Balancing the high-calorie and high-fat options on the typical fast food menu with healthier options can be as simple as swapping out a high-calorie item for a similar lower-calorie one. For example, if you love bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits, consider eating your sandwich on an English muffin instead. Or, if you love your fluffy biscuit, then consider having one with just your favorite protein or the egg, and leave off the cheese. Opt for leaner protein, such as Canadian bacon, ham, or turkey bacon instead of pork sausage, which is high in saturated fat.
If you like a combo meal, then instead of a greasy hash brown, ask for fresh fruit instead. Also, instead of full cream and sugar in your coffee, try a splash of milk or drink it black. And don’t forget the water. A lot of fast food meals are very salty and can make you thirsty, so drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.
Fast food breakfasts don’t always have to be unhealthy. Breakfast sandwiches or wraps are often on the menu, but there are other things you can try. Be creative, and consider oatmeal, fruit cups, and vegetarian options.
There are plenty of options for healthy breakfasts for kids, too. Many kids’ menus have sugary items like pancakes, so steer clear of those and opt for bacon and eggs or oatmeal with fruit.
Many fast food breakfast sandwiches are made with refined carbohydrates. White bread and processed sugar dominate most of these breakfasts. Croissants, biscuits, and many English muffins are missing the important part of carbohydrate nutrition: the whole grains. Fast food sandwiches are easy breakfast ideas, but some may need modification for a higher nutritional value.
When you can, opt for the whole wheat versions of your favorite breads. If you’re going to a restaurant that has lunch and dinner options, you can ask for a lettuce wrap instead of bread or a gluten-free bread option! Here are some healthy fast food breakfast sandwich options:
- The turkey breakfast sandwich from Starbucks is a toasted whole wheat English muffin with egg whites, turkey bacon, and cheese. It contains 230 calories.
- Taco Bell has a tasty and nutritious breakfast taco. It’s a slim tortilla with melted cheese, eggs, and sausage and has 240 calories.
- The Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s can also be a healthy option. It has an English muffin (order without butter), one slice of cheese, Canadian bacon (remember, no sausage), and egg. You get a healthy blend of carbohydrates for energy, fats to satiate, and protein for muscle building and to help you feel full longer.
You can make your own oatmeal easily at home, with overnight oats in a mason jar, or you can choose one of the tasty oatmeal options on your favorite fast food restaurant’s menu. Oatmeal is full of healthy fiber, which helps you feel full longer and keeps your gastrointestinal system regular. Slower digestion also helps your body extract all the nutrients from your food as it passes through your system.
When you eat fast food oatmeal, remember that it often has lots of sugary add-ons. Some of the nuts or fruit that you can blend in may have added sugar. However, there are a couple of tasty, healthy oatmeal options that are made to eat on the go:
- Starbucks’ whole-grain oatmeal is made with steel-cut oats and skim milk to help drop the calorie count. It’s available with either heart-healthy blueberries or sliced bananas. If you need that extra antioxidant and potassium boost, opt for both.
- Au Bon Pain is known for its pastries, but if you have a craving for plenty of toppings on your oats, this is a fantastic choice. The chain serves the oatmeal plain, with a small buffet of brown sugar, nuts, and dried fruit, so you can have as little or as much as you want.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein for keto dieters and fairly low in calories. There is also plenty of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol — in eggs.
If you’re looking for something low in carbohydrates and high in protein, try the sous-vide egg bites from Starbucks. For a lighter option, try the version with egg whites and veggies, or bacon and gouda version, which has 370 calories for two pieces.
Dunkin Donuts has a healthy egg white breakfast option as well. It’s a multigrain flatbread stuffed with an egg white and veggie scramble and a slice of white cheddar cheese. You’ll get a serving of protein, healthy carbs, and healthy dietary fats from the cheese, all in an easy-to-eat sandwich. It has 330 calories.
Drinking your breakfast may be an option, especially if you don’t like a heavier meal early in the day. Different juices or smoothies can give you the nutrients you need in an easy-to-sip beverage. Be careful about the ingredients in some of the juice options, however. If they’re heavier on the fruit juice, especially apple juice, then you’ll miss out on valuable micronutrients and end up with a lot of empty calories and sugar.
Choose juices that have more vegetable components. Kale, spinach, and celery juices are rich in antioxidants, and beet and carrot juices have a lot of vitamins A and K. Smoothies and juices can be healthy breakfasts for kids, too. You can disguise vegetables in a fruity drink.
While many fast food restaurants don’t have a wide range of vegan options, there are a few ways you can mix and match to stick with your vegan diet.
- Au Bon Pain offers an oatmeal–quinoa blend that gives you healthy plant protein and other superfoods like amaranth, cranberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, and raw flax seeds. You can top this with brown sugar and dried raisins, too.
- Jamba Juice offers a chia seed smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, and coconut. This smoothie is rich in antioxidant superfoods. Chia seeds and blueberries offer healthy plant protein and anti-inflammatory components.
Easy breakfast ideas don’t necessarily have to be unhealthy. Understanding what your healthy, low-calorie options are on a fast food menu can help you meet your nutritional goals while you’re on your daily commute. Make sure to read the nutritional information carefully, staying away from high-sugar carbs and meats high in saturated fat. And don’t be afraid to ask for a modification or substitution to create a healthier fast food breakfast.