Nutritionists reveal exactly what they order at Starbucks, Panera Bread, Dunkin’ and other popular breakfast spots.
Even though it’s the most important meal of the day, it’s hard to make time for breakfast in the morning. For better or worse, fast food and quick-service restaurants are stepping up with lots of breakfast-on-the-go options.
The good news is that you can find healthy options on the menu, plus off-the-menu hacks, so you can start the day right (even if you are in a rush).
That's why even nutrition experts occasionally turn to fast food and fast casual chains for a grab-and-go bite sometimes. And when they do, here's exactly what they order.
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Qué pedir en Starbucks
1. Spinach, Feta, and Egg-White Wrap
"This is my go-to breakfast at Starbucks," says registered dietitian Cordialis Msora-Kasago, R.D., who is based in California. "Although the wrap runs higher in sodium at 840 milligrams, it's friendly on the waistline at 290 calories and high in protein at 20 grams," she says.
Spinach provides an important dose of iron. Plus, this wrap contains 3 grams of belly-filling fiber.
2. Rolled & Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Fruit and Nuts
“Oatmeal with fruit and nuts is a perfect plant-based meal to get me going when I’m on the road,” says Sharon Palmer, R.D., author of The Plant-Powered Diet. “It’s low in sugar and high in fiber (4 grams), which is important for satiety, heart health, and digestion,” she says.
3. Eggs and Cheddar Protein Box
In addition to containing less than 500 milligrams of sodium, this box provides a whopping 22 grams of protein, Msora-Kasago says.
“I especially love that each box contains a serving of fruit, which helps me meet the recommended minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables per day while soothing a sweet tooth that may have otherwise been satisfied with sugary foods like candy or cookies.”
4. Sous Vide Egg Bites: Egg White and Red Pepper
“With 170 calories and 12 grams of protein, these really help keep me full at the start of my day,” says Toby Amidor, R.D., author of Smart Meal Prep for Beginners.
They’re also incredibly easy to eat on the go—without the risk of making a mess.
Recommended reading: 6 Foods You Should Never Eat for Breakfast
What to Order at Panera Bread
5. Custom Egg Sandwich
“What I especially love about Panera egg sandwiches is that they are made-to-order from 100-percent whole eggs,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet.
"My pick is one egg over easy, avocado, spinach, and tomato on a multigrain bagel flat," Gans says. "This sandwich typically comes with egg whites and cheese, but I prefer to include the nutrient-rich yolk and lose the cheese."
The menu item Gans customizes is the Avocado, Egg White, Spinach & Cheese on a Multigrain Bagel Flat.
6. Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries & Pecans
"My go-to order at Panera is steel-cut oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts," Amidor says. "It hits the spot and keeps me satisfied on busy mornings." This dish has 370 calories, 9 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein.
What to Order at Au Bon Pain
7. Bon to Go Hard-Boiled Eggs and Fruit Cup
It's hard to beat this basic breakfast combo when you're on the go. "Both are low in calories, and the protein in the eggs and fiber in the fruit will help keep you satiated throughout the morning," says Ryan Maciel, R.D.N., a dietitian based in Boston. For an additional protein boost, plus a dose of healthy fats and fiber, reach for a Bon to Go Box of Fruit, Egg & Nuts.
8. Custom Egg Sandwich on a Skinny Wheat Bagel
“At Au Bon Pain, I like to individualize my breakfast order,” Gans says. “Two eggs, avocado, and tomato on a skinny wheat bagel is my go-to. It’s just the right combination of protein, healthy fat, and carbs to keep me full until lunchtime.
“Also,” she adds, “it’s hard to find a breakfast sandwich that provides 9 grams of heart-healthy fiber like this one.”
What to Order at Dunkin’
9. Wake-Up Wrap
While many items on Dunkin's menu are sugar bombs, this pick comes with just 1 gram of sugar and 180 calories. "It's easily the best available option if you need a snack to hold you over," Maciel says. Tip: Order it without the breakfast meat.
10. Multigrain Bagel
If you’re craving carbs, this multigrain bagel is a surprisingly smart pick, with 15 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, says Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“The combo of protein and fiber will help you avoid needing to snack on something within one or two hours of breakfast.”
Qué pedir en McDonald's
11. Avena con frutas y jarabe de arce
This oatmeal has 320 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of fiber, making it a great breakfast option, Msora-Kasago says. "I skip the brown sugar and use only half of the raisins and Craisins, which add some wonderful taste, texture, and color."
If you like your oatmeal moist, get a 1 percent low-fat milk jug on the side, Msora-Kasago suggests. “I pour some of the milk over the oatmeal and chug the rest to complete my meal with some protein and calcium.”
What to Order at Chick-fil-A
12. Egg White Grill With a Fruit Cup
Clocking in at 300 calories and with 28 grams of protein, this breakfast sandwich satisfies - without compromising your nutritional goals. To bring the 1,020 mg of sodium down, order it without the cheese. Adding a fruit cup to your order will help you increase your fiber intake.
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Photos: George Karabotsos.