Along with a really great cup of coffee, breakfast sandwiches are one of the few things that can make even a habitual late sleeper reconsider their early bird life. When it comes to morning meals, they’re a classic for a reason. âBreakfast sandwiches are popular because they are easy to eat on the go and are a reassuring way to start the day,â says Holly Klamer, RDN, a registered dietitian based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. âThey’re high in protein, so they keep you feeling full for a long time. “
This protein typically comes from eggs, meat (usually sausage or bacon), and cheese, all sandwiched into a bagel, English muffin, or other bread choice. As delicious as it may be, the typical breakfast sandwich doesn’t exactly cry out for healthy food.
âBreakfast sandwiches are notorious for not being a healthy food,â Klamer says. “They tend to be high in calories and saturated fat and low in fiber.”
But there is no reason to write them off completely. âThe good news is that they can be made healthier by changing certain ingredients,â says Klamer.
RELATED: 10 satisfying protein-rich breakfasts
Do it and you’ll start your day with a sandwich that energizes you instead of weighing you down. âThe first meal of the day really sets the tone for how the rest of your meals are likely to go,â says Trista Best, RD, MPH, environmental health specialist and consultant at Balance One Supplements (a company that sells supplements) in Dalton, Georgia.
Here are five expert tips for adding a healthy twist to your next breakfast sandwich.
1. Choose lean meat
Instead of beef or pork or bacon sausage, opt for turkey bacon or turkey sausage to save fat and calories, Klamer says. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a pork sausage patty contains 19 grams (g) of fat and 210 calories. The same serving of turkey sausage, on the other hand, contains 5g of fat and 86 calories, according to USDA data.
You might be tempted to go for a plant-based option, which is served over breakfast sandwiches at Burger King and Starbucks. While there are benefits to eating less meat – it can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and many more. cancers, according to the American Heart Association – these won’t necessarily save you calories. âSurprisingly, meatless sausage can actually be similar to regular sausage in terms of calories and fat content,â says Klamer. “This ‘meat’ may also be higher in sodium compared to regular sausage.”
2. Maximize the nutrition of your bread
If you have the option of choosing what holds the sandwich together, go for a whole grain English muffin or whole grain bread instead of croissants, bagels, or white bread. This will give the fiber a boost, says Klamer. According to the USDA, two slices of whole grain bread contain almost 4g of fiber, while the same serving of white bread contains 1.29g. Fiber is important in keeping you full, according to the Mayo Clinic. A high-fiber diet is associated with weight loss, regardless of macronutrient and calorie intake, according to a study published in October 2019 in the magazine Nutrition Journal.
RELATED: Do you really need breakfast?
3. Add vegetables
âBreakfast is often a meal where vegetables are left out, but breakfast sandwiches are a great place to incorporate them,â says Best. “Toppings are the best way to make your sandwich nutrient dense rather than calorie dense.” She recommends sautÃ©ed or grilled vegetables like spinach, peppers, onions and mushrooms. Avocados are another tasty addition. The good fats in avocados add bulk to your sandwich in a healthier way than extra chunks of meat, according to Best. And there are health benefits, too: Avocado contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the. Cleveland Clinic.
4. Reconsider your cheese
Let’s start with the good news: cheese shouldn’t be banned. âA slice of cheese can be added to a breakfast sandwich for flavor, texture and a good source of protein and calcium,â says Klamer. But beware: it’s easy to go too far and enter unhealthy territory with those extra slices. Klamer suggests limiting portion sizes to 1 ounce (oz) and avoiding American cheese, the most processed and nutrient-deprived type of sliced ââcheese. If you’re a vegan or just want to try something other than cheese, add a tablespoon or two of hummus or a few slices of avocado instead, suggests Klamer.
5. Go for whole eggs
Eggs are the heart of the breakfast sandwich and aren’t an ingredient you’ll want to skip. Each egg adds 6.24 g of protein to your morning meal, according to USDA data.
âEating protein in the morning will help you have more energy throughout the day and prevent a drop in sugar from typical sugar-laden breakfast foods,â Best explains. A small study of 27 obese or overweight men found that overweight individuals who ate a diet high in protein (25% of energy from protein) were more full during the day than those who ate a normal protein diet (14% of energy from protein).
Many restaurant menus offer only egg whites; don’t assume it’s a better option. “Unless instructed otherwise by your healthcare team, whole eggs can be a healthy choice for a breakfast sandwich, âsays Klamer. Eggs have a bad reputation for being bad for heart health, but a meta-analysis published in October 2016 in the Journal of the American College of Nutritionfound that eating up to an egg a day is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease and may even reduce the risk of stroke.
RELATED: 10 healthier turns on a classic grilled cheese sandwich
The bottom line
The breakfast sandwich can be part of your morning routine! Just consider a few ingredient swaps to make it as nutritious as possible.