How to enjoy brunch without blowing a full day's worth of calories
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The one redeeming quality about this brunch staple: It contains protein-rich eggs, which are a great source of selenium and vitamin D, says Margaux J. Rathbun, certified nutritional therapy practitioner and creator of nutrition website Authentic Self Wellness. But the benefits of this calorie bomb end there, thanks to toppings like ham and and high-fat Hollandaise sauce—all served on an English muffin.
"All of these types of foods combined together can be difficult to digest, making you feel bloated, tired, and excessively full," Rathbun says.
Exactly how bad are they? Eggs Benedict from one popular breakfast chain come in at a whopping 1,050 calories and 57 grams of fat.
What to order instead: Scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast. Sprinkle your eggs with a little sea salt (if it's available) for added trace minerals, Rathbun says.
Biscuits and Gravy
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Most of the biscuits and gravy served by restaurants are pre-packaged and processed, making this breakfast a mother-load of calories without much nutritional value, Rathbun says. Just one biscuit (with gravy) will set you back around 680 calories and almost 32 grams of fat.
What to order instead: A whole grain English muffin (a great source of fiber and energizing B vitamins) with jam.
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They tempt your taste buds for a reason—they're loaded with sugar, fat, and empty calories! And don't let that 'fruit' topping fool you, Rathbun says. More often than not, that pretty berry topping contains added sugar and food coloring, which makes this breakfast more like a dessert, and not a healthy way to start your day.
Exactly how bad are they? Order them from most popular breakfast chains, you can expect to ingest about 1,000 calories and 69 grams of fat per serving!
What to order instead: Ask for a side of cottage cheese topped with fresh, antioxidant-rich berries, Rathbun says.
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Most pancakes are loaded with highly-processed ingredients that do little to contribute to our health, Rathbun says. And while a single pancake, or two, by itself isn't horrible, the butter, syrup, and whipped cream toppings are what really ruin this breakfast. Plus, most restaurants serve four to six large pancakes per order. That means, depending on the toppings, a single stack can easily cost you more than 1,000 calories.
What to order instead: A bowl of energizing vitamin-B rich oatmeal topped with honey, berries, and granola, Rathbun suggests. The fiber will help keep you full and you'll still get your carb fix, just without the post-brunch carb-coma.
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It turns out there are some situations in which pancakes are the "better" choice. Belgian Waffles contain almost three times as many calories and five times the fat as one pancake, says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist, eating strategist, and owner of Essential Nutrition for You. "Extra butter in the recipe makes the edges perfectly crispy, while the fluffy insides are perfect for absorbing sugary and caloric toppings like butter, syrup, whipped cream, fruit compotes—even ice cream."
One plain waffle can contain up to 500 calories and 21 grams of fat, a number that can easily double (even triple) depending on your topping selection.
What to order instead: A single pancake. If you've got to have something sweet, go for a more portion controlled serving with pancakes—and order whole wheat if they're available. (And go easy on the butter and syrup!)
Stuffed French Toast
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Would you order a few slices of cake for breakfast? At 1,500 calories, 76 grams of fat, and 95 grams of sugar, the stuffed French toast at one popular breakfast chain is worse than most desserts, Batayneh says. What makes this such a horrible order? "Its thick slices of bread, drowned in butter and packed with sweetened cream cheese, which are then topped with things like whipped cream, caramelized bananas, and nuts."
What to order instead: Whole-wheat french toast with minimal butter and fresh fruit. If you really want the French toast, Batayneh says go ahead and have it (on occasion). Just skip the stuffing and toppings that push you over the caloric edge.
Photo credit: www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com
Bagel and Cream Cheese
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"The average plain bagel contains about 300 calories and is the carb equivalent of four pieces of white bread," Batayneh says. And while 300 calories isn't bad for breakfast, what makes this an unhealthy choice is that those carbs are refined, which means they'll send your blood sugar soaring and your energy plummeting. Adding cream cheese (2 Tbsp) tacks on an extra 100 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat.
What to order instead: A whole-wheat English Muffin. If you have to have something warm and toasted, this will only set you back 130 calories and provides almost 5 grams of fiber, Batayneh says.
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An average order of hash browns adds an extra 350 calories and 15 grams of fat to your meal, Batayneh says. And while that doesn't sound too terrible, remember this is just a side dish. "Hash browns have minimal protein and fiber, so they'll send your blood sugar soaring; but they're also high in fat, since their high surface area soaks up so much oil," Batayneh says.
What to order instead: A half order. "If potatoes are a necessity in your breakfast, ask for a half portion and pair them with lean protein and veggies for a hit of fiber," Batayneh says.
Photo credit: www.simplecomfortfood.com
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Most restaurant muffins come with about 400 calories and 30 grams of sugar, making them essentially cupcakes without frosting, Batayneh says. "Also, like cupcakes, they contain little fiber or protein so you'll be hungry for more food soon after you chow down."
Even seemingly healthy muffins like bran muffins don't fit the bill for a good breakfast. While they may contain significantly more fiber than their refined-flour counterparts, most bran muffins are still full of sugar and fat.
What to order instead: A whole-wheat English muffin topped with fruit preserves. Skip muffins when ordering out, Batayneh says. If you really love them, make a batch of whole wheat ones at home.
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Watch out for these sweet treats! Made of mostly white flour, sugar, and butter, some of the larger ones can weigh in at more than 800 calories, says Mary Hartley, a registered dietitian with an online practice at AskMaryRD.com.
What to order instead: If they are available, order reduced-fat quick breads made with fresh fruit and healthy oils, Hartley says. If not, go for whole-wheat toast with fruit preserves.
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We can't turn a blind eye to some of the lunch items on the brunch menu. If you're a fan of the patty melt, you may want to reconsider. "A traditional patty melt includes fried onions and grilled Swiss cheese on top of a burger sandwiched by rye," says Lauren O'Connor, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutri-Savvy in Los Angeles, Calif. Most patty melts pack in more than 1,000 calories and 80 grams of fat! "I consider this one a grilled cheese meets greasy burger—a double-whammy of artery clogging material!"
What to order instead: A plain hamburger (or cheeseburger) on rye with mustard and ketchup. "You'll save yourself considerable fat and calories but still get in some the flavors of the burger and rye," O'Connor says.
Photo credit: roboppy.net
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What happens when you take a grilled cheese sandwich, fill it with sliced turkey and ham, and then deep-fry it in egg batter? You get this gut-bomb of a sandwich, O'Connor says. "As if you weren't already getting plenty of fat and cholesterol from the cheese, turkey, and ham filling, the frying adds in plenty more!"
Weighing in at about 1,400 calories and 84 grams of fat, this sandwich is one to share among friends or stay away from altogether!
What to order instead: A poached egg and toast with a side of ham. "You can create your own sandwich or enjoy them side by side," O'Connor says.
Additional calorie count information provided by Caloriecount.com