Breakfast is a great way to start the day, but if you’re eating out, you have to pick and choose carefully to avoid high-calorie landmines.
To help people sort through the maze of choices, the editors of Health magazine (health.com) worked with nutrition experts to study the calories and other nutrition facts of breakfasts offered at popular chain restaurants.
To make the magazine’s list of the healthiest fast-food breakfasts, the meals had to be no more than 400 calories, be low in saturated fat and have a good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, says Ellen Kunes, the magazine’s editor in chief.
They also had to have at least 3 grams of fiber and contain less than 700 milligrams of sodium, she says. All but the No. 10 selection on the list, Panera Bread’s breakfast power sandwich, met the sodium standard.
Nutritionists have long talked about the importance of starting the day with a healthful meal. “Eating breakfast helps fuel your brain for mental alertness, and it prevents you from being hungry and snacking on less-than-healthy foods before lunch,” Kunes says.
“It’s the best chance to get some good stuff into your diet: fiber, fruit and calcium. Those are things that most people don’t get enough of.”
The top 10
Editors at Health magazine gave USA TODAY an advance look at their top 10 picks for healthy chain-restaurant breakfasts, which will be featured in the March issue:
1. Cosi’s spinach Florentine breakfast wrap, 334 calories.
2. Starbucks’ protein artisan snack plate with a hard-boiled egg, cheddar cheese and apple slices, multigrain muesli bread, grapes and honey-butter spread, 370 calories.
3. Jamba Juice’s berry topper ideal meal, 12 ounces, made with yogurt, soy milk, strawberries, blueberries, banana and topped with pumpkin flaxseed granola, 300.
4. Au Bon Pain’s apple-cinnamon oatmeal, 12 ounces, 280 calories.
5. Denny’s scrambled egg whites, chicken sausage and fruit, 230 calories.
6. McDonald’s fruit and maple oatmeal, without brown sugar, 260 calories.
7. IHOP’s simple and fit veggie omelet, 320 calories.
8. Subway’s Western egg white and cheese muffin melt, 160 calories.
9. Dunkin’ Donuts’ egg white turkey sausage wake-up wrap, 150 calories.
10. Panera Bread’s breakfast power sandwich, made with Vermont white cheddar and smoked lean ham, 330 calories.