It’s not always a reality to wake up early and cook yourself a nutrient-dense, leisurely meal every morning. With your foot-long to-do list and maybe even kids running around your knees, mornings can quickly become overwhelming. So, what to do? Although you may be initially disinclined to hit the drive-thru for your breakfast fix, many different chains across the country are expanding their menus to provide healthy fast-food breakfast options. And with over 190,000 franchised fast-food establishments in the US, you’re bound to run into one the moment you turn onto the highway.
To help you understand what, exactly, is “healthy” in comparison to the myriad of options lining the drive-thru menu, we’ve rounded up the most nutritional options from 14 different fast-food chains that run the gamut of both geography and taste. Specifically, we’ve looked for healthy breakfast options that are both high in protein—data shows that eating protein at breakfast helps control hunger throughout the day—and low in added sugars so that you won’t feel any unwanted crash once your meal is fully digested. We tried to keep the sodium content down too, although since fast food items are notoriously high in salt, that factor was sometimes hard to accomplish.
Important things to remember when choosing your fast-food breakfast are both portion control and your breakfast beverage while consuming. Ordering smaller portions and eating slowly are both contributors to healthy weight maintenance, and drinking sugar-packed drinks should be kept for a once-in-a-while treat vs. an everyday option.
If you are finding yourself frequently visiting fast-food restaurants and you don’t want your choices to completely derail your health goals, here are 14 healthy fast-food breakfast options to consider when it is time to enjoy your first meal of the day. Read on, and for more, don’t miss The 10 Best High-Protein Fast-Food Breakfast Orders.
NUTRITION: 320 calories, 4.5g fat (1.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 150mg sodium, 64g carbs (4g fiber, 31g sugar), 6g protein
In past years, McDonald’s has really upped their nutrition game, and they now offer a piping hot bowl of Fruit and Maple Oatmeal during the breakfast rush. Studies show that oatmeal helps reduce cholesterol and moderate blood sugar levels. Additionally, oatmeal is chocked full of nutrients such as manganese and various vitamins such as thiamine. Oats also contain a unique fiber called beta-glucans. Consuming this type of fiber may help the body lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
To give yourself the biggest nutrient boost, see if McDonald’s can either reduce or hold the added brown sugar, which will cut down on your added sugar count.
NUTRITION: 290 calories, 8g fat (3.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 840mg sodium, 34g carbs (3g fiber, 5g sugar), 20g protein
With a whopping 20 grams of protein and added iron from spinach, this Spinach, Feta, and Egg White Wrap is a powerhouse to get you up and ready for the day ahead. Although Starbucks offers plenty of other options, such as their classic lemon loaf or cake pops, eating these baked goods may leave you feeling hungry again within half an hour or less. As you’re noshing on your wrap, remember to be mindful of any added sugars in your coffee, and try to opt for low-sugar options to reduce any extraneous intake.
NUTRITION: 240 calories, 15g fat (6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 680mg sodium, 15g carbs (0g fiber, 1g sugar), 11g protein
Believe it or not, Dunkin’ offers more than just donuts (and addictive coffee)! This Wake-Up Wrap offers protein-packed eggs and cheese, and with the option of turkey sausage over traditional pork sausage or bacon, you can reduce both your fat and sodium consumption. Turkey also includes the nutrient selenium, which the National Institute of Health notes is an essential nutrient for proper reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection. But as turkey sausage is an ultra-processed meat, we recommend eating this meat in moderation instead of enjoying it every day.
NUTRITION: 370 calories, 19g fat (8g saturated fat, og trans fat), 1030mg sodium, 30g carbs (1g fiber, 5g sugar), 17g protein
Some fast food chains are harder to sift through for nutritional value than others, and Burger King is no exception. Of course, we don’t normally stop by the drive-thru because we’re going to run a marathon afterward, but it’s important to make sure that you’re making the healthiest possible choice. We’ve chosen Burger King’s Croissan’Wich Ham, Egg, and Cheese as the healthiest option since this sandwich offers 17 grams of protein with little sugar intake. With a higher sodium count, we recommend eating this breakfast in moderation so as to not vastly surpass the American Heart Association‘s ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
NUTRITION: 340 calories, 14g fat (3.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 770mg sodium, 44g carbs (3g fiber, 3g sugar), 9g protein
Both tomatoes and potatoes? Sign us up! Making your burrito “fresco” (aka, adding tomatoes), gives your breakfast a lycopene and Vitamin C kick, while potatoes are fiber-rich and full of potassium. With both eggs and cheese, the Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burrito has 9 grams of protein without any highly processed breakfast meats, so in comparison to many of Taco Bell’s other offerings, this is your best option for a nutrient-dense breakfast that will keep you full and satisfied until lunchtime. Unfortunately, though, it’s probably in your best interest to sip on a Baja Blast.
NUTRITION: 390 calories, 21g fat (7g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 910mg sodium, 34g carbs (1g fiber, 4g sugar), 17g protein
A “Bacon, Egg, and Cheese” is a classic American breakfast staple. Wendy’s offers their own personal take that boasts 17 grams of protein with only 4 grams of sugar. Additionally, Wendy’s menu notes that this English muffin offers 15% of your daily iron intake, a nutrient crucial to red blood cell formation and necessary to combat iron-deficiency anemia, which can lead to a slew of health issues such as fatigue and weakness. Additionally, this sandwich contains 8% of your daily calcium and 4% of your daily potassium needs. Of course, we recommend indulging in moderation, as this sandwich does come with a higher sodium count.
