For more than a decade, McDonald's Egg McMuffin with its egg, Canadian bacon, American cheese slice, and classic English muffin has ranked as the healthiest fast food breakfast in America. Truth be told, it really is one of the best drive-thru options when you need something filling, fast, but not detrimental to your daily nutritional goals. And because it's available on their all-day breakfast menu, you know you have a trusted go-to no matter when you stop by the Golden Arches.
One McMuffin has 300 calories, 12g fat, 6g saturated fat, 2g fiber, 17g protein, and 710mg sodium. Compared to many other options that are equally convenient, this is a standard pick for health-conscious eaters.
But now, thanks to a breakfast menu introduction from Chick-fil-A, the McMuffin has some competition.
The Breakfast Breakdown
With its 25 grams of protein, Chick-fil-A's new Egg White Grill beats out the Egg McMuffin as the healthiest fast food breakfast. For the filling high-protein and lower-calorie rankings, this breakfast sandwich just can't be topped. One sandwich has 300 calories, 7g fat, and 3g saturated fat, and a whopping 26g protein. The fiber number is low at just 1g—though they do earn bonus points for using a "multigrain" English muffin (whole grain would be better)—and the sodium number creeps up to 970mg. If you're watching sodium numbers, ask for the biscuit without cheese, and you'll slash over 200mg.
Note: McDonald's Egg White Delight does have 50 fewer calories than both the traditional McMuffin and the Egg White Grill, but that sandwich's protein number comes in at 17g. If you're strictly counting calories, this might be a better option.
Drive-thrus are often a dieter's trap. Take, for example, McDonald's Bacon, Egg, and Cheese. On the surface, this biscuit sandwich doesn't seem too different from the Egg McMuffin. Besides swapping bacon for Candian ham, the fillings are very similar. The bread, however, is quite different. Swap a biscuit for an English muffin, and the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese's numbers tally up to 440 calories, 24g fat, 12g saturated fat, and 1260mg sodium. You do get 2g filling fiber and 19g protein, but the damage is done. One biscuit has over three-quarters of your daily sat fat limit and over half your sodium.
You'll shell out a few more dollars with the Egg White Grill. One sandwich is just under $4, while McDonald's typically prices their Egg McMuffin at close to $2.
So How Does It Taste?
This is your typical fast-food breakfast. It's overly salty, which you can likely tell by the sodium numbers. If you're sensitive to salt or watching your numbers, this isn't ideal. One sandwich is almost 40 percent of the USDA's 2300mg daily limit. Look instead for an option like protein-rich Greek yogurt parfaits. Skip granola and ask for fresh fruit to cut added sugar.
Even if sodium isn't a concern for health or medical reasons, be sure to balance out the rest of your day's meals with lower-sodium options so you don't go overboard. (This is true for both sandwiches, by the way.) Skip the condiments, and add a slice of fresh tomato to your breakfast sandwich for a fresh kick.
Bottom line: Should this be your breakfast every day? Absolutely not. But sometimes, we all need something fast, and offerings are getting better. The more fast-food restaurants feel the push of consumers who want healthier options, the better the options will be. Fast-casual restaurants like Panera and Chipotle are building menus designed for health-conscious eaters, but even their menus can be nutritional traps. It's important you find an option that suits your tastes and goals. And as we all know, when you find a fast option that you can trust and enjoy, it's easy to return to your favorites again and again.
The next time you find yourself in need of a filling breakfast that won't devastate your nutritional goals, remember there's a new breakfast champion in town.