Do you remember the days when you had all the time in the world to whip up some fresh pancakes, or make a beautiful Tex Mex breakfast burrito from scratch, all smothered in homemade pico de gallo? Yeah, neither do I.
It’s a shame to admit it, but arguably one of the most frustrating aspects of U.S. culture is how we don’t prioritize breakfast. We hit the snooze at least three times before rushing out the door with toothpaste on our blouses, sleep caked in the corners of our eyes, and a cup of coffee in our hands – thanks to the coffee pot timer. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that personally, I’m lucky if I snag a piece of peanut butter toast on my way out – more often, I’ll grab something out of the fridge that isn’t even a proper breakfast food, like a carrot, before running out the door.
I know, I’ve been told that’s an odd breakfast habit, but I try my best to stay healthy in the morning, even at my busiest. Sometimes though, the gleam of a fast food sign catches my eye on my morning drive, and I find myself pulling into those cursed lines, ready for something hot and delightful. Below are a handful of things I’ve found that are healthy(ish), filling, and delicious.
Like many of us, I often find myself at Starbucks in the morning, so it clearly deserves a space at the top of my list. Aside from their seasonal coffees and lattes, I reach for a select few of their breakfast items again and again.
First, Starbucks offers some truly delicious oatmeal that puts those microwaveable instant packets of slop to shame. The first one – and my personal favorite – is their hearty steel cut oatmeal with blueberries. I love that the blueberries are fresh, giving me a healthy burst of antioxidants to start my day. I also love that it’s sweetened with organic agave. Although the research on agave is mixed, it is known that agave does in fact rank lower on the glycemic index, which means it doesn’t cause nasty blood sugar spikes that send me crashing by midmorning.
To keep it varied, sometimes I find myself opting for their more traditional oatmeal. While more sugary and devoid of any fresh fruits, it does have a delicious cranberry tang that I love.
Finally, I find that their breakfast wrap with spinach, cage-free egg whites, and feta is a delicious start to my day. I love getting some greens in my morning meal – not an easy feat – and this wrap does the trick. With all fast food though, you’ve got to keep an eye on the sodium intake – this baby packs a whopping 35% of your daily sodium, so while delicious, this is definitely my least-ordered item on the Starbucks breakfast menu.
I find that pairing any of these with their fruit cup leaves me satiated and ready to seize a busy morning.
Einstein Bros. Bagels
Behold the bagel. Such a treat, so delicious toasted, and so easily swings the wide pendulum between healthful and horrendous. I often find myself craving this carb-laden delight, but know that the temptation of an asiago bagel topped with cream cheese can often overpower any healthy decisions I may have wanted to make. At Einstein Bros., however, I find myself craving something much heartier and healthier. I get the power protein bagel toasted and topped with avocado (it costs a little extra, but is so worth it). The good fats from the avocado works alongside the 13 grams of protein from the bagel to give me a hearty, wholesome breakfast that leaves me energized, full, and grateful that I made such a smart choice so early in the day.
Sometimes, I’m really looking for that extra healthy boost to kickstart my day. Panera, with their fresh-baked pastries and sweets, doesn’t seem like the obvious choice at first glance. However, their smoothies have won me over, and I find myself pulling into their drive thru more and more for a filling smoothie paired with a whole grain bagel.
For the smoothies, I alternate between two: Green Passion or Peach & Blueberry. The Green Passion smoothie is a prime way to start off, as it is not only rich in fruits, but also has spinach snuck in there (hence the name), which gives me ample veggies to start to the day off right. If I’m looking for something a little sweeter, I opt for the Peach and Blueberry smoothie. Made with almond milk, fresh blueberries, and peach puree, it transports me to a soothing summer afternoon, regardless of the season. Alongside a peanut butter bagel, I know I’m going to be revved up and ready to tackle whatever work throws my way!
Ok, so healthy simplicities like bagels and oatmeal are well and good. But what about when you’re craving something different? Spicy, hearty, and warm, perhaps?
Taco Bell’s breakfast menu is a goldmine. Not only is Taco Bell the only major fast food chain with a menu certified by the American Vegetarian Association, but it also offers healthy swaps, like ordering any menu item “al fresco” style, which replaces cheese and sour cream with pico de gallo.
While my family’s diet isn’t entirely plant-based, we do limit our meat consumption when we can, and I love that Taco Bell lets me honor that even when I’m bleary eyed on a Monday morning. I, for one, am a fan of the Breakfast Crunchwrap California Style, with the meat and eggs swapped out for black beans (free of charge), and ordered al fresco. That way, I have a hashbrown, guacamole, pico, and black bean wrap that is toasted, satiating, and easy to eat on the road. The hardest part? Not ordering two.
Although we all fantasize about being the kind of person who can make themselves a hearty, filling breakfast each morning, the truth is we’re busy. Opting for these healthy breakfast options, I feel less guilty about pulling into the drive thru in the morning, and hopefully you can too. Here’s to a happy breakfast!