Fast food is the perfect breakfast on the go, but may not be the healthiest choice. If you’re going to be eating fast food, might as well reach for the healthiest options.
In this article
- How We Rated the Meals
- 10 Healthiest Fast Food Breakfasts
- 1. McDonald’s
- 2. Starbucks
- 3. Chick-Fil-A
- 4. Taco Bell
- 5. Wendy’s
- 6. Dunkin’ Donuts
- 7. Burger King
- 8. Subway
- 9. Sonic
- 10. Panera
How We Rated the Meals
The FDA has released some new guidelines in 2023 about what is considered “healthy”. These guidelines are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which is a decent number for many adults. After researching, the FDA has found that;
- 75% of people have dietary patterns low in vegetables, fruits, and dairy
- 63% exceed the limit of added sugars
- 77% exceed the limit for saturated fat
- 90% exceed the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction limits for sodium
Under the updated guidelines, for a meal to be considered healthy, it must have;
- Protein, at least 20% daily value or 32 grams
- Dietary fiber, at least 20% daily value or 6 grams
- Less than 34% of daily calories, or 670 calories
- At least 20% daily value of a nutrient
- We will look at vitamins A, C, Calcium, and Iron
- Limited added sugar, less than 20% of your daily value, or 10 grams
- Limited sodium, under 20% of your daily value or 460 milligrams
- Limited cholesterol, less than 20% of your daily value or 60 milligrams
- Limited saturated fat, less than 20% of your daily value or 20 grams
This approach prioritizes the density of nutrients in a meal as well as diversity. Focusing on the overall picture of your diet is the main goal of the FDA’s new guidelines while reducing elements that carry risk factors like sodium and cholesterol.
10 Healthiest Fast Food Breakfasts
We analyzed the entire breakfast menus of the top 10 fast food restaurants, and here are the winners (and why).
Steak, Egg, & Cheese Bagel – Score: 7/11
The Steak, Egg, and Cheese on a Bagel is the most well-rounded breakfast option in this list, with enough protein to get you through the day and a solid vitamin profile. If you have a problem with high cholesterol, steer clear of this item.
|Saturated Fat (g)||13|
|Vitamin A (%DV)||20|
|Vitamin C (%DV)||4|
Multigrain Bagel – Score: 6/7
The multigrain bagel is starbuck’s only item that received a 6/7 score, and it’s vegan! Throw some cream cheese or butter on it, though, and it won’t receive as high of a score.
|Saturated Fat (g)||3.5|
Greek Yogurt Parfait with Granola – Score: 4/7
Who doesn’t love yogurt for breakfast? Though the greek yogurt unfortunately doesn’t deliver on total protein content, the calories are low enough that you could have 2! Another plus is that it’s heart-healthy.
|Saturated Fat (g)||3.5|
4. Taco Bell
Cinnamon Twist – Score: 5/7
Surprisingly, the cinnamon twist pastry is Taco Bell’s healthiest breakfast item. Though it doesn’t really provide anything substantial, it’s safely under the limits of fats, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. All other breakfast items from Taco Bell score a 3 or less.
|Saturated Fat (g)||.5|
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on an English Muffin – Score: 3/7
Wendy’s food is notoriously high in cholesterol and sodium, so it’s hard to find a healthy option here. This breakfast sandwich provides a modest amount of protein without breaking the calorie bank.
|Saturated Fat (g)||7|
6. Dunkin’ Donuts
Plain Croissant – Score: 7/11
Dunkin’s highest-scoring breakfast item is the plain croissant, which delivers when it comes to being a healthy snack but won’t fill you up for breakfast. It provides 20% of daily value for both Vitamin D and Iron.
|Saturated Fat (g)||8|
|Vitamin D (%DV)||15|
|Vitamin K (%DV)||1|
7. Burger King
3 Piece French Toast Sticks – Score: 5/7
These may not fill you up, but they’ll sure be delicious! Add in something with protein and fiber, and this could be a great part of a well-rounded breakfast.
|Saturated Fat (g)||2|
6’’ Steak, Egg White, and Cheese Flatbread – Score: 4/7
This flatbread sounds delicious and brings a solid amount of protein with it. But watch out for that sodium if you have high blood pressure!
|Saturated Fat (g)||5|
Bacon Breakfast Burrito – Score: 3/7
Sonic is notorious for the high amounts of sodium and cholesterol in their products, making them one of the most unhealthy fast food restaurants. This burrito will satisfy, but you’ll have to watch your sodium and cholesterol intake for the rest of the day.
|Saturated Fat (g)||11|
Plain Bagel – Score: 5/7
Many of Panera’s bagels check the boxes for overall health but don’t provide enough fiber or protein. Adding cream cheese or smoked salmon to one of these could give you a well-rounded breakfast.
|Saturated Fat (g)||0|
Finding healthy fast food breakfast choices can be difficult, and you’ll often have to compromise on one or more categories to feel full. Protein and fiber are going to give you that satisfied feeling, keeping you full for longer. With breakfast, though, that usually means compromising on fat or sodium, because breakfast meats can be overly processed. As long as fast food is more of an occasional buy than a common trend, you can stay healthy, even when you’re on the go.