Breakfast from some of the nation's fast-food restaurants could be a high-fat, high-calorie affair. But most chains offer healthier options, too. Think about what you need: Even these "better bets" aren't for everyone. Some still may be too high in salt or calories for you.
McDonald's: Not the Best Choice
Take a pass on the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes. It packs 1,350 calories, 65 grams of fat, and 25 grams of saturated fat -- over the daily limit for saturated fat for most people. The sodium hits 2,100 milligrams, nearly the total daily limit of 2,300 milligrams doctors recommend.
McDonald's: Better Bets
The Egg McMuffin is a better choice under the golden arches at 300 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 6 grams of saturated fat. Lean Canadian bacon offers protein and a meaty taste with much less fat. Note that it's high in sodium: 750 milligrams. You could also choose the Egg White Delight McMuffin. It has 280 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 6 grams of saturated fat. But at 690 milligrams, it still has a lot of sodium.
Burger King: Not the Best Choice
Skip the King Croissan'wich with Sausage & Bacon, which comes in at 620 calories,44 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, and 1,380 milligrams of sodium. Burger King stacks a sausage patty, thick bacon, double cheese, and eggs on a giant buttery croissant bun. Another one to pass up: the KingCroissan'wich with Double Sausage. It has 700 calories, 51 grams of fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, and 1,410 milligrams of sodium.
Burger King: Better Bet
The Egg & Cheese Croissan'wich has 300 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat. The sodium count may be tough for limited diets at 580 milligrams. Eleven grams of protein will help keep you feeling full until lunch.
Jack in the Box: Not the Best Choice
Steer clear of the Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito. Jack in the Box fills a flour tortilla with sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon crumbles, and cheese. It has 1,044 calories, 90 grams of fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, and 2,131 milligrams of sodium. The burrito does provide 35 grams of protein, but it takes a big chunk of your daily fat and calorie limit.
Jack in the Box: Better Bet
The Breakfast Jack is a hamburger bun with fried egg, ham, and American cheese. It has better nutrition numbers, with 350 calories, 18 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, and 16 grams of protein. As with many fast-food items, the fat content is still high, as is the sodium: 840 milligrams.
Starbucks: Not the Best Choice
Tempted by the Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich? Walk away. You’ll take in 500 calories, 28 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, and 15 grams of protein.
Starbucks: Better Bets
The Spinach & Feta Breakfast Wrap is a better pick. It's easy to eat out of hand and has 290 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 3.5 grams of saturated fat. Lots of protein (19 grams) and fiber (6 grams) help keep you full. Classic Whole-Grain Oatmeal is another good choice, at 160 calories before toppings. Or try the Greek Yogurt Parfait -- dressed with fresh berries and honey, it has 240 calories.
Subway: Not the Best Choice
The 6-inch Bacon, Egg and Cheese can be too much for some low-calorie diets. Subway folds the makings of a classic breakfast into flatbread. It packs 25 grams of protein, which should keep you feeling more than full. But the other stats are a bit high: It has 460 calories, 21 grams of total fat, 67 grams of saturated fat, and 1,370 milligrams of sodium.
Subway: Better Bet
Pare down to the 3-inch Egg & Cheese with egg whites. It's a better choice, with 170 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of protein, and 490 milligrams of sodium. Add tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, or other low-calorie choices to boost the flavor.
It could be, at least for some, the most important meal of the day. Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast can help give you a balanced diet that's higher in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It may also help you keep your weight down and your concentration and energy levels high.
Bottom Line on Breakfast
If you head to a fast-food chain in the morning, go for the healthiest items on the menu, or eat a smaller portion and save the other half. You can make good choices if you plan ahead. Or pack your own good-for-you breakfast at home the night before.
(1) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
(2) Photo courtesy of McDonald's
(3) Photo courtesy of McDonald's
(4) Photo courtesy of Burger King
(5) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
(6) Photo courtesy of Jack in the Box Inc.
(7) Photo courtesy of Jack in the Box Inc.
(8) Photo courtesy of Starbucks
(9) Photo courtesy of Starbucks
(10) Photo courtesy of Subway
(11) Anna Webb/WebMD
(12) Rubberball / Getty Images
(13) Michael Rosenfeld / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images
Farshchi, H. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005.
Jack in the Box.
Timlin, M. Pediatrics, March 1, 2008.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010."
Van der Heijden, A. Obesity, October 2007.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.