We'll show you the healthiest choices (and splurge-only dishes) to help you order wisely when eggs are on the menu.
Credit: Illustration: Serge Bloch

Breakfast is good for you, and eggs are delicious and nutritious when cooked simply—poached, say, or lightly scrambled, with unbuttered whole-wheat toast and some homemade preserves.

But when the egg crosses the road to get to the restaurant side, it picks up a few habits on the way. A lot of gussying goes on, a tremendous laying-on of cheese and butter and salty meats, often in lumberjack quantities. Delicious, yes, but more than you need to start your day.

Getting back to the simple virtues of the egg is a matter of considering how the dish is described by the waiter, and, unless you're splurging, going easy on the sides. Dishes marked splurge only below aren't banned (no food is) but can be a really big indulgence. Nutrition numbers vary widely among restaurants; use these as a guideline.

Splurge Only:

  • Eggs Benedict
    669 calories
    Who doesn't love the decadence of poached eggs on an English muffin with salty smoked meat, smothered in hollandaise? But save and share for a splurge. It's as high in fat (18g sat) and sodium (2,196mg) as it sounds.
  • Huevos rancheros
    1,097 calories
    The eggs, beans, and salsa here start out virtuous, then party with cheese, sour cream, and a tortilla, resulting in half your daily calories and nearly all your sodium.

Ask Your Server:

  • Frittata
    594 calories
    The light and fluffy cousin to the quiche can be packed with delicious seasonal veggies (asparagus, yum). But hold or halve the starchy sides, and ask about creamy sauces on top.
  • Egg sandwich
    648 calories
    We found options ranging from 500 to nearly 1,000 calories, depending on fillings and the type of bread used (mega-bagel vs. English muffin). Pull out some meat or cheese if it looks overloaded.

Healthy Choice:

  • Two eggs
    173 calories
    Most restaurants use a little butter or oil to scramble or fry their eggs. That's fine; just swap traditional sides, like bacon and buttered toast, for smarter options, such as whole-wheat toast and fruit.
  • Veggie omelet
    537 calories
    A good choice, but quiz the server: Is this more egg and cheese than vegetables? If so, ask the kitchen to double the veggies and halve the cheese. You'll still get a deliciously satisfying breakfast.