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23 Fast-Food Breakfasts That Are Actually Healthy

Because life happens, and the drive-through can definitely be better than nothing.

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In an ideal world, you'd eat nutrient-dense, unprocessed food that you prepare yourself for every meal. But this isn't an ideal world. It's the real world.

Sometimes you're in a damn rush, and you don't have any food in the house, and you have a million things to do, and you basically have only two choices: Starve until lunch, or hit up a fast-food restaurant. And if you're hungry, you should eat.

Here's the thing to remember: Eating fast-food on occasion isn't going to destroy your health or ruin everything. Especially if you aim to eat the healthiest things on the menu.

But what does it mean to eat a "healthy" fast-food breakfast, anyway?

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Here are some rough guidelines for the following suggested meals. Not all of them fit perfectly into these requirements, but most of them do.

Reasonable portion sizes: Almost every one of these breakfasts has less than 400 calories.

Low sugar and sodium: Too much of either one is tied to serious health issues. These limits were hard to follow, but most of these meals have less than 20 grams of sugar and under 1,000 milligrams of sodium.

Reasonable amount of protein: Eating protein can help you feel fuller for longer, so you won't be as likely to get peckish well before lunch. Most of these meals have at least 10 grams of protein (although a few of them aren't quite there).

Ideally some amount of fiber: Fiber can also help you feel full for longer. When it came down to choosing between two different meals, I went with the ones that had more fiber content.

No trans fat: Trans fat is tied to heart disease. So none of that.

Wait, a quick note about drinks:

All nutrition info here refers to just the food listed. In order to stay within these guidelines, you should probably stick to drinking water or black coffee with your meal, instead of a smoothie or sugary coffee drink or soda.

And one more obvious disclaimer:

These meals aren't for everyone — some people may want to eat more than 400 calories for breakfast, for instance, and other people may feel seriously uncomfortable with the idea of eating processed food at all. The choices you make about the food you eat are totally personal, and there's no judgment attached to it. Just trying to show you that it's totally possible to keep your calories and sodium and sugar and so on in check at fast-food restaurants, if that's what you care about.

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1. Starbucks

Starbucks has a good selection of healthy breakfast options outside of their bakery. Look toward the egg-based meals, or even expand out into the bistro boxes (which are usually thought of as snacks or lunches, but can definitely also work for breakfast). There's also a line of yogurt parfaits, but those come with over 20 grams of sugar each – so if you're trying to cut back on your sugar intake, you probably want to skip them.

Spinach & Feta Breakfast Wrap (vegetarian) (pictured above left)

290 calories

19 g protein

10 g fat (3.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

830 mg sodium

33 g carbohydrates (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar)

Protein Bistro Box (vegetarian) (pictured above right)

380 calories

13 g protein

19 g fat (6 g saturated, 0 g trans)

470 mg sodium

37 g carbohydrates (5 g fiber, 19 g sugar)

See all nutrition info for Starbucks here.

2. Subway

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If you want to stay under 1,000 milligrams of sodium in your breakfast at Subway, you have only a few options: All 6-inch egg and cheese omelet sandwiches or on flatbread (pictured above). See Subway's complete nutrition info here.

6" Egg & Cheese Omelet Sandwich (with Regular Egg) (vegetarian)

360 calories

19 g protein

12 g fat (4.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

860 mg sodium

6 g sugar

3. Panera Bread

Panera has a number of solid choices on their breakfast menu; and if you don't like eggs or oatmeal, a whole grain or sprouted grain bagel with cream cheese would also roughly fit into the guidelines above (it would come in above 400 calories, but not by much).

Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans (vegetarian) (pictured above left)

340 calories

6 g protein

14 g fat (2 g saturated, 0 g trans)

160 mg sodium

51 g carbohydrates (9 g fiber, 16 g sugar)

Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich (vegetarian) (pictured above right)

400 calories

12 g protein

13 g fat (6 g saturated, 0 g trans)

650 mg sodium

52 g carbohydrates (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar)

See Panera Bread's full nutrition info here.

4. McDonald's

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The key to eating a healthy breakfast at McDonald's is to keep the order small, and to avoid the coffee and smoothie drinks (which all come with a LOTTT of sugar). Here we're suggesting the Egg McMuffin, and also the fruit and maple oatmeal without brown sugar. You can add a low-fat milk jug to either one of those if you feel like 300 or 260 calories isn't going to be enough to keep you satisfied.

Egg McMuffin (pictured)

300 calories

17 g protein

13 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

750 mg sodium

31 g carbohydrates (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar)

~or~

Fruit and Maple Oatmeal without Brown Sugar (vegetarian)

260 calories

5 g protein

4 g fat (1.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

115 mg sodium

49 g carbohydrates (5 g fiber, 18 g sugar)

~with~

1% Low Fat Milk Jug

100 calories

8 g protein

2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

125 mg sodium

12 g carbohydrates (0 g fiber, 12 g sugar)

TOTAL =

360 calories

13 g protein

6.5 g fat (3 g saturated, 0 g trans)

240 mg sodium

61 g carbohydrates (5 g fiber, 30 g sugar)

See more nutrition info for McDonald's here.

5. Taco Bell

There's not much on the breakfast menu that comes in under 1,000 milligrams of sodium, unfortunately. The Biscuit Tacos are all in the right range, though (choose from the sausage egg and cheese, the sausage and cheese, and the egg and cheese). Grilled Breakfast Burritos and a few of the A.M. Grilled Tacos also generally fit our parameters.

