"Healthy fast-food breakfast" may sound like an oxymoron, but as consumers become increasingly aware of their own health and well-being, many popular chains have made a concerted effort to create nutritious meals that are designed to help you start your day off on the right foot.
While the majority of fast-food breakfasts aren't great for your overall health, there is a handful that is tasty, satisfying, and a bit better for you. Moreover, many of these healthier breakfast options are packed with protein, which means you'll likely feel full and satiated until it's time to move on to lunch.
Since it can be tricky to discern what constitutes a healthy breakfast choice and what dishes you should skip, we reached out to a team of registered dietitians to get their input on the most nutritious fast-food breakfasts around. Read on for their top nine picks—and for more info on how to make smart, healthy choices, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Wendy's Oatmeal Bar
NUTRITION: 270 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 230 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (4 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 3 g protein
Many people only think of juicy burgers and creamy Frosties when they think of Wendy's, but this fast-food chain offers some healthier, lighter options as well, like this oatmeal bar.
"Combining milk as a beverage and enjoying an oatmeal bar and apple bites can act as a light and convenient breakfast that provides high-quality protein, whole grains, and fruit," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility.
Chick-fil-A Yogurt Parfait
NUTRITION: 270 calories, 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 80 mg sodium, 36 g carbs (1 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 13 g protein
While it can be tempting to order a chicken biscuit when you visit Chick-fil-A, you have lighter, more nutrient-dense options if you need.
"Chick-fil-A yogurt parfaits are surprisingly satisfying," says Manaker. "Made with real yogurt, fruit, and granola, this dish can be a delicious way to include key nutrients in your breakfast on busy mornings. Also, you can pair it with a cup of coffee for a light meal to keep you going throughout the day."
Starbucks' Rolled&Steel-Cut Oatmeal With Blueberries
NUTRITION: 320 calories, 12 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 130 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (7 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 8 g protein
"This oatmeal is a solid fast food breakfast pick. It's based on whole grain oats, which provide health-protective soluble fiber," says Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, plant-forward culinary nutritionist, and author of The Clean&Simple Diabetes Cookbook. "It's got blueberries, which are loaded with anthocyanins, the plant pigment that's associated with reducing risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more."
Starbucks Spinach, Feta,&Egg White Wrap
NUTRITION: 290 calories, 8 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 840 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 20 g protein
"It's not easy to find a fast-food breakfast that includes vegetables! This wrap has spinach, which is a good source of iron, egg whites, which provide lean, low-fat protein, tomatoes, and a little bit of feta, all rolled up into a whole-wheat wrap," notes Talia Hauser, RD, a registered dietitian. "This meal has a really good balance of fat from the cheese, fiber from the vegetables and wrap, and protein from the egg whites. It's a total win! Just don't mess it all up by getting a high-calorie, high-sugar drink! Stick to a basic coffee or latte made with skim milk or almond milk."
McDonald's Fruit&Maple Oatmeal
NUTRITION: 320 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 150 mg sodium, 64 g carbs (4 g fiber, 31 g sugar), 6 g protein
"This breakfast contains whole-grain oats and fresh fruit—red and green apples, cranberries, and raisins," notes Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, registered dietitian and the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. "This meal provides fiber and is relatively low in calories."
Starbucks' Turkey Bacon, Cheddar,&Egg White Sandwich
NUTRITION: 230 calories, 5 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 560 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 17 g protein
"Packed with 17 grams of protein with only 230 calories? This sandwich is better and more satisfying than most protein bars found on the market," says Silvia Carli, RD, a registered dietitian at 1AND1 LIFE. "This tasty option remains low in fat and calories and high in protein because of the reduced-fat cheese and the egg whites."
Panera Bread's Greek Yogurt With Mixed Berries Parfait
NUTRITION: 240 calories, 8 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 80 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (2 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 15 g protein
"Tasty, sweet, rich in antioxidants from berries, protein, and probiotics from the Greek yogurt form a filling breakfast," Carli shares. "This parfait also contains sunflower and pumpkin seeds for copper and magnesium, minerals that are involved in many reactions in the body."
Panera Bread's Chipotle Chicken, Scrambled Egg,&Avocado Wrap
NUTRITION: 470 calories, 27 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 750 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 29 g protein
"This wrap is high in protein and contains vegetables and fiber, which most fast-food breakfasts don't have," Young explains.
Starbucks Lentils&Vegetable Protein Bowl With Brown Rice
NUTRITION: 650 calories, 29 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 670 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (21 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 23 g protein
It's full of fiber, plant-based protein, and most of the ingredients are unprocessed and even allergy-friendly.
"When it comes to breakfast, it's easy for us to reach for things that are sugary and full of simple carbohydrates (hi, blueberry muffin) that cause us to crash an hour later, but this protein bowl provides an excellent balance of macronutrients to nourish you all morning long," Self adds.
An original version of this article was published on April 8, 2021. It has been updated to include additional copy, proofreading revisions, updated links, and current nutrition information.