Ideally, you won’t be able to find the ‘perfect’ healthy fast food breakfast. Instead, your morning on-the-go breakfast at fast food restaurants will mostly turn out into a complete diet disaster.
I mean, just look at the composition. It’s nothing but piles of calorie bombs with saturated fat and sodium. Doesn’t that concern you?
Especially when your morning always gets way more hectic than any other time in a day:
You’re in a great rush, but have no food to make any healthy breakfasts from, and there’re still thousands of things you need to get done.
And you still want to skip the breakfast power?
If you ever do that, all that’s left will be you in the dust.
Here’s the thing:
According to Consumer Reports, breakfast still sits at the top of meals ranking as the most important meal in a day, so you have no choice but to go after it even in your busiest days.
The good news is, you can easily find breakfast menus that are surprisingly light but filling enough for your empty stomach.
Like the thorough observation at fast-food restaurant done by Consumer Reports at Panera Bread, Burger King’s, Jamba Juices, Taco Bells, etc, the section below will guide you in choosing the healthiest fast-food breakfasts that are actually healthy and tasty.
Before we start, let’s dig in deeper to what ‘healthy’ here really means:
When I say healthy, it doesn’t mean that the nutrients inside should be exactly as good as your own homemade breakfast. That’s like comparing organic vegetables to the fake ones. Impossible.
But at least, they’re good enough to do two things:
- Keep you energized ‘till you grab your lunch.
- Does not ruin your diet or any healthy eating program.
Even though the later-suggested breakfast items won’t fit exactly like the list below, here are a few criteria for the healthiest breakfasts to help you choose one.
Here are a few criteria for the healthiest option for breakfast. Keep in mind that even though most of the breakfast items that made the cut does fit the list below, some of them may not. And it’s still alright.
- Moderate portions
Based on Consumer Reports, almost every healthy breakfast option available stay safe under 400 calories in total.
- Includes an ideal amount of fiber
Similar to tips on how you choose the healthiest salad, one serving of your breakfast wrap must contain enough amount of fiber. Having it inside the wakeup wraps can help you keep away with hunger.
- Carries enough protein
I’ve explained about how fiber and protein work well together in making you feel longer, so having a menu item that has reasonable amount of fiber and protein won’t likely get you starving before lunch. A menu with around 10 grams of protein inside is ideal.
- Got no trans fat
Trans fat—or unsaturated fatty acids have great, bad correlation to heart disease. That should be enough reason to exclude it from your meal.
- What about the drinks?
The criteria above are made for food, but to stick to right guidelines, it’s suggested for you to choose mineral water over soda, sugary coffee drink, or smoothie. (Psst, not all smoothie are actually healthy)
Nah, you’re all ready now. Then, it’s time to go find your soulmate with these fast-food breakfast choices below!
1. Au Bon Pain
Au Bon Pain offers more breakfast items that contain higher calories and sodiums than the healthy criteria we have above. For instance, their Asiago bagel holds a total of 660 calories, 16 grams of trans fat, and 1,140 milligrams of sodium. The trans fat it has—that we’ve promised to ditch from the start—is 80% of the total saturated fats we’re allowed to consume per day.
Amongst them, the variants with decent nutrition would be its Egg White & Cheddar on Skinny Wheat Bagel and Egg. Roughly, it only clocks in at 210 calories, 610 mg of sodium, and 7 grams of fat—with 6 grams of saturated fat. But the amount of protein is satisfying; 20 grams and additional 9 grams of fiber.
Do you want to hear a better news?
It’s vegetarian safe.
But if you don’t want eggs to start your day, Au Bon Pain’s Classic Cinnamon Oatmeal can be the one satisfying your hunger. It comes with almonds, lots of raisins, and brown sugar.
I personally love oatmeal more, but you may want to think twice for its calorie level: 338 calories—though it’s still behind the limit. The cup also contains moderate amount of fiber and protein with 7 grams and 10 grams, perspectively.
Dietitians lay their favorite Au Bon Pain menu to this oatmeal as well, reasoning that the bowl consists of 2 different kinds of fiber with relatively strong health benefits:
- The soluble fiber: helps stabilize your blood pressure.
- The insoluble fiber: protects us from constipation.
A little tip: add a few nuts or greek yogurts to increase your protein intake.
But if you prefer cereals over oatmeals, Au Bon Pain has the ultimate breakfast platter for you: Superfood Cranberry Almond Hot Cereal.
The name says everything. It has whole oats, cranberries, almonds, quinoa, sunflower seeds, amaranth, pepitas and raw flax seeds. Plus, it serves you the lowest calories and rather high protein and fiber compared to its oatmeal: only 170 cals, 9 g protein, and 7 g fiber.
Starbucks probably has the most breakfast platters that suit the phrase ‘tasty but healthy’. Outside its undoubtedly savory bakery and delightful coffees, the Egg and Cheese Protein Box is the main star here.
