You know that breakfast is important, but when you're in a pinch in the morning, sometimes fast food is the quickest option. It's no secret that fast food isn't the healthiest or most nutritious option, but when it's the only option, whether you're traveling or running late for work, it helps to know how to make the best choices. Some menu items are definitely better than others.|
There are countless grab-n-go restaurants, each offering a different menu from the next, and with a little searching, you can find one option at each location that's lower in fat, sodium and calories than the others. Many fast food breakfasts can provide enough fat to last you all day, enough saturated fat for three days and sodium in levels that will make your blood pressure spike just looking at them. So how do you make the right choice?
Do your research before you're in a pickle so that you know what to order for your quickie meal. Nearly every fast food restaurant lists nutrition information on its website, and SparkPeople's nutrition experts have done the research for you, listing the best options (or lesser evils) for each restaurant in our Dining Out Guide. And here, we’ve put together a "best of breakfast" list to guide you through your morning. And with the heftiest breakfasts out there racking up around 1,000 calories, placing a smart order can help keep you continue achieving your goals even when you’re pressed for time.
When you’re ordering, look for keywords that will tip you off to selections that are higher in fat and calories. High-fat meats like sausage, bacon and steak are sure to add grams of fat (and saturated fat) to your breakfast. A bit of cheese on an egg can fit into a great calorie level for a meal, but extra cheddar topped on a breakfast sandwich or burrito can send it over the edge. Some restaurants add sauces to their meals that can amp up the calorie level, so stipulate no sauce or sauce on the side, if possible. Any menu choice with a biscuit will usually be higher in the calorie and fat department than English muffins or toast.
One thing you won’t find when you’re looking at the drive-thru menu is the presence (or amount) of trans fats in each food. Many restaurants have eliminated trans fats from certain menu items, a smart move because trans fat is now known to be the most unhealthful fat you can consume. It's so bad, that experts are saying we shouldn't eat any, yet some restaurant foods contain up to seven grams of trans fat. This is information you’ll need to seek out before you place your order. Trans fat should be avoided whenever possible. If the nutrition facts on a restaurant website don't list trans fat, be wary.
Below, we’ve done a bit of research for you by picking one breakfast item from each of eight popular fast food restaurants. None of these breakfast choices are ideal in terms of nutrition or health promotion, but if you’re going to choose fast food, these items have the fewest grams of fat, trans fat and calories at their respective locations. Note that the sodium levels are still quite high, as they are in most fast food options, so select lower sodium foods throughout the rest of the day to balance out your total sodium intake.
None of these items should be part of your diet on a regular basis, but as the occasional treat or breakfast on-the-run, you can make them fit into an otherwise balanced and healthy diet. For more healthy and quick breakfast ideas that you can grab from your own kitchen, check out these speedy morning meal ideas. And remember that with a little planning, breakfast can be quick, easy, and healthy.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.