongside an omelette would be a better choice than a whole bagel," says Aronica. "If you need to have a bagel, just eat half, and top it with cream cheese, tomato, and salmon (the veggie and healthy protein)."
To apply this knowledge to fast-food menus, try opting for the simpler items that include a combination of proteins and fiber, and include a relatively low amount of calories, saturated fats, and sodium contents. For example, Burger King’s BK® Breakfast Muffin Sandwich with eggs and cheese or Subway’s Black Forest Ham, Egg White, and Cheese Muffin Melt would be good options. To make them even better, add a serving of apple slices. Another big trend among fast-food chains is adding oatmeal to their breakfast menus, which is certainly a great choice — as long as you steer clear of the brown sugar and other additives.
Aronica also adds that when you’re ordering from a fast-food breakfast menu, you should "be careful of items that may seem healthy, like a bran or carrot muffin, that are [in fact] loaded with sugar and could potentially have more calories than the omelette. Also, be wary of big, sweet coffee drinks. No problem with a cup of coffee, but ideally without sugar or syrups."
The chains with the healthiest breakfast menus overall are Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, with a multitude of nutritional options available at their locations nationwide.
Take a look through this collection of the healthiest breakfast options at the nation’s favorite chains and feel confident in making a more knowledgeable choice the next time you’re grabbing a Danish to go.
As tough as it may be to walk into Burger King for breakfast and avoid ordering hash browns or Cini-minis, your body will thank you for choosing one of the options below instead.
Option #1: Quaker Original Oatmeal (140 calories, 30 calories from fat, 5 grams of protein) is the best choice available on BK’s breakfast menu; just make sure you’re not ordering the maple and brown sugar flavored oatmeal.
Option #2: While it’s a far less nutritious offer, Burger King’s BK® Breakfast Muffin Sandwich with eggs and cheese (220 calories, 80 calories from fat, and 12 grams of protein) is the healthiest breakfast sandwich on the menu.
It’s no surprise that Dunkin’ Donuts would have plenty of options when it comes to breakfast, but what you may not know is that the chain offers DDSmart designated items designed to help customers make healthier choices. To take things a step further, Dunkin’ is also offering a full menu of items all with less than 300 calories.
Option #1: The Egg White Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap (150 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 11 grams of protein) is a great way to start off the morning.
Option #2: The Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap (150 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein) is a sound choice for those looking to steer clear of meat for breakfast.
Au Bon Pain
With offerings similar to Panera Bread, Au Bon Pain has breakfast options galore. While it’s still possible to get carried away with all of the pastries and heavy coffee drinks available, there are a few more health-conscious items on the menu.
Option #1: The Egg Whites and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich (230 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 19 grams of protein) is a great, straightforward choice.
Option #2: For those with a slightly more adventurous palate, the Egg Whites, Cheddar, and Avocado Breakfast Sandwich (310 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 20 grams of protein) is another solid option.
Option #3: The small oatmeal (170 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein) is good for those seeking a lighter breakfast.
McDonald’s is another fast-food giant that has introduced items (and even an entire menu, as of last week) focused on offering healthier options to diners. While the offerings are not as nutritionally sound as some offered by the chain's competitors, there are still a few options worth noting.
Option #1: Egg McMuffin (300 calories, 110 calories from fat, and 18 grams of protein)
Option #2: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal without Brown Sugar (260 calories, 40 calories from fat, and 5 grams of protein)
Sonic’s breakfast menu is extensive, but in terms of the nutritious offerings, it leaves much to be desired.
Option #1: If you’re really craving a morning trip to Sonic and want to make the healthiest choice possible, opt for the Jr. Breakfast Burrito (260 calories, 140 calories from fat, and 12 grams of protein).
Wendy's is working to offer more healthy options, and this sentiment certainly extends to its breakfast menu.
Option #1: Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Summer Berries (140 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein)
Option #2: Wendy’s Artisan Egg Sandwich with Applewood Smoked Bacon (380 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 19 grams of protein)
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