The package steals the highest spot by having every nutrition you need in a breakfast menu:
From fiber, protein, whole grains, all the way to fresh dairy produce — Dr. Frances Largeman, senior nutrition editor at Health Magazine.
You’ll get to nip on yummy hard-boiled egg (there’re two of them, yay!), sliced apples and white cheddar cheese, grapes, and multi-grain muesli bread. The dressing will be honey peanut butter.
With lots of individual food to eat, this menu’s considered low in calories (if not, safe) with 370 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 13 gr protein, and only 470 mg sodium. On the other hand, it’s pretty high in fats (19g), but most of them come from the peanut butter and are unsaturated, so it’s fine.
A little tip: to suppress the fat, you can skip half of the cheese of the peanut butter.
An alternative is its equally-tasty Spinach & Feta Breakfast Wrap that weighs only 290 of calories, with 19 grams of protein, 6 gr fiber, and only 10 grams of fat. The downside is on its relatively high sodium: 830 mg.
Karen Ansel, Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging author said that eating one portion of Starbucks’ Spinach Wrap is enough to fulfill a quarter of your calcium need and almost half of your vitamin A per day.
But when I say that Starbucks offers us lots of tasty but healthy fast food breakfast, it really does. Aside from the previous menus, it still got two great options:
- Blueberry Oatmeal that comes with pumpkin seeds, fruit, nuts, and topped with agave syrup ranks the healthiest according to Elliot Weiller from Consumer Reports. It contains 271 calories with only 5.5. grams of fat. Isn’t that amazing?
- Reduced-fat Turkey Bacon Egg Sandwich may not be the tastiest among other breakfast sandwiches, but it got the lowest calories: 210 cals only with considerably-high protein: 18 grams.
However, every place has its ups and downs. In Starbucks’ case, it’s their yogurt parfait which has over 20 grams of sugar each. It’s surely a big no.
McDonald’s has more quite complicated menus:
“The two healthiest breakfast menus are also the ones ranking on the top with most sodium inside”, as reported by Consumer Reports.
McDonald’s Egg White Delight McMuffin clocks in at only 280 calories with 16 grams of protein. But, its sodium is more than half of the amount you can take in a day: 680 mg.
Do you know that McDonald’s burgers offers a healthy burger?
While the famous Egg McMuffin goes for about the same in compositions: 300 calories, 18 gr protein, 12 gr fat, and a higher amount of sodium—730 milligrams of sodium.
But, do you want to know the worst fast-food breakfast McDonald’s has?
It’s the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes that holds 1,350 calories in total with 65 grams of fat, and the big surprise: 2,100 mg of sodium. The amount nearly reaches the limit of our daily recommendation of sodium.
Another breakfast bomb it has is the Sausage Egg and Cheese with 530 calories—far exceed our healthy tips’ limit, 34 gr fat, an additional 1,140 mg of sodium.
You better start reminding yourself to exclude it from your breakfast choice.
That’s why my ideal recommendation lands to Fruit and Maple Oatmeal without Brown Sugar.
Wait, why do you have to exclude the brown sugar?
Look. The regular oatmeal has a whopping 33 grams of sugar and the unsweetened version only weighs for 18 gr of sugar. Its calories also decrease from 290 to 260 cals, with static 5 grams of fiber and protein.
Like Starbucks’, this bowl also has diced fresh apples, raisins, dried cranberries, and cream.
4. Dunkin’ Donuts
What is Dunkin’ Donuts famous for? The doughnuts, obviously.
Never did you know, the Donut place has quite underrated healthy recipes on their cheese breakfast line.
Egg White Turkey Sausage Wake-up Wrap ranks first with only 150 calories, 5 g fat, 11 g protein. There’s just one gram of fiber inside, but let’s call it even with its-also-low sodium: 400 mg.
The low-calorie key sets on its reduced-fat cheddar cheese, spinach, turkey sausage, and egg whites.
The runner-up goes to Whole Grain Oatmeal topped with dried fruits, with 310 cals and 2 gr fat.
Then, there’s Veggie Egg White Flatbread that ain’t really low in sodium nor calories, but is safe to be your healthy indulgence. It carries 330 calories with 570 mg sodium, 18 gr protein, and 14 gr fats.
5. Chick-fil-A Egg White Grill
I have one thing to admit here.
Though Chick-fil-A does have fairly healthy-yet-tasty-salad, its most decent white breakfast is Egg White Grill, only.
You won’t doubt this restaurant for its taste, but the nutrition is quite a pain to think of.
Jessica Ivey says, “ Help is here this English muffin comes with less saturated fats than other biscuits in Chick-fil-a’s menu.”
Each serving comes in 300 calories with 25 grams protein and only 7 g fat, but it’s pretty high in sodium; 970 milligrams.