Best and Worst Fast-Food Breakfasts

Eating on the run? Here's how to choose healthier breakfast foods.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Market figures show that more and more people are buying breakfast from fast-food chains and places like Starbucks. It makes sense; after all, many people are already at one of those places buying coffee. Others just don't think they have enough time in the morning to get a bite at home, so they grab it on the go. But are any of these early morning offerings even remotely healthy?

In Search of a Better Breakfast

Finding a healthier fast-food breakfast means looking for items with some fiber and protein (which makes them more satisfying), but not too much saturated fat or total fat. Fiber is important for baked offerings, too -- even when these items are relatively low in fat, they can be high in sugar and white flour.

A look at the nutrition information some popular fast-food chains provide on their web sites shows that few of their breakfast items fit the bill. Some offer one or two items that are reasonably low in fat and saturated fat and contain some protein, but they're usually lacking in fiber. Others have not even one main-dish breakfast item that's low enough in fat and saturated fat to be considered healthy.

At Carl's Jr., for example, there was only one main-dish item with less than 20 grams of fat per serving (the French Toast Dips, with 18 grams of fat). It has some protein, 9 grams, but is lacking in the fiber department (1 gram). However, that's far better than the worst choice on their breakfast menu: the Carl's Jr. Loaded Breakfast Burrito, with 820 calories and 51 grams of fat.

Best and Worst Fast Food Breakfasts

No matter which fast food chain you visit, high fat and high-calorie breakfast choices abound. But there are some better choices out there. Here are some of the best and worst-case scenarios at several major chains:

McDonald's BEST Breakfast Choices:

  • Egg McMuffin: 300 calories, 12 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 260 mg cholesterol, 820 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
  • Hotcakes (without syrup and margarine): 350 calories, 9 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

McDonald's WORST Choices:

  • Deluxe Breakfast with regular size biscuit, without syrup & margarine: 1070 calories, 55 grams fat, 18 g saturated fat, 575 milligrams cholesterol, 2090 mg sodium, 6 g fiber.
  • Deluxe Breakfast with large size biscuit, without syrup & margarine: 1140 calories, 59 g fat, 20 g saturated fat, 575 mg cholesterol, 2250 mg sodium, 7 g fiber.
  • Big Breakfast (large size biscuit): 790 calories, 51 g fat, 18 g saturated fat, 555 mg cholesterol, 1,660 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.

Burger King's BEST Breakfast Choices:

  • Ham Omelet Sandwich: 290 calories, 13 g fat 4.5 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 870 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
  • French Toast Sticks, 3 piece: 240 calories, 13 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Burger King's WORST Choices:

  • Double Croissan'Wich with sausage, egg, & cheese: 680 calories, 51 grams of fat, 18 grams of saturated fat, and 220 mg cholesterol, 1,590 mg sodium.
  • Enormous Omelet Sandwich: 730 calories, 45 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, and 330 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,940 mg sodium.

Jack in the Box BEST Breakfast Choices:

  • Breakfast Jack: 290 calories, 12 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 220 mg cholesterol, 760 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
  • Bacon Breakfast Jack: 300 calories, 14 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 215 mg cholesterol, 730 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Jack in the Box WORST Choices:

  • Extreme Sausage Sandwich: 670 calories, 48 g of fat, 17 g saturated fat, 290 mg cholesterol, 1,300 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
  • Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit: 740 calories, 55 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 280 mg cholesterol, 1,430 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
  • Sirloin Steak & Egg Burrito with Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa: 790 calories, 48 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 450 mg cholesterol, 1,440 mg sodium, 6 g fiber.