NUTRITION: 350 calories, 14g fat (5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 680mg sodium, 39g carbs (5g fiber, 5g sugar), 19g protein
Panera is known as one of the healthier “fast-food” chain restaurants on the market, and their breakfast items are no exception. Their Avocado, Egg White, Spinach & Cheese on Sprouted Grain Bagel is chock full of nutrients from Omega-3 fatty acid-rich avocado and heart-healthy egg whites, which are high in protein. Spinach is FULL of fiber (which helps in the digestion department) as well as nutrients such as folate, iron, and calcium. Additionally, a “sprouted” bagel simply means that the grains used in baking were first sprouted and then soaked in water until they germinated. Why do this? This method helps your body absorb the fiber and nutrients found in the grains!
NUTRITION: 270 calories, 14g fat (6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 870mg sodium, 22g carbs (1g fiber, 0g sugar), 13g protein
No matter what you eat, it’s all about portion control when it comes to achieving your nutritional goals and not so much about constantly focusing on the calories therein. So, while Sonic may not be your go-to fast food joint for healthy options, indulging in smaller portions never hurts. That’s where Sonic’s “Junior” breakfast burrito comes in. A slightly smaller version of their original Jr. Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Burrito, you’re still consuming 13 grams of protein and less than 300 calories which may help you stay on track toward your health goals.
NUTRITION: 270 calories, 9g fat (3.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 80mg sodium, 36g carbs (1g fiber, 26g sugar), 13g protein
Look past the chicken biscuits (we know how hard that can be!), and you’ll see that Chick-fil-A offers a Greek Yogurt Parfait made with organic vanilla bean Greek yogurt, which is a source of probiotics or live bacteria, which may aid in both digestion and keeping your bowel movements regular. Also, this parfait comes with low-sugar and antioxidant-rich berries and your choice of either granola or cookie crumbs on top. Of course, we recommend opting for the more nutritionally dense granola to avoid any unwanted grogginess once that sugar high crashes.
NUTRITION: 350 calories, 18g fat (6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 840mg sodium, 30g carbs (1g fiber, 4g sugar), 16g protein
What do most of these breakfasts have in common? Eggs, meat, and cheese, that’s what! And when eaten on a delicious bun in moderation, this can be a pretty balanced meal. The Breakfast Jack comes with grilled ham, egg (freshly cracked, no frozen egg patties here), as well as melted American cheese. Eggs are certainly one of the healthier options at any fast-food joint as one serving provides ample protein, 23% of your daily vitamin B12 (critical for your central nervous system), and it is one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient that helps support brain health.
NUTRITION: 430 calories, 19g fat (8g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat), 1280mg sodium, 42g carbs (2g fiber, 5g sugar), 24g protein
Whether your section of the country has Hardee’s or Carl’s Jr., your best option is the Frisco Breakfast Sandwich which comes with sliced ham, a folded egg, and both American and Swiss cheese. This sourdough sandwich is loaded with 24 grams of protein without the unnecessary sugar. Of course, certain fast food chains offer healthier options than others, and this sandwich does have a pretty high sodium count. That being said, we recommend consuming in moderation and consider drinking a tall glass of water besides your morning coffee to help mediate your sodium levels.
As one of the lighter options on our list, Tim Hortons’ <a rel=”noopener noreferrer external” href=”https://www.timhortons.com/menu/item-item_61669″ target=”_blank”>Avocado Toast is a great hand-held breakfast pick for those on the go. We know avocado has become a joke, with Millenials often at the receiving end, but hey, they know what they’re doing! Avocados are known for their healthy fats, fiber, and low-carb offerings. They are also a source of magnesium, a nutrient that many of us are not getting enough of!
[slidetitle num=”13″]Smoothie King: Gut Health Papaya Mango Ginger Smoothie[/slidetitle]
<img src=”https://www.eatthis.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2021/11/smoothie-king-small.jpg?quality=82&strip=all&w=640″ alt=”smoothie king small” width=”640″ height=”469″ />
[nutrinfo-black]NUTRITION: 190 calories, 0.5g fat (0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 60mg sodium, 56g carbs (5g fiber, 36g sugar), 2g protein
There are multiple nutrient-dense smoothies to choose from on the Smoothie King menu, but one that specifically caught our eye was the Gut Health Papaya Mango Ginger Smoothie. With zero added sugar, this smoothie is a great option to start your day on a wellness kick. Some studies show that papaya aids in constipation and bloating, and mango is jam-packed with antioxidants. Pro tip: ask for a scoop of protein powder when creating this drink, as the high sugar and low protein content of this beverage can leave you experiencing a sugar crash shortly after enjoying it.
NUTRITION: 420 calories, 19g fat (4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat), 840mg sodium, 45g carbs (3g fiber, 6g sugar), 17g protein
Einstein Bagels hosts a wide selection of offerings, but if you’re looking for something a bit more filling and nutritionally dense than your regular bagel with cream cheese, we recommend the Bacon, Avocado, and Tomato Bagel Sandwich. But we do suggest holding the bacon to save yourself a mouthful of sodium. Even without the bacon, this sandwich offers an impressive amount of satiating protein. Opt for a whole-grain bagel for more fiber and antioxidants.