Is Your Better Breakfast Option Really Better?

Featured Article, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on September 3, 2013

By now, it’s common knowledge that consuming a nutritious breakfast is a harbinger of weight loss success. Until recently, however, people with hectic morning schedules were doomed to ingest greasy, cheese-and-butter smothered breakfast sandwiches from the drive-thru. Responding to the public clamor for better breakfast options, a number of popular franchises have introduced egg white sandwiches to their menu lineups, heralding a promising new era for the fast food industry. But when it comes to the healthfulness of fast food egg white sandwiches, it’s not all black and white. While we must applaud restaurants’ efforts to cater to the health-conscious, we feel obliged to divulge the frightening truth about what exactly is lurking inside that so-called “healthy” egg white sandwich.

 RELATED: Fast Food Gets Healthy

 McDonald’s Egg White Delight
250 calories, 7 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein
Over the past few years, McDonald’s has undertaken a valiant effort to expand its healthy menu offerings beyond the standard burger-and-fries fare. This summer, the fast food behemoth announced the nationwide launch of the Egg White Delight, a breakfast sandwich made with egg whites, lean Canadian bacon and white cheddar on a whole grain English muffin. At first glance, the sandwich’s nutrition stats are fairly impressive: one serving will set you back only 250 calories, with plenty of protein and fiber to keep you chugging all morning. But in spite of its low calorie count, the sandwich doesn’t get flawless marks in terms of nutrition. For one thing, the sandwich packs a whooping 800 milligrams of sodium—that’s nearly 34% of your daily allowance! What’s more, the ingredient list reads like a freaky science experiment, with questionable chemicals like “azodicarbonamide” and “diglycerides” injected into the sandwich—and who knows what nitrates and preservatives are lurking inside the processed Canadian bacon.

 Subway Egg White & Cheese With Avocado Flatbread (3”) 
190 calories, 7.5 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein
Sub giant Subway recently embarked on its first foray into the breakfast niche, debuting a line of wallet-friendly breakfast sandwiches that were billed as healthier alternatives to standard fast food breakfast fare. One of this summer’s featured offerings is the 3-inch “Egg White & Cheese with Avocado” flatbread sandwich, a combo made with egg whites, melted cheese and avocado on crispy flatbread. Clocking in at a minuscule 190 calories, the sandwich provides nearly 10 grams of hunger-squashing protein, plus healthy monounsaturated fats from the avocado, for some serious staying power. Bonus: Top your sandwich with crunchy fresh vegetables like bell peppers and spinach and you’ll get an added boost of nutritional value. Like most fast food sandwiches, however, the biggest nutritional glitch lies in the sandwich’s high sodium content—455 mg per sandwich. If you’re watching your sodium levels, nix the cheese and you’ll cut down on sodium (and calories).

 Panera Mediterranean Egg White on Ciabatta 
420 calories, 16 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein
Hopping on the breakfast bandwagon, bakery-café Panera Bread has sought to expand its breakfast menu with offerings like the Mediterranean Egg White sandwich, an egg white patty topped with white cheddar, roasted tomatoes, fresh spinach and basil pesto on ciabatta bread. Although touted as a healthier breakfast alternative, the sandwich gets docked points in the nutrition department thanks to its high content of refined carbohydrates, low fiber, and high sodium levels. To give this sandwich an instant health upgrade, you might consider requesting the cashier to swap whole grain bread for the ciabatta, which will amp up the fiber levels and eliminate refined carbs.

 Starbucks Egg White Breakfast Wrap
290 calories, 10 grams of fat, 19 grams of protein
A wheat wrap filled with cage-free egg white, spinach, tangy feta cheese and tomatoes, Starbucks’ Egg White Breakfast Wrap is a tasty on-the-go breakfast that won’t break the calorie bank. One decent-sized wrap will satisfy with big flavor and under 300 calories. But don’t let the low calorie content fool you—this wrap isn’t exactly nutrition nirvana. For one thing, it has a staggering sodium content, delivering more than 36% of your daily sodium needs. Additionally, the ingredient list spans virtually an entire paragraph and is teeming with eyebrow-raising additives like “fungal amylase” and “l-cysteine”—not exactly the kind of things you want to be putting in your body. The wrap does have some redeeming nutritional value, however, thanks to the spinach and tomatoes, which supply half of your daily vitamin A needs and 15% of your vitamin C needs.

 Dunkin Donuts Egg White Veggie Flatbread  
270 calories, 10 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein
Not too long ago, visitors to Dunkin Donuts were hard-pressed to find grab-and-go options that weren’t sugary, gut-busting doughnuts—not exactly ideal morning fuel. Responding to a demand for a more varied menu selection, the iconic breakfast chain has since unveiled a number of breakfast sandwiches ranging from this bacon doughnut monstrosity to more sensible egg white offerings. For example, with less than 300 calories, the Egg White Veggie Flatbread—which includes a veggie egg white patty topped with reduced-fat cheese on multigrain flatbread—gives Dunkin Donut’s menu a healthier glow. But a quick perusal of the sandwich’s ingredient list reveals that there is more lurking in this sandwich than meets the eye. The egg patty, for example, is pumped full with chemicals like “natamycin” and “sodium acid pyrophosphate,” and the so-called “multigrain” flatbread isn’t actually made with whole grains but enriched wheat flour.

 Au Bon Pain Egg Whites and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich
230 calories, 9 grams of fat, 19 grams of protein
Joining in on the egg white craze, bakery-café Au Bon Pain rolled out its Egg Whites and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich, a combination of three egg whites and cheddar cheese served on a wheat skinny bagel. Compared to its competitors, Au Bon Pain’s egg white sandwich gets high marks for its relatively simple ingredient list. The egg white patty, for example, contains just two readily recognizable ingredients, egg whites and butter—no hidden ingredients or mysterious chemicals. Additionally, the whole-wheat bagel is indeed made with whole-wheat flour rather than refined grains. As with most restaurant foods, however, Au Bon Pain’s egg white sandwich contains relatively high sodium levels (21% per serving). But overall, because of its low calorie content and uncomplicated ingredient list, this sandwich emerges as the clear all-star of the fast food egg white sandwiches.

The takeaway message? When you’re running late for work or facing a major time-crunch, these egg white sandwiches are acceptable on-the-go breakfast fixes. Laden with chemicals, sodium and preservatives, however, they’re probably not something you want to consume on a daily basis. Instead of saddling up to the drive thru, why don’t you try making a quick and easy breakfast sandwich in the comfort of your own kitchen (like this one?  Not only is it cheaper, you know exactly what is going into your mouth.