Sure, you know that eggs are high in cholesterol, sausage is fatty, and pancakes with syrup aren't diet food. That's no surprise. But the answers to this mini-quiz may be.
1. Which has more fat: an order of hash browns or two slices of toast with margarine or butter?
2. Which has more saturated fat: a Belgian waffle or an order of biscuits & gravy?
3. Which has more calories: two scrambled eggs or four strips of bacon?
You'll find the answers as well as the (mostly) bad news about eating breakfast out below. The bottom line: if you go with many of the most popular breakfast specials, you can easily blow a day's worth of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium not to mention 1,000 calories before 10 a.m.
Who would have guessed that two slices of toast with margarine or butter have more fat than an order of hash browns? Or that a Belgian waffle has almost twice as much (artery clogging) saturated fat as biscuits & gravy? Or that two scrambled eggs have more calories and fat than four strips of bacon? But they do.
You'd never know because few restaurants provide nutrition information on their menus. And we only know because we had the dishes analyzed.
We looked at popular breakfasts served at some of the country's largest family-style restaurant chains: Denny's, Big Boy, Shoney's, Perkins, SHOP, Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, Bakers Square, Waffle House, Village Inn, and Carrows.
And what they serve is, generally speaking, different combinations of your arteries' worst nightmares:
Of course, you can get a healthy breakfast when you eat out. Most places have hot or cold cereal, juice, plain toast or English muffins, and fresh fruit. You might even be able to scare up a bagel or some non-fat yogurt. (Some chains we looked at, like Bob Evans and Village Inn, have special "healthy" sections on their menus. We didn't test them, so we can't vouch for their claims.)
And if your favorite restaurant has a "breakfast bar," head for it. It's not perfect, you probably won't find lower-fat turkey bacon or veggie sausage. But you can load up on cereal and fruit. Just pretend that the "all you can eat" sign doesn't apply to the bacon, eggs, etc.
Other breakfasts are less healthy, but not terrible. Take scrambled egg-substitute with hash browns, ham, and two pieces of toast, or pancakes or French toast with ham or two pieces of bacon.
As long as you hold the margarine or butter, they're no fattier than a spaghetti with meat sauce dinner or the "healthy" versions of chicken fajitas we've praised in the past.
But you're still getting at least half a day's sodium plus lots of empty calories from the sugary syrup. So don't think of it as breakfast. It's really the equivalent of dinner. . .a big dinner. And even if you pay extra for orange juice or a fruit cup, you've got a lot of catching up to do if you're going to get five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables by bedtime.
Here are some of the most popular platters, with their main dishes ranked from best (least saturated fat) to worst (most saturated fat).
To Make it Better: Ask for a low-sugar, whole-grain cereal like Wheaties or shredded wheat and 1% or skim milk to pour on it. Use preserves on your whole wheat toast or bagel instead of margarine or butter.
Typical Platter: Denny's Grand Slam is the best-selling restaurant breakfast. How can you beat two eggs, two pancakes, two strips of bacon, and two sausage links, all for $1.99? You can't, which is why many other chains now offer similar (but not as cheap) versions like Big Boy's The Big Tuvo and IHOP's Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity.
They're grand slams all right...to your heart and waistline. We're talking more than 1,100 calories, three quarters of a day's fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and two days' cholesterol. Cholesterol aside, that's like eating two Big Macs. If you have trouble remembering that the Grand Slam type platter has two of everything, just think of it as the Double Bypass. For an extra buck you can spring for a three-of-everything feast like Denny's Super Slam. Now you're talking Triple Bypass.
To Make it Better: Ask for egg substitute and hold the margarine or butter on the pancakes. Order fresh fruit instead of the sausage or bacon.
To Make it Better: Tell them to hold the margarine or butter. Use just two tablespoons of syrup or ask for "low calorie" syrup (it has less than half the calories of regular).
This breakfast makes two Dairy Queen Banana Splits look like diet food.
To Make it Better: Have it made with egg substitute and skim milk. Hold the butter or margarine and use "low calorie" syrup or just two tablespoons of regular.
To Make it Better: You can 't.
Typical Platter: At most restaurants, Belgian Waxes stand alone (phew!). But Denny's, bless its greasy heart, will throw in a piece of ham, two strips of bacon, or two sausage links for about a quarter. Save it for the parking meter.
To Make it Better: Skip the whipped topping. But that may only help a little, since most of the fat and cholesterol probably are in the batter.
