Nutrition Articles

The 8 Best Fast Food Breakfasts

What to Order On-the-Go

You know that breakfast is important, but when you're in a pinch in the morning, sometimes fast food is the quickest option. It's no secret that fast food isn't the healthiest or most nutritious option, but when it's the only option, whether you're traveling or running late for work, it helps to know how to make the best choices. Some menu items are definitely better than others.

There are countless grab-n-go restaurants, each offering a different menu from the next, and with a little searching, you can find one option at each location that's lower in fat, sodium and calories than the others. Many fast food breakfasts can provide enough fat to last you all day, enough saturated fat for three days and sodium in levels that will make your blood pressure spike just looking at them. So how do you make the right choice?

Do your research before you're in a pickle so that you know what to order for your quickie meal. Nearly every fast food restaurant lists nutrition information on its website, and SparkPeople's nutrition experts have done the research for you, listing the best options (or lesser evils) for each restaurant in our Dining Out Guide. And here, we’ve put together a "best of breakfast" list to guide you through your morning. And with the heftiest breakfasts out there racking up around 1,000 calories, placing a smart order can help keep you continue achieving your goals even when you’re pressed for time.

When you’re ordering, look for keywords that will tip you off to selections that are higher in fat and calories. High-fat meats like sausage, bacon and steak are sure to add grams of fat (and saturated fat) to your breakfast. A bit of cheese on an egg can fit into a great calorie level for a meal, but extra cheddar topped on a breakfast sandwich or burrito can send it over the edge. Some restaurants add sauces to their meals that can amp up the calorie level, so stipulate no sauce or sauce on the side, if possible. Any menu choice with a biscuit will usually be higher in the calorie and fat department than English muffins or toast.

One thing you won’t find when you’re looking at the drive-thru menu is the presence (or amount) of trans fats in each food. Many restaurants have eliminated trans fats from certain menu items, a smart move because trans fat is now known to be the most unhealthful fat you can consume. It's so bad, that experts are saying we shouldn't eat any, yet some restaurant foods contain up to seven grams of trans fat. This is information you’ll need to seek out before you place your order. Trans fat should be avoided whenever possible. If the nutrition facts on a restaurant website don't list trans fat, be wary.

Below, we’ve done a bit of research for you by picking one breakfast item from each of eight popular fast food restaurants. None of these breakfast choices are ideal in terms of nutrition or health promotion, but if you’re going to choose fast food, these items have the fewest grams of fat, trans fat and calories at their respective locations. Note that the sodium levels are still quite high, as they are in most fast food options, so select lower sodium foods throughout the rest of the day to balance out your total sodium intake.

Restaurant & Menu Item Calories Total fat Saturated Fat Trans fat Sodium
Arby's Egg & Cheese Sourdough 392 12 g 3 g 0 g 1,058 mg
Burger King Ham Omelet Sandwich 330 14 g 5 g 0 g 1,130 mg
Carl's Jr. Sourdough Breakfast Sandwich 460 21 g 9 g Unknown 1,050 mg
Chick-Fil-A Chicken Burrito 410 16 g 7 g 0 g 940 mg
Hardee's Frisco Breakfast Sandwich 420 20 g 7 g Unknown 1,340 mg
Jack In The Box Breakfast Jack 290 12 g 4.5 g 0 g 760 mg
McDonald's Egg McMuffin 300 12 g 5 g 0 g 820 mg
Subway Cheese Sandwich 400 17 g 7 g 0 g 940 mg

None of these items should be part of your diet on a regular basis, but as the occasional treat or breakfast on-the-run, you can make them fit into an otherwise balanced and healthy diet. For more healthy and quick breakfast ideas that you can grab from your own kitchen, check out these speedy morning meal ideas. And remember that with a little planning, breakfast can be quick, easy, and healthy.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.

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Member Comments

    Thanks for sharing
  • Not very helpful, and clearly out of date! Many of these locations offer oatmeal, whole wheat English muffins, fresh fruit, and other healthy choices besides soggy biscuits. Plus, this never mentioned that many choices can be made healthier by asking for no chesse, or for grilled chicken instead of fried.
  • Nothing about these foods seem like a treat to me. I would prefer to go without if they were my only options.
    They forgot the McDonald's Egg White Delight, without the butter it is 250 calories including the cheese.
  • I agree about that they should be an occasional treat not to mention I get tired of them real fast BLECCH

    Special K ( 1 cup )
    chopped banana & small apple or ( pear and a few raisins)
    2 spoons Greek yogurt ( I take the one with honey)
    skimmed milk

    Never made a point of having a breakfast for over 40 years but in my new quest to be a
    healthier thinner me I find the above 3 or 4 times a week most enjoyable.
  • most mornings I'm lucky to grab a slim fast and banana on my way out the door. There is never time for anything else.
  • I fix a Morningstar Farms veggie burger with a piece of Flatout bread - I usually don't put cheese on it, but I could. It's only 150 calories and takes all of 90 seconds in the microwave.

    With options like that, who needs fast food?
    These foods are absurdly high in sodium.... there is no way that someone who is trying to watch their sodium would be able to eat a breakfast sandwich and still be good for the rest of the day with a 1500mg max.
  • Thank you for this article. I was runnin g late a few weeks ago and stopped and got an egg muffin from md. Whe I got home I looked it up and almost died! Now after reading this article I realize I should have left off the cheese. duh

    Keep on keepin' on. Do It!

  • I have spent less than 5 minutes in the McDonald's line to get a breakfast sandwich to save myself from being late to work. In a pinch, it is on my way, but I do it usually less than once a month. It is a great article to give us choices if we need them, but this article totally needs an update!
    If you consider the time you spend on line waiting to order, then waiting for the food, you could easily make - and eat - breakfast at home. You waste even more time if you have to drive out of your way, or walk out of your way to get to the fast food restaurant. You could easily waste 15-20 minutes or more.

    Oatmeal takes less than 5 minutes to cook in the microwave.

    You can boil eggs and keep them in the fridge for the week.

    You can cook eggs in a mug in the microwave in less than 2 minutes, toast your English muffin in that time, and eat it in the time you'd wait for a fast food breakfast.

    All you need is a little planning and organization.
  • I don't eat breakfast out I usally cook my own breakfast. I don't care for eating out like that.
  • I HATE fast food breakfasts, or even trying to get a decent breakfast at a hotel or restaurant. All of the "healthy" options are super bready and never filling. The only filling options use up a lot of your fat for the day that I would much rather use to have a nice cut of meat with dinner or something..
  • This is a great list but it needs to be updated! McDonalds has the Egg White Delight now which is delicious and much lower that the Egg McMuffin and Subway also has many choices under 200 calories. Please update!

About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

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