Remember that scene in Rocky, where Stallone jogs through the streets of Philadelphia and a fruit vendor tosses him an orange for breakfast? It would be great if real life were like that—you’re making your way to work and into the window of your car flies something wholesome and nutritious.
But even though fast-food restaurants are in the midst of a self-proclaimed “breakfast war,” most of what passes for breakfast at these chains is a celebration of fat, sugar and sodium, with nutrition a mere afterthought. And that’s not right: A smart breakfast is your opening salvo in the battle for a flat belly. In fact, according to the National Weight Control Registry, 78 percent of dieters who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept if off for at least a year say that they eat breakfast every single day.
As McDonald’s launches its “breakfast all day long” initiative next month, the editors of Eat This, Not That! woke up early to investigate the chain’s menu, and find you something that will jumpstart your weight-loss quest. Here are the absolute Best and Worst Breakfasts at McDonald’s.
Worst Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 6
Sausage Biscuit (Regular Size Biscuit)
430 calories, 27 g fat (12 g saturated), 1,080 mg sodium, 34 g carbs, 11 g protein
Sausage McMuffin with Egg
450 calories, 28 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 860 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 21 g protein
Imagine putting five Jimmy Dean Fully Cooked Original Pork Sausage Links between a big ol’ slab of greasy bread, and holding the whole shebang. Because that’s the saturated fat equivalent you’re getting with this Biscuit. At least the McMuffin has 10 more grams of protein (yet is still a bit high in calories).
Worst Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 5
Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddles
460 calories, 21 g fat (9 g saturated), 1,250 mg sodium, 48 g carbs, 19 g protein
Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit
460 calories, 26 g fat (13 g saturated), 1,300 mg sodium, 38 g carbs, 19 g protein
It doesn’t matter if it’s wrapped between a pancake or a biscuit, the ooey, gooey goodness of a bacon, egg and cheese ain’t good for you. The McGriddle features more than half a day’s sodium and nearly half a day’s saturated fat—that’s as much saturated fat as 117 Funyuns! Meanwhile, the Biscuit has 83% of the day’s cholesterol, or as much as you’d find in 28 slices of bacon—and also more than a half day’s of sodium. You’ll need a drink after all that salt—just don’t make it a Coke. Click here for the 5 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Soda!
Worst Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 4
460 calories, 19 g fat (9 g saturated), 370 mg sodium, 66 g carbs, 6 g protein
Mickey D’s calls this “the best part of a cinnamon roll” but it’s the worst thing for your waistline. You want to start each day with belly-filling protein, not a bowl full of cake topped with cream cheese icing. The Cinnamon Melts have 32 grams of sugar, far more than a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar.
Worst Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 3
Sausage Biscuit with Egg
510 calories, 33 g fat (14 g saturated), 1,170 mg sodium, 36 g carbs, 18 g protein
Like the sandwiches above, these have way too much sodium (half a day’s) and almost three-quarters of your daily allowance of saturated fat. Unless you’re getting your McDonald’s sausage from a burrito, run.
Worst Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 2
Hotcakes and Sausage
520 calories, 24 g fat (7 g saturated), 930 mg sodium, 61 g carbs, 15 g protein
Sugary bread and salty meat? You probably thought this would be #1. And with as many carbs as four slices of white bread, it could be, especially if you add the whipped margarine and hotcake syrup. Then you’re looking at 740 calories and 106 g carbs, which is the carb equivalent of nearly seven slices of white bread. And yet there is one meal even worse coming up next. (Rather than eat either, stay home and whip up one of the quick 5-minute breakfasts among the 150+ weight-loss recipes in the Zero Belly Cookbook, based on the New York Times-bestselling Zero Belly Diet!)
Worst Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 1
Steak, Egg & Cheese Bagel
670 calories, 35 g fat (13 g saturated, 1.5 trans fat) 1,510 mg sodium, 56 g carbs, 33 g protein
Like most of the sandwiches here, the Steak, Egg & Cheese Bagel has more than half a day’s fat—but more sodium than the rest. In fact, it has as much sodium as 16 Chicken McNuggets! Start your day instead with our top pick—the Egg McMuffin—and a cup of warm tea. It worked for Tracy Durst, age 45, of Lewistown, PA, when she bought out Tea Diet book. “I went from a size 20 to a size 16, and I’m alive with energy,” she told Eat This, Not That! For the complete plan—which includes delicious weight-loss smoothies—click on The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse!
Best Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 5
Fruit ’N Yogurt Parfait
150 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated), 80 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 4 g protein
Not really a full meal as much as a grab-and-go starter, this relatively new addition to McDonald’s menu does what it’s meant to do: offer a light and lively choice on a menu otherwise devoted to bacon and eggs. “With 4 grams of protein, it’s a good snack,” says Gina Consalvo, MA, RD, LDN, emphasis on snack. And if you’re looking to make your own at home, turbocharge your fat burn with one of these 9 Best Brand Name Yogurts for Weight Loss!
Best Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 4
300 calories, 16 g fat (7 g saturated), 790 mg sodium, 26 g carbs, 12 g protein
Unlike the Mexican mierda you’ll find at Taco Bell—home of the “Biscuit Taco”—McDonald’s spin on the breakfast burrito won’t have you running for the border (or the bathroom). Theirs is made with peppers, onions, eggs, sausage and cheese all wrapped in a soft tortilla, and it contains 15% of your days’ calcium, which is about what you’ll find in a Greek yogurt (albeit with far more sodium).
Best Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 3
Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
290 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 160 mg sodium, 58 g carbs, 5 g protein
“If you feel that you’re low on energy and McDonald’s is your only bet, try getting the fruit and maple oatmeal—just skip the calorie-laden brown sugar, cream, raisins and Craisins,” advises Jim White RD, ACSM HFS, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. “This will most likely curb your appetite until your next meal because the carbohydrates will take longer to digest than your typical high sugar donut or pastry.” We agree. And to keep your morning meal the slimmest ever, try some of the other 6 Best Carbs Guaranteed for a Flat Belly.
Best Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 2
Egg White Delight McMuffin
250 calories, 8 g fat (3 g saturated), 770 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 18 g protein
Made with grilled egg whites, white cheddar and extra lean Canadian bacon on a muffin made with eight grams of whole grain, this is McDonald’s living up to it its own marketing hype. It’s healthy, tastes fresh and only misses out on #1 because of a technicality. Order one.
Best Breakfast at McDonald's: No. 1
300 calories, 13 g fat (5 g saturated), 750 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 17 g protein
Yup, the classic. “Not only do I eat guilt-free at McDonald’s,” says Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND, a Chicago area registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant. “I think they get a bad rap all too often.” She recommends a staple Eat This, Not That! has approved for years—more so now that they’re being made with real butter, in some locations: “When I’m flying in the morning, I typically get an Egg McMuffin and a coffee,” she says. “The sandwich only has 300 calories and it offers 17 grams of satiety-providing protein.” And it beats the Egg White Delight because….? “I stick with the whole egg sandwich because the yolk contains carotenoids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals,” says Palumbo. Eggs also boast choline, a potent flab-fryer, which is why eggs are one of our 9 Best Flat-Belly Superfoods Ever!
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