The Healthiest Fast Food Breakfasts
By: Text: Karen Ansel, RD
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it’s also the one we have the least time for. But before you go without – or grab an oversized bagel or donut – check out the latest fast food offerings. Many are actually good for you and slimming too.
When it comes to breakfast on the run, it can be hard to find one with plenty of protein that’s not also oozing with saturated fat. Enter Starbuck's Protein Bistro Box, an energizing combo of fruit, peanut butter, a hard cooked egg, and multigrain muesli bread. Together these deliver the perfect balance of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats to help you power through your morning. One serving provides 380 calories, 5 grams fiber, 19 g fat and 13 g protein. Pair it with a cup of green tea for an added antioxidant boost.
The folks at Subway make putting your breakfast sandwich on a diet a breeze. Simply swap egg whites for whole eggs on their Egg & Cheese sandwich and ditch the gooey cheese entirely. Then, ask for yours on an English muffin and pile it high with spinach, tomatoes, peppers and heart-smart avocado. The result: a full serving of veggies to kick off your day along with 20% of your daily quota of vitamins A and C. You’ll also score 11 grams of protein and 6 grams of satisfying fiber for a mere 180 calories and 5 grams of fat. If you need an extra protein boost, add lean ham or turkey to your sandwich.
If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol this heart-smart breakfast from Au Bon Pain has your name on it. Not only does it contain the cholesterol-lowering fiber beta-glucan, it also supplies avenanthramides, antioxidants exclusively found in oats that protect against atherosclerosis. And because it’s water-rich it’s naturally low in calories, so you can dig into a big bowlful. Made from rolled oats and apples and sweetened with a touch of honey and sugar, one heaping 16-ounce bowlful provides only 370 calories. Nine grams of filling fiber and 11 grams of slowly-digested protein mean it’s also guaranteed to fend off midmorning hunger pangs.
Jamba’s Ideal Meals™ make the perfect breakfast when there’s no time for breakfast. Part smoothie, part yogurt parfait, this meal has it all combining bananas, peaches, mangos, soymilk, and non-fat yogurt with a crunchy organic pumpkin flaxseed granola topping. One 12-oz serving has only 320 calories and 5 grams of fat and supplies 6 grams of fiber and at least half your daily dose of vitamins A and C. Order yours with an extra Whey Protein Superboost for a total of 19 grams of satiating protein.
You may think of it as the home of the Egg McMuffin but McDonald’s also dishes up a simpler – and healthier – scrambled egg breakfast. Just order each item individually (no oversized platters please!) and be sure to bypass the breakfast meat. Try a side of scrambled eggs, an English muffin, strawberry preserves, and a large coffee for 355 calories and half the sodium you’d get from the McMuffin.
If you think breakfast just isn’t breakfast without the meat, this sandwich is for you. By trading ham for bacon, Jack in the Box has managed to whip up one of the lightest breakfast ‘wiches around with just 283 calories and 11 grams of fat. Wash it down with an OJ and you’ll score a hefty dose of heart-healthy potassium and more than 100% of your day’s vitamin C.
Who says you can’t start your day on the sweet side? Instead of a giant cinnamon roll, check out this perfectly sized portion of French toast strips from Burger King. Three strips with a 1-ounce container of syrup provide 350 calories, 11 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat. And it’s unusually low in sodium with only 275 milligrams per serving. Grab an 8-oz jug of fat free milk along with it for an additional protein boost plus a third of your day’s calcium.
Get your omega-3 fix first thing with this savory bagel 'wich from Einstein Bros. You can make it even better with a few healthy tweaks. First, choose Einstein's lowest fat spread, the plain whipped light cream cheese schmear. Then ask for your sandwich on a whole-wheat bagel thin. You'll walk away for a surprisingly light 313 calories. If the 12 grams of fat sends off alarm bells, you can relzx. It's heart-healthy thanks to a generous serving of DHA-rich smoked salmon plus fiber-filled whole grains. In addition to their hearty flavor and texture, downing two and a half servings of whole grains a day can reduce your hearat disease risk by 21 percent according to a recent study.
These days Dunkin’ Donuts serves up a lot more than, well, donuts. Thanks to its new DDSmart menu Dunkin’ now has some of the lightest breakfast offerings around with at least 25% less fat and calories than the usual fast food fixins. We’re still not exactly sure how they do it but their Egg White & Cheese Wake-Up Wrap is about as good as it gets with only 150 calories and 6 grams of fat. Pair it with a small Latte Lite and you’ll walk out the door for fewer than 230 calories.