Sausage and Cheese Biscuit Taco (pictured above left)

370 calories

14 g protein

23 g fat (10 g saturated, 0 g trans)

640 mg sodium

29 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 7 g sugar)

Grilled Breakfast Burrito - Fiesta Potato (vegetarian) (pictured above right)

340 calories

10 g protein

15 g fat (3.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

790 mg sodium

43 g carbohydrates (3 g fiber, 3 g sugar)

See Taco Bell's breakfast menu nutrition info here.

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6. Dunkin' Donuts

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Dunkin' Donuts is known for doughnuts (obviously), but they also have some pretty decent breakfast items that aren't quite so sugary. The DD Smart menu has "healthy" food choices, and a lot of their wraps and flatbread sandwiches are pretty reasonable portion sizes. Actually, some of the wake-up wraps are so small you can order two of them and still stay under the 400-calorie line, if you want.

Bacon Guacamole Flatbread (pictured)

360 calories

17 g protein

17 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

850 mg sodium

34 g carbohydrates (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar)

TWO Egg-White Sausage Wake-Up Wraps

300 calories

18 g protein

14 g fat (6 g saturated, 0 g trans)

720 mg sodium

28 g carobhydrates (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar)

See all Dunkin' Donuts nutrition info here.

7. Burger King

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A lot of the breakfast items at Burger King have over 1,000 milligrams of sodium, which is definitely not ideal. The CROISSAN'WICH line of breakfast sandwiches tends to have less sodium than the breakfast sandwiches on muffins, although the breakfast muffins tend to be lower-calorie. Up to you which is more important, if you aren't into either of these options listed below.

Sausage Breakfast Burrito (pictured)

310 calories

14 g protein

19 g fat (7 g saturated, 0 g trans)

820 mg sodium

27 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar)

Egg & Cheese CROISSAN'WICH (vegetarian)

330 calories

11 g protein

18 g fat (8 g saturated, 0 g trans)

620 mg sodium

31 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar)

See Burger King's nutrition information here.

8. Hardee's

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This was NOT easy — there are only three items on the Hardee's breakfast menu under 400 calories, and one of them is a plain biscuit (that's withOUT gravy, btw). Unfortunately, all the biscuits with fixings on them have well over 1,000 milligrams of sodium. If you're going to eat breakfast at Hardee's and you care about eating healthy-ish, you'll definitely want to read the nutrition facts carefully before you order. Also don't be fooled by the Low Carb Breakfast Bowl — it comes with 660 calories and 1,550 milligrams of sodium. Carbohydrates are lower, but that's about it.

Made from Scratch Biscuit (without gravy) (vegetarian) (pictured)

300 calories

5 g protein

15 g fat (4 g saturated)

780 mg sodium

36 g carbohydrates (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar)

Sunrise Croissant with Ham

400 calories

18 g protein

23 g fat (9 g saturated)

880 mg sodium

29 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar)

See all nutrition information for Hardee's here.

9. Caribou Coffee

Stick with the oatmeal options and breakfast sandwiches and you'll have an easier time staying within the limits we outlined above. In fact, some of the mini breakfast sandwiches are so mini that you can order two and still come in under 400 calories.

Blueberry Almond Oatmeal (vegetarian) (pictured above left)

340 calories

16 g protein

8 g fat (0.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

210 mg sodium

54 g carbohydrates (9 g fiber, 13 g sugar)

TWO Spinach, Egg, and Swiss Minis (vegetarian) (pictured above right)

380 calories

16 g protein

20 g fat (7 g saturated)

520 mg sodium

32 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar)

See all nutrition info for Caribou Coffee here.

10. Pret A Manger

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Pret has a ton of healthy breakfast options — there's good variety of egg sandwiches and oatmeal dishes. You can also go for the yogurt parfaits, but should know that they come with a good deal of sugar. And as with any place that serves coffee, the less milk and sugar you add to your brew, the easier it'll be to stick to the general guidelines above.

Egg and Mushroom Brioche (vegetarian)

250 calories

14 g protein

14 g fat (7 g saturated)

300 mg sodium

19 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar)

Southwestern Breakfast Hot Wrap (vegetarian)

330 calories

18 g protein

14 g fat (6 g saturated)

710 mg sodium

40 g carbohydrates (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar)

See Pret's full nutrition info here.

11. Quiznos

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Quiznos food tends to be high in sodium, but there are some breakfast items that come in under 1,000 milligrams. Go for the grilled flatbread sandwiches or the breakfast subs to keep things lower-calorie and in the right sodium range.

Ham & Egg Grilled Flatbread (pictured)

300 calories

17 g protein

12 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans)

760 mg sodium

32 g carbohyrdates (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar)

Egg & Cheddar Sub (vegetarian)

370 calories

18 g protein

16 g fat (6 g saturated, 0 g trans)

760 mg sodium

39 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar)

See all nutrition info for Quiznos here.

12. Au Bon Pain

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Most breakfast items at Au Bon Pain are over 400 calories, and a lot of them have over 1,000 milligrams of sodium. But there are still some good options on there, especially if you focus on the egg dishes and avoid the smoothies and baked goods.

Egg Whites, Cheddar and Avocado on a Skinny Wheat Bagel (vegetarian) (pictured)

310 calories

20 g protein

17 g fat (6 g saturated)

610 mg sodium

26 g carbohydrates (9 g fiber, 2 g sugar)

2 Eggs On A Bagel (vegetarian)

430 calories

22 g proteim

12 g fat (4 g saturated, 0 g trans)

580 mg sodium

58 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar)

See Au Bon Pain's nutrition info here.

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