Quick-to-grab and easy-to-eat breakfast sandwiches may be super-popular for dashboard and desktop dining, but what a way to start the day. Many of these egg, cheese, bacon, ham or sausage combos sandwiched between a biscuit, bagel or muffin serve up a heavy morning hit of calories, cholesterol, fat and sodium.
Dunkin' Donut's Smokehouse Sausage Breakfast Sandwich — clocking in at 550 calories and 36 grams of fat — is made with one egg, a slice of American cheese and a sausage link on an English muffin. The company's website does a good job of revealing nutrition facts for its menu items, and that's where I learned that the Smokehouse sandwich also delivers 63 percent of recommended sodium and 82 percent of the cholesterol allotted for the day.
An easy-to-navigate picture chart of Dunkin' Donuts breakfast sandwiches does help diners find healthier alternatives such as the 280-calorie Egg White Veggie Multigrain Flatbread made with reduced-fat cheddar cheese.