Finding a Healthy Fast Food Breakfast Option
Posted on November 10, 2010
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day—and for many restaurant, that daypart is turning into one of the hottest money makers of the business. Fast food restaurants especially are ramping up their staff, food inventory and sunshine-themed menus to deliver new options for customers seeking morning munchies on-the-go.
If you’ve been reading our blogs lately, you’ve probably seen some of the statistics. Like the fact that breakfast wins over all other meals in terms of sales growth. Breakfast sandwiches are especially popular. In fact, 77% of customers say they purchase breakfast sandwiches sometimes or often on weekdays. The numbers have just kept increasing, too. Looking at quick service restaurants alone, about 1.4 billion more servings of egg-related items were sold in 2009 than in 2001. (Source)
And now, that trend is really taking off. Everyone wants to be part of the breakfast craze. Sub sandwich shops, pizza places and even well-known burger joints are rolling out brand new breakfast menus in hopes of luring sleepy-eyed customers through their drive-thrus for a jolt of caffeine and their first taste of saturated goodness.
Aha, you say. I’m already lining this up to be a bitter, biting blog about the downfalls of eating fast food breakfast! Well, I must admit that I am a pretty regular home-breakfast eater, mainly because I can barely get myself dressed and out the door in time for work, let alone through a drive-thru with correct change. But also, I find that eating at home practically guarantees a breakfast lower in sodium, saturated fats and overall calories than what I can typically find at fast food restaurant. But let’s take a look and see what quick serve restaurants have to offer these days (please bear in mind, this is just a small cross-section of popular offerings–and all info was found on their respective websites):
The Light Option: Go for the traditional Egg McMuffin. Not exactly light, but lighter than some other choices you could make. 300 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 820 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams fiber.
The Not-So-Light Option: McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hotcakes (and Large Size Biscuit). That puts you at 1,150 calories, 60 grams of fat (20 saturated), 2,260 mg of sodium, and 7 grams of fiber. Ouch. The plus side? You won’t have to eat anything else for the rest of the day.
The Light Option: Western Egg and Cheese breakfast sandwich. Check it out. Only 160 Calories, but still a sandwich! It has 4 grams of fat (1.5 saturated) and 15 grams of protein, with only 680 mg of sodium and a full 5 grams of fiber. Plus, you get a variety of flavors with the peppers, onion, and black forest ham. The Black Forest Ham, Egg and Cheese version is basically the same thing, only less “western.”
The Not-So-Light Option: Check out the the Steak, Egg and Cheese Sandwich. With 490 calories, 20 grams of fat (8 saturated) and 1,430 mg of sodium and 5 grams of fiber, you’re getting a hearty breakfast with this bad boy. The plus side is that you’re getting 31 grams of protein. Still, that’s a heck of a lot for breakfast.
The Light Option: For the lightest option, go for the BK Kids Breakfast Muffin Sandwich. This has 240 calories, 11 grams of fat (4 g saturated), 550 mg sodium and 1 g of fiber.
The Not-So-Light Option: The worst offender on the Burger King menu is the BK Ultimate Breakfast Platter. This comes with scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage patty, biscuit, and three pancakes (syrup, too). This has a total of 1,310 calories, 72 grams of fat (26 g saturated), 2,490 mg of sodium, and 5 g of fiber.
The Light Option: A mini scone option for light pairing with your morning coffee is the petite vanilla scone, with only 140 calories and 5 grams of fat. For something a little more substantial, try the Asiago Bagel, with only 310 calories and 4.5 grams of fat (hold the cream cheese, though)!
The Not-So-Light Option: Although it sounds innocent, the Raspberry Scone packs 500 calories, 26 grams of fat and only 2 grams of fiber. And don’t be fooled; the Zucchini Walnut Muffin isn’t much better, with 490 calories and 28 grams of fat.
As you can see, the choices vary across the board. But, it’s not all bad! There are some perfectly healthful and smart options out there, from every type of quick serve restaurant. Despite my preference to enjoy my own home-made breakfast in the warmth of my comfy kitchen, I do think there are some great things about fast food breakfast. Although restaurants want to take advantage of opportunities to serve a population with growing demand., people always have a choice. Restaurants are often even required to post nutritional information online or on their menus, so you have access to everything you need to make an informed decision. So, next time you find yourself in the drive-thru line, consider your body’s needs, not necessarily how well the restaurant is marketing their newest breakfast sandwich or platter as the most delicious thing ever to grace the planet. There are good choices to be made, and you can take advantage of the healthy options that are out there.
So what do you think? What’s most important to you when it comes to choosing a healthy fast food breakfast? Or does “healthy” take the backseat when you hit the drive-thru?