It’s been decades since Herb Peterson first created a handheld version of eggs Benedict for McDonald’s in the 1970s. And while the classic Egg McMuffin is still on the chain's menu, it’s now competing with a plethora of lower-calorie options, making drive-thru breakfasts more accessible to people following a variety of diets.
For the most part, plenty of Americans are demanding more wholesome ways to start their days now. And, let's face it, when you don't have too much time in the morning, it can be hard to make a filling and nutritious breakfast at home. Here are a handful of our current healthier favorites available at drive-thru windows across the country.
Egg White Delight McMuffin, $3, McDonald’s
While the original Egg McMuffin has 300 calories, this version has 250 calories thanks to the substitution of egg whites, extra lean Canadian Bacon and a whole grain English muffin. The white cheddar cheese (instead of American cheese) makes this option feel a bit more indulgent, too. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, told TODAY that if you plan on eating this every day, skip the Canadian bacon. But in general, she noted it has a good balance of protein and carbs. Since most McDonald's locations are no longer offering all-day breakfast, you'll have to head out early to pick up one of these tasty delights.
Egg White Grill, $3, Chick-fil-A
If you’re after a breakfast that's packed with protein, pick this breakfast sandwich up for a whopping 25 grams. Inside the wholegrain English muffin you’ll find grilled chicken, egg whites and melted cheese. It will set you back 7 grams of fat and 300 calories. (To lower that number, you can always get this without the bread.)
"This sandwich keeps breakfast calories in check, it has plenty of protein and it’s built upon a whole grain English muffin — all important to jump start your day," said Taub-Dix. "But just keep in mind that most of us don’t need as much protein as you might think. Any one of those protein rich foods, whether cheese, egg, or chicken would be enough for a breakfast choice."
Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans, $5, Panera Bread
A popular breakfast item on Panera Bread’s vegan menu, this wholesome ensemble features 9 grams of filling fiber.
"Most of us don't get enough fiber so this choice packs a fiber punch! Oats contain soluble fiber that may help to lower cholesterol levels," said Taub-Dix, who also cautioned against adding too many calorie-laden toppings. What this dish doesn’t have is artificial preservatives, sweeteners or coloring agents. It's available at Panera Bread drive-thrus and at Panera Bread Rapid Pick-Up locations.
Sous Vide Egg Bites: Egg White & Red Pepper, $5, Starbucks
These tasty egg bites are so soft that they melt in your mouth. Prepared with egg whites, spinach, fire-roasted red peppers and a touch of feta, cottage cheese and Monterey Jack, they're a satisfying option if you're avoiding bread. For just 170 calories, you get 13 grams of protein to tide you over until lunch. "The calories are low enough to pair this meal with some whole grain crackers or a slice of whole grain toast," noted Taub-Dix.
Chia Booth Smoothie, $5, Tropical Smoothie Café
Taub-Dix called this smoothie a "beverage with benefits." But at 500 calories (if you don’t add any extra sugar), it can also put a serious dent in your daily calorie budget. At least it’s chock full of better options for that sweet tooth in all of us. Think coconut, chia seeds, roasted banana, cinnamon, almonds, dates and whole grain oats. It’s also customizable so you can pick and choose any extras.
Egg White Veggie Sandwich, $5, Dunkin' Donuts
The best part about going through the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru is not being tempted by the pastry display. Instead of ordering a dozen Munchkins the next time you just meant to grab a coffee, opt for the Egg White Veggie Sandwich. At 290 calories and 9 grams of fat, it's one of the coffee chain's lowest-calorie items. Plus, it's still packed with protein.
Simply Oatmeal, $5, Peet’s Coffee
If you're not following a low-carb diet, oatmeal is a great way to help meet your daily fiber requirements, plus it's low in fat and sugar (if you steer clear of the extras like brown sugar and a lot of fruit). Peet's Simply Oatmeal is made from steel-cut oats and flax seed, and it has 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just 170 calories.
Looking for quick and easy breakfast recipes you can make at home? Try these: