Hitting the drive-through doesn't have to mean sacrificing all your nutrition and fitness goals. Save time without sidetracking your progress with these top fast-food breakfast picks from nutritionists.
Are There Healthy Breakfasts at Fast-Food Places?
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Luckily, yes. More and more fast food restaurants are expanding their breakfast offerings, hoping to get busy customers in their doors earlier and increase overall sales. And hitting the drive-through doesn't have to mean sacrificing your health. To help you save time in the morning without sidetracking your progress, here's a list of dietitian-approved, healthy fast-food breakfasts to order from popular chains like Taco Bell, McDonald's, Starbucks, and Dunkin'.
Photo: Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images
Wendy's: Plain Oatmeal with Apples
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When it comes to Wendy's, Susan Greeley, M.S., R.D.N., staff nutritionist at Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge, NJ, says your best bet is the plain oatmeal. It's made of natural oats and has just 160 calories. "Add some low-fat milk and an order of the 'apple bites' to pack in more protein and fiber and help stay full longer. Ingredients and allergy information are clear and easy to find," she says.
Taco Bell: Grilled Breakfast Burrito
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Get your burrito fix with this pick from Taco Bell, which comes in at 340 calories and offers 11 grams of protein. "Skip the nacho cheese sauce and replace it with avocado for healthier fats, and add a heap of pico de gallo for a dose of veggies," says Scarlett Full, R.D., a registered dietitian and nutritionist scientist at Growing Naturals. On a low-carb diet (like keto)? She suggests ordering two and skipping the tortillas to reduce the carb count and boost the protein.
Photo: Taco Bell
Burger King: PB&J Jamwich
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Full says this plant-based American classic provides a surprisingly high 11 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber while staying low in fat, saturated fat, and sodium. "Pair this with an 8-ounce bottle of fat-free milk if you want some added protein," she suggests.
Photo: Burger King
McDonald's: Egg White Delight McMuffin
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Long day ahead? Help curb hunger with this healthier, low-calorie alternative to the classic McDonald's McMuffin. "You'll get 18 grams of hunger-suppressing protein and 33 grams of slow-digesting carbs (2 grams of which are fiber), all for under 300 calories," says Full. She suggests asking the cashier to hold the butter and pairing the sandwich with some fresh apple slices for added nutrition.
Panera Bread: Avocado Egg White and Spinach Sandwich
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While Rachel Daniels, senior director of nutrition at Virtual Health Partners, cautions that many "healthy" breakfast sandwiches are just smaller versions of their unhealthy counterparts, this one is full size and packs added nutrition from vegetables—including tomato, spinach, and avocado. "It's also offered on a sprouted grain bagel flat and contains 21 grams of protein," she adds.
Photo: Panera Bread
Pret A Manger: Yogurt Pots
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If you're a fan of yogurt parfaits, Daniels suggests opting for one of Pret's yogurt pots, which she says are appropriate portion size and contain fresh ingredients like yogurt, berries, banana, muesli, nuts, and honey. "These options do have a decent amount of sugar, though, so be mindful if you are watching your sugar intake," she says. "If you choose the blueberry and granola pot, try to remove some of the blueberry compote—even a bit can go a long way," she advises.
Photo: Pret A Manger
Dunkin': Power Breakfast Sandwich
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This new and improved egg white omelet sandwich from Dunkin' contains thinly sliced multigrain bread lined with turkey sausage, spinach, peppers, onions, and cheese. "It has 370 calories, 20 grams of whole grains, 24 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber, so it will fill you up and keep you fueled until the lunch hour," says Gabby Geerts, a registered dietitian at Green Chef. Stay away from sugary coffee drinks to avoid excessive calories, she warns. (Here are the other healthy food and drinks you can order at Dunkin'.)
Subway: Egg and Cheese Sandwich
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Since there's an abundance of topping options at Subway, it's up to you how healthy (or unhealthy) your breakfast will be, says Geerts. "Opt out of the high-sodium meats like bacon and sausage, and stay with the simple egg and cheese, which provides 380 calories and 10 grams of protein. Add fresh vegetables for fiber and choose a lower-calorie bread like the Artisan flatbread or the nine-grain wheat to keep the entire meal around 600 calories," she advises.
Starbucks: Hearty Blueberry Oatmeal
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This hearty pick from Starbucks boasts major health benefits, according to Ysabel Montemayor, R.D., a registered dietitian and nutritional leader at Fresh n' Lean. "The oatmeal is only 220 calories but is packed with health-promoting nutrients from its whole-grain steel-cut oats and antioxidant-rich toppings, which include fresh blueberries, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. It also has satiating and energizing qualities with 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 43 grams of carbohydrates," she says. Plus, oatmeal supports a healthy digestive and immune system and is low in saturated fat and sodium, making it a heart-friendly option, explains Montemayor.
Chick-fil-A: Egg White Grill
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Pile on the protein with this filling chicken, cheese, and egg white "grill" from Chick-fil-A, which contains a generous 25 grams. "Additional nutrients include an energizing 31 grams of carbs, a bit of fiber, and around 20 to 30 percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium. "Containing only 300 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat, this sandwich is a lean and lower-calorie option compared to other breakfast sandwiches on the menu," says Montemayor, who notes it also contains significantly less sodium than its competitors.