How to Choose a Healthy Fast Food Breakfast

Three Parts:Making Fast Food Breakfasts more NutritiousFinding More Nutritious Foods at Fast Food RestaurantsOrdering Healthy Fast Food Breakfast Options

Grabbing a quick breakfast at a fast food restaurant is an easy way to get in a tasty meal if you're running late in the mornings. The meals are served up quick and are inexpensive. However, eating fast food breakfast on a regular basis can lead to some health problems. Many fast food breakfast items are overly high in calories, fat, sodium and sugar. Overtime, this can lead to weight gain and obesity which puts you at a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.[1] Review menus and different breakfast items so you can choose a healthier and more nutritious breakfast at your favorite fast food restaurant.

Part 1
Making Fast Food Breakfasts more Nutritious

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    Order a favorite main and a healthier side or vice versa. Another option to keep fast food meals a little bit more nutritious is by doing a 50/50 deal between a favorite item and a more nutritious item.
    • For example, if you're craving a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich - go for it. But instead of the hash brown as a side, get the fruit cup instead.
    • By making that 50/50 deal you're increasing the nutrition of your overall meal and most likely saving yourself a few calories as well.[2]
    • Many fast food restaurants offer healthier side items to their meals. You may need to read the entire menu to see what they offer. However, fruit cups, apple slices and baby oranges are more common and more available.
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    Choose a leaner protein source. One negative of some of the common breakfast options at fast food restaurants is the high fat meats they serve. If possible, try to choose a leaner source of protein.
    • Some fattier meats that are served are not only higher in calories, but also higher in saturated fats. Try to avoid these or do not eat them on a regular basis.
    • Breakfasts meals or sandwiches that have bacon or sausage will have higher levels of fat and calories.
    • Choose leaner protein like ham, Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, cheese or eggs.
    • Many fatty cuts of meats are high in saturated fats. This type of fat, if eaten regularly or in larger quantities, can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.[3]
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    Cut out high calorie breads and pastries. Fast food restaurants also serve a lot of high calorie breads, pastries or sugary breakfast items. These, like saturated fat, can cause health problems if eaten regularly.
    • Refined carbohydrates include sugary foods and those made with white flour. They're typically high in calories and sugar but low in overall nutrients. These foods have more of a negative impact on your cholesterol than saturated fats.[4]
    • Bagels, waffles, pancakes, croissants, English muffins and rolls are all common versions of processed, refined carbohydrates. Try to limit or avoid how often you order breakfast items that contain these foods.
    • If you can, always choose 100% whole wheat or whole grain options. For example, the Starbucks turkey bacon and egg white sandwich is served on a whole wheat English muffin.
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    Stick with unsweetened beverages. It's not only the food choices at fast food restaurants that make meals unhealthy. What you choose to drink also plays an important role in the overall nutrient content of your breakfast.
    • Sweetened beverages, when consumed regularly or in large quantities, can lead to weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.[5]
    • Skip items like: sweetened coffee drinks, sweet tea, fruit juice cocktails, smoothies and sodas.
    • Stick to water or coffee and tea without sweeteners. These are naturally no calorie and do not contain any sugar.
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    Choose a small and skip the "up-size" option. There's no doubt, that one of the best ways to keep fast food meals in check is by ordering a small. Skip those bigger portions or the "up-sized" version to keep your meals in check.
    • Many fast food restaurants offer you the option of increasing your meal and drink size for just just a few pennies. Resist this urge. With every size increase, there's also a significant increase in calories and fat.[6]
    • Also, try ordering a small. Not only is this size a little cheaper in price, but also comes with fewer overall calories.
    • Also choose smaller meals in general. For example, instead of the double or triple burger patty, just go for a single patty instead.
    • If you want to order a whole meal (with a sandwich, fries and a drink) consider going for a kids meal. You get everything included but a very small amount and it's portion controlled.

Part 2
Finding More Nutritious Foods at Fast Food Restaurants

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    Read the entire menu. Whenever you're planning on going to grab a quick breakfast at a fast food restaurant, start by reading the menu. This will give you all of your options up front.[7]
    • When you spend time thoroughly reviewing the menu, you'll be able to see every option available. Many times, if you're just order your "usual" you may be missing the opportunity to find other options that are more nutritious.
    • Also make sure you find a complete menu. The one you see behind the registers or at the drive-thru may not give you every option. Ask for a paper menu or check online.
    • Scan the entire menu for options that are more nutritious. You may want to look for low calorie, low fat or small portions of different items.
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    Review the nutrition information. When you go out to eat, you may not be aware of exactly how many calories or how much fat, sugar or sodium are in the items you order. Many restaurants now give the nutrition information and this is something you should check out.
    • Once you've reviewed the menu and have picked a few things to consider, take a look at the nutrition information to see if they're truly going to fit into your diet plan.
    • Restaurants that are a chain with more than 25 locations are legally required to provide the nutrition information on everything they serve in their facility.[8] This information is in-store and also online.
    • Many times this information is listed on the menu next to the corresponding meal or food items. However, some restaurants have a separate nutrition information list.
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    Plan before you go. Another important aspect about going out to breakfast, is going with a plan. You're more likely to choose a more nutritious meal, if you've picked out your meal before you go.[9]
    • After looking at both the menu and nutrition information, select a few items you think will fit nicely into your eating plan. Keep these in mind when you go through the drive-thru or order inside.
    • Try to avoid looking at the menu when you get to the restaurant or looking a new items or specials. Stick to your planned breakfast meal.
    • You're more likely to choose an unhealthy item if you do not go in with a plan when you eat out.
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    Alternate days of eating at home and eating out. If you find yourself heading out to breakfast more often than not, consider trying to alternate in more days of eating at home.
    • Eating fast food on a more regular basis isn't a great option. Although there are some healthy options at fast food restaurants, its best to include some home cooked meals.
    • When you make more foods from home, you have increased control on the total fat, sugar, sodium and even calories your foods contain.[10] This can help you stick to a healthier diet overall.
    • Set a few days a week to have breakfast at home. That way, you can balance your diet a little bit easier.

