Fall is here, kids are back to school, and the hectic life has started again. Are you like many other Americans who don’t have time to fix a decent breakfast at home? These days, fast food restaurants and cafes on every corner are luring you with their grab-and-go breakfast offerings. Whether you are sleep-driving just to find yourself at the drive-through again, or craving a bite while you’re grabbing your morning caffeine fix, you can still make your fast food breakfast healthy by choosing wisely.
Best Fast Food Restaurants for Breakfast
The first important choice you need to make is where you will be buying your breakfast. We don’t like to play favorites, but some chains simply offer better choices overall. Our top picks are Subway and Starbucks.
Although there are still plenty of questionable choices at Subway, you are safe if you stick with their Egg Muffin Melts family. Available in either whole egg or egg whites, all Egg Muffin Melts (except for “Double Bacon, Egg, and Cheese”) are good choices. All the Egg Muffin Melts but one have less than 200 calories, less than 7 grams fat, under 700 mg sodium, and at least 5 grams of fiber. Comprised of a grain product (English muffin), a protein (egg), and a dairy product (cheese), an Egg Muffin Melt can be considered a balanced breakfast.
Best Choice: Egg White and Cheese Egg Muffin Melt (140 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 490 mg sodium, and 5 grams fiber)
Breakfast at Starbucks used to mean sweet pastries only, until a few years ago when they launched their hot breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal. Since most of their hot breakfast sandwiches are still high in fat and sodium, your best bets are the Egg White, Spinach, and Feta Wrap (280 calories, 10 grams fat, 6 grams fiber) and Perfect Oatmeal (with brown sugar, dried fruits, or nut toppings). We have to admit that we are pleasantly surprised by the goodness of Starbucks’ Perfect Oatmeal. It’s made with whole grain rolled oats, and when topped with dried fruits, it is as good and balanced as a homemade breakfast (e.g., 1 cup Cheerios with 1/2 cup skim milk plus a banana, which has 255 calories, 1.3 grams fat, and 6 grams fiber).
Best Choice: Perfect Oatmeal topped with dried fruits (240 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 105 mg sodium, and 6 grams fiber)
Other Decent Fast Food Breakfast Choices
If you can’t make it to Subway or Starbucks, we have found a few okay options at other popular fast food joints:
- Jack-in-the-Box: Breakfast Jack – 283 calories, 11 grams fat, 780 mg sodium, 1 gram fiber
- McDonald’s: Egg McMuffin – 300 calories, 12 grams fat, 820 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber
- Burger King: Cheesy Bacon BK Wrapper – 380 calories, 24 grams fat, 1020 mg sodium
Caution: The above three are high in sodium, so they are not the best option if you’re watching your sodium intake.
The Bottom Line
You can still save the day by making the right decision for your fast food breakfast. Choose menu items with whole grains and low-fat protein sources, and add fruits or vegetables if you can. Don’t blow your fat and sodium quota: steer clear of biscuits and croissants; avoid extra cheese, bacon, and sausage; and watch your portions.
Owennie is a registered dietitian with a soft spot for chocolate and coffee. She is a believer in balance and moderation, and is committed to keeping healthy eating enjoyable and fun. Owennie received her dietetics training in Vancouver, and is a member of Dietitians of Canada and the College of Dietitians of British Columbia. She has experience in a wide variety of settings, such as clinical nutrition, long-term care and outpatient counseling. Owennie has also worked for a community nutrition hotline and participated regularly as a guest radio host, where she enjoyed sharing her passion and knowledge about food and nutrition with people.