To Make it Better: Some restaurants offer Vegetable or "garden " omelets. Ask for a cheese-less one made with egg substitute or just egg whites.
|Breakfast||Calories||Fat (g.)||Fat (% cals.)||Sat. Fat||Chol.||Sodium|
|Hot or Cold Cereal w/2% milk||210||5||19||2||10||380|
|Plus OJ, mixed fruit (3/4 c.), and plain toast||600||7||10||3||12||660|
|Scrambled Egg Substitue||130||6||43||2||0||190|
|plus mixed fruit (3/4 c.) And 2 pancakes with syrup (1/4 c.) Only||830||15||16||4||45||1,200|
|plus hash browns and plain toast||480||18||35||5||0||670|
|plus hash browns, ham, and plain toast||580||22||34||6||50||1,580|
|Scrambled Eggs (2 eggs)||290||13||39||4||440||180|
|plus hash browns and plain toast||650||25||35||7||440||660|
|plus hash browns, ham, and plain toast||740||28||34||8||490||1,570|
|plus has browns and toast with margarine||770||35||41||10||445||780|
|plus has browns, 4 strips of bacon, and toast with margarine||910||45||45||14||465||1,300|
|plus 2 pancakes with syrup and margarine, 2 sausage links, and 2 strips of bacon||1,130||49||39||17||525||1,790|
|plus has browns, 4 sausage links, and toast with margarine||1,120||67||54||22||495||1,450|
|plus 3 pancakes with syrup and margarine, 3 sausage links, and 3 strips of bacon||1,570||73||42||25||785||2,660|
|McDonald's Big Scrambled Egg Breakfast||610||38||56||10||460||1,030|
|with a biscuit||730||49||60||13||460||1,650|
|Pancakes (4) with syrup (1/4 c) only||870||16||17||5||95||1,960|
|plus ham (2 oz.)||970||20||18||6||140||2,870|
|plus bacon (2 strips)||940||22||21||7||105||2,220|
|plus sausage (2 links)||1,040||32||28||11||115||2,290|
|Pancakes (4) with syrup (1/4 c) & margarine||940||29||28||9||95||1,960|
|plus ham (2 oz)||1,040||33||28||10||145||2,880|
|plus bacon (4 strips)||1,080||40||33||13||120||2,490|
|plus sausage (4 links)||1,290||62||43||22||145||2,630|
|McDonald's Hotcake Bkft. (With margarine, syrup, and sausage)||750||32||38||8||50||1,050|
|French Toast (3 slices) w/syrup (1/4c)||800||26||30||7||250||730|
|plus bacon (2 strips)||870||32||33||9||260||1,000|
|French Toast (3 slices) w/syrup 1/4 c.) & margarine||910||33||33||11||280||1,030|
|plus ham (2oz.)||1,010||37||33||12||325||1,940|
|plus bacon (4 strips)||1,050||44||38||15||300||1,550|
|plus sausage (4 links)||1,260||65||47||23||325||1,700|
|Biscuits & Gravy||580||31||48||10||35||1,800|
|plus 2 eggs, 2 sausage links and 2 strips of bacon||1,110||65||53||22||510||2,580|
|Belgian Waffle w/ fruit & whipped topping||900||32||31||17||240||1,160|
|plus ham (2 oz)||1,000||35||31||18||285||2,070|
|plus bacon (2 strips)||970||37||34||19||250||1,420|
|plus sausage (2 links)||1,080||48||40||23||260||1,500|
|Ham & Cheese Omelette (3 eggs)||510||39||69||17||650||1,200|
|plus hash browns and toast w/ margarine||990||61||55||22||655||1,790|
|Toast, plain (2 slices)||130||2||12||0||0||270|
|Ham (2 oz)||100||3||32||1||50||910|
|Bacon (2 strips)||70||5||71||2||10||260|
|Hash Browns (1 cup)||220||11||43||3||0||200|
|Toast (2 sl.) w/ margarine||260||12||40||3||5||390|
|Pancakes (3) with syrup (1/4c) only||720||12||15||3||70||1,480|
|Bacon (4 strips)||130||11||71||4||20||530|
|Sausage (2 links)||170||16||84||6||25||330|
|Pancakes (3) w/ syrup (1/4c) & margarine||770||22||26||7||75||1,490|
|Sausage (4 links)||340||32||84||12||50||670|
Daily Limits: (Daily Values -- DV) Fat - 65 grams; Saturated Fat - 20 grams; Cholesterol - 300 milligrams; Sodium - 2,400 milligrams. Food dissected by Strasburger & Siegel, Inc. (Hanover, Maryland). Analyses done by Sourthern Testing & Research Laboratories, Inc. (Wilson, North Carolina).