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Breakfast on the Go?
While high-fat, high-calorie breakfasts abound at the nation's fast-food restaurants, most chains offer at least one or two healthier items -- if you must fill up at a drive-through. Cruise our photo gallery of the worst offenders and better choices to fuel your day. WebMD doesn't endorse these “better bets” for everyone, since some still may be too high in sodium or calories for your diet.
McDonald's: Worst Choice
Take a pass on McDonald's Big Breakfast with Hot Cakes. It'll weigh you down with 1,090 calories, 56 g fat, and 19 g saturated fat -- close to the daily limit for this unhealthy fat. Even the biscuit is loaded with saturated fat, topping even the sausage patty or eggs. The sodium hits 2,150 mg, nearly the daily limit.
McDonald's: Better Bet
The Egg McMuffin is a better choice under the golden arches at 300 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, and 2 g fiber. Lean Canadian bacon offers protein and a meaty taste with very little fat. In any restaurant, ask for the nutrition information. Items with some fiber and protein will keep you satisfied for hours. Sodium watchers take note: the Egg McMuffin has 820 mg.
Burger King: Worst Choice
Skip the Double Croissan'wich with Double Sausage, which comes in at 700 calories, 49 g fat, 18 g saturated fat, and 1,510 mg sodium. Burger King stacks two sausage patties, double cheese, and fried eggs on a giant buttery croissant bun. This high-calorie, high-fat sandwich contains almost a day's worth of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
Burger King: Better Bet
The Egg and Cheese Croissan'wich offers fast-food taste at a nutritional cost that many people can afford: 320 calories, 16 g fat, and 7 g of saturated fat. The sodium content may be a tough fit for restricted diets at 690 mg. Eleven grams of protein will help keep you feeling full until lunch.
Jack in the Box: Worst Choice
Steer clear of the Sirloin Steak & Egg Burrito with Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa. Jack in the Box loads a flour tortilla with scrambled eggs, steak, greasy hash browns, and cheese. It contains a whopping 821 calories, 50 g fat, and 15 g saturated fat, along with 1,616 mg of sodium. The burrito does provide 38 grams of protein, if you don't mind eating 50 grams of fat along with it.
Jack in the Box: Better Bet
The Breakfast Jack has better nutrition numbers than many breakfast choices with 283 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, and 16 g of protein to fuel your day. As with most fast-food items, the sodium could be a problem for some at 789 mg. The Breakfast Jack is simply a hamburger bun with fried egg, ham, and American cheese.
Skip Carl's Jr. for Breakfast
The Breakfast Burger leads an unhealthy parade at Carl's Jr. It's a tall stack of beef, egg, bacon, cheese, and hash brown nuggets -- adding up to 800 calories, 42 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, and 1,440 mg of sodium. The Loaded Breakfast Burrito adds sausage to the same fatty list of ingredients for equally bad nutrition numbers. French Toast Dips have less saturated fat but too much total fat and calories to be recommended.
Dunkin' Donuts: Worst Choices
Stay away from the high fat Sausage Egg and Cheese Croissant (690 calories, 48 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, 1,340 mg sodium), as well as the Sausage Egg and Cheese Bagel (690 calories, 35 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, and 1,650 mg sodium).
Dunkin' Donuts: Better Bets
The Egg and Cheese on an English Muffin sandwich comes in at 320 calories, 15 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 14 g protein, 1 g fiber, and 820 mg of sodium. The protein will help will keep you going strong through the morning. Choose a wheat bagel to bump up the fiber to 5 grams.
Starbucks: Worst Choice
The Cranberry Orange Scone is one of several high-fat, sugary treats at Starbucks that probably won't keep you full until lunch, despite a hefty calorie count. Indulgences like this icing-topped scone vary in flavorings by restaurant, but any scone is a buttery affair. This one contains 490 calories, 18 g fat, 2 g fiber, and 8 g protein. Note that the saturated fat -- 9 grams -- is 45% of the daily limit.
Starbucks: Better Bets
The Egg White, Spinach, and Feta Wrap caters nicely to health-conscious commuters in a hurry. It's easy to eat out of hand and contains just 280 calories, 10 g fat, and 3.5 g of saturated fat. Ample protein (18 g) and fiber (6 g) help keep you full. Oatmeal with a Nut Medley Topping is another good choice at 240 calories. Or try the Greek Yogurt Honey Parfait with 290 calories.
Subway: Worst Choice
The 6" Sunrise Subway Breakfast Melt is best avoided if you're watching your waistline. Turkey, bacon, ham, cheese, and egg whites do boost the protein to 37 grams. But the calories and fat are too high for good nutrition. The nutrition numbers add up to 540 calories, 23 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, and a whopping 1,980 mg of sodium.
Subway: Better Bet
The Egg White and Cheese Omelet Muffin Melt Sandwich is a better choice at Subway with 140 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 12 g protein, 490 mg sodium, and 5 g fiber. It comes on a light wheat English muffin for a healthy high-protein, high-fiber, portable meal. Add tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, or other low-cal choices from Subway's famous spread of toppings to boost the flavor.
Benefits of a Healthy Morning Meal
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day -- it gives you energy to start the day and is linked to many health benefits. Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast can help give you a nutritionally complete diet, higher in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals; better weight control; improved concentration and performance in the classroom or the boardroom; more strength and energy to engage in physical activity; and lower cholesterol levels.
Bottom Line on Breakfast
If you find yourself at a fast-food chain in the morning, always opt for the healthiest breakfast options, or eat a smaller portion and save the other half. You can eat out healthfully, but nothing compares to the numerous breakfast options at home, from an egg and whole-wheat toast to a whole-grain breakfast parfait with fruit and yogurt. Short on time? Pack it the night before and take it along with you.
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