Part 3
Ordering Healthy Fast Food Breakfast Options

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    Try the Starbucks turkey bacon breakfast sandwich. If you're in the mood for a coffee and breakfast, consider going to Starbucks. You can grab a cup of hot coffee and a delicious low calorie breakfast sandwich.[11]
    • Starbucks offers alot of breakfast options. However, many are high in calories and fat (like their pumpkin bread, croissants or the sausage and cheddar breakfast sandwich). Skip these in lieu of a healthier and more nutritious option.
    • Consider ordering their turkey bacon breakfast sandwich. It's a toasted whole wheat English muffin with egg whites, turkey bacon and cheese.
    • This sandwich will cost you about 230 calories total. But it has 16 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.[12]
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    Order the McDonald's fruit and maple oatmeal. If you're in the mood for something warm and comforting, try stopping by McDonald's for their morning oatmeal. You'll be pleasantly surprised how tasty this nutritious item is.
    • Many fast food restaurants are now offering oatmeal as a breakfast option. However, things can get pretty high in calories with all the sugar and other toppings they may add.
    • McDonald's fruit and maple oatmeal is a great choice. It's made with whole grain rolled oats and topped with your choice of diced apples, dried fruit and brown sugar.
    • This oatmeal, with the brown sugar, is only 290 calories per serving. If you skip the brown sugar, it'll knock the calorie count down to 260 calories per serving. You'll also get about 5 g of protein and 5 g of fiber as well.[13]
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    Power up with Dunkin Donuts' egg white and turkey sausage wrap. If you're a Dunkin Donuts coffee fan, skip your coffee and donut pair and choose one of their wraps or flatbreads. They're lower in calories and are a great option to start your day with.
    • Although the donuts at this restaurant are delicious, they can rack up both calories and sugar quickly. These sweet treats can cost you 300-400 calories just for one.[14]
    • Instead, order yourself a egg white and turkey sausage wrap. You can get the egg white with vegetables (an extra hit of fiber!), plus it comes with a high protein meat and cheese.
    • One of these wraps will be about 150 calories total. In addition, most have about 10 g of protein and 1-2 g of fiber.[15]
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    Choose the classic Egg McMuffin. If you want to stay with the all-time classic, hit up McDonald's for their Egg McMuffin. It's the perfect breakfast sandwich on the go.
    • Many of McDonald's breakfast sandwiches are overly high in calories since they have a ton of high fat breakfast meat or are served on high calorie items like bagels or croissants.
    • The Egg McMuffin is a pretty simple breakfast sandwich. It's an English muffin (smeared with a little butter), scrambled egg, Canadian bacon and cheese.
    • This tasty sandwich is about 300 calories total. However, if you ask them to hold the butter, you'll save yourself 30 calories. In addition, you'll get about 17 g of protein and 2 g of fiber.[16]
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    Try the Burger King sausage burrito wrap. Breakfast burritos are another popular item that has hit fast food breakfast menus. Burger king has a great portion controlled option that'll fit into a healthier eating plan.
    • Some breakfast burritos (even at Burger King) can get overly high in calories. Some are upwards of over 800 calories per burrito.[17]
    • Instead, order the Burger King sausage burrito wrap. It's small and contains eggs, cheese and sausage in a wrap.
    • This wrap is about 310 calories total. It has about 14 g of protein and 1 gram of fiber per burrito.[18]
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    Sip on Jamba Juice's Mango Peach Topper. If you'd rather sip on sweet smoothie for breakfast, consider going to Jamba Juice. They offer a bright and tasty mango peach smoothie that will start your day off on the right foot.
    • Smoothies have become a popular breakfast item. However, many smoothie shops add a ton of sugar and sweetened juices to these drinks which can push their total calories through the roof.
    • Instead, consider ordering Jamba Juice's mango peach topper. It's sweet, smooth and creamy, plus it contains your whole day's worth of fruit servings.
    • This smoothie is about 320 calories total. However, it also has 6 g of fiber and 1/2 of your daily dose of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. If you add a scoop of their whey protein powder, you'll get an additional 19 g of protein.[19]


  • The occasional fast food breakfast won't break your "calorie budget" or do damage to your waistline if you're careful with what you choose.
  • Make sure you define what moderation is for you. Eating fast food breakfast everyday, even if you choose a healthier option, isn't something that's recommended.
  • Try recreating some of your favorite fast food meals at home so you can enjoy these meals without the added calories, fat or sugar.

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Categories: Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating | Dining Out