Breakfast sandwiches are one of the most popular ordered items here at fast-food chains in Canada – but they’re not always the healthiest choice. On this episode of The Perfect Bite, host Andrea Jenna is joined by registered dietitian Marcia Sivilotti of ME and YOU Nutrition. They taste test five popular bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches and give you the details on what sandwich is worth standing in line for, and what you might want to avoid.
When it comes to breakfast, it’s easy to overload on all the yummy options. But Marcia recommends sticking to something that is between 300-500 calories.
Last year, researchers released a study that said fast-food breakfast sandwiches can clog your arteries within hours of being consumed.
“That particular study actually had two breakfast sandwiches that contained 50 grams of fat,” Marcia explains. “So really anytime you eat anything with that amount of fat at one meal it’s obviously not going to be good for you or your heart – not just breakfast sandwiches.”
“Really, they’re high in saturated fat, they’re high in sodium, and really low in fibre,” she continues.
But if you are going to indulge, there are plenty of ways you can make healthier choices.
“I think we need to start with the bread – go for a lighter choice. Go for a whole wheat English muffin if you can – skip the biscuit, skip the bagel, skip the croissant,” says Marcia. “Get the egg, and if you really want to limit the fat and the sodium you’ve got to forego the cheese and the bacon.”
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Starbucks Bacon & Gouda Artisan Breakfast Sandwich (350 calories, 18 g fat, 820 mg sodium, 17 g protein)
“The egg is very uniform – it’s solid,” says Marcia.
“So would you say that’s fresh?” asks Andrea.
“No,” Marcia continues.
Burger King Bacon, Egg & Cheese Croissan'wich (Tied for least healthy option: 360 calories, 19 g fat, 830 mg sodium, 14 g protein)
“It’s soft,” Andrea says. “I can taste all the different ingredients.”
“I find it actually tastes really salty,” Marcia comments. “And it’s a similar type egg [to the first one], like it’s cut into two eggs.”
This croissant option turned out to be one of the least healthy option of the bunch, because it has so much trans fat. It had five grams of trans fat – the most of any sandwiches.
“Really, we’re aiming for zero grams of trans fat per day,” Marcia says.
McDonald’s Bacon 'n' Egg McMuffin (Most healthy option: 320 calories, 15 g fat, 740 mg sodium, 16 g protein)
“So this looks like a classic egg,” Marcia says. “I can tell that there’s egg white, I can see the yolk.”
“Yeah, this looks real,” agrees Andrea.
The realness of this option won over both Marcia and Andrea.
“It looked like a real egg, you could see the bacon, there was lots of different flavours you want to taste in there,” Marcia says.
“It tasted exactly like something I would make at home,” agrees Andrea.
While three of the breakfast sandwiches were close in nutritional value, this sandwich came out on top.
“It had a little bit less calories, and about 100 milligrams less sodium in there,” Marcia explains.
Subway Bacon, Egg & Cheese (Tied for least healthy: 410 calories, 16 g fat, 1080 mg sodium, 23 g protein)
“If we’re doing bacon and egg, I don’t see anything but egg,” says Andrea.
But the bread option impresses nutritionist Marcia.
“I do notice this is on a whole wheat English muffin,” she says. “So that’s a bit of an advantage, there will be more fibre in this.”
“This one doesn’t have very much flavour to me,” Andrea concludes.
Despite the whole wheat English muffin, this sandwich was still one of the least healthy. Unlike the Burger King option, however, it wasn’t the trans fat that made it unhealthy – but the sodium.
“It may have not had the trans fat, but it had over 1000 mg of sodium,” Marcia explains. “So about three quarters of your sodium intake for the day.”
Tim Hortons Hot Breakfast Sandwich (English Muffin) with Bacon (330 calories, 15 g fat, 770 mg sodium, 17 g protein
“So, this is again the yellow egg,” says Marcia. “I can taste a lot of the processed cheese actually.”
“It doesn’t taste like the way an egg should taste at all,” Andrea agrees. “It just tastes different.”
Other healthy options
If you are trying to stay away from breakfast sandwiches, many fast-food chains are now offering alternatives.
“Now at fast-food restaurants, there’s oatmeal,” says Marcia. “We’re really emphasizing more fibre at breakfast, so that’s going to help. There’s also yogurt and granola parfaits.”
And if you’re at home, Marcia suggests taking a whole wheat tortilla and stuffing it with some nut butter and a banana, and you’ve got a healthy breakfast on the go.
What's your favourite fast-food breakfast sandwich? Or do you prefer to make your own at home? Let us know in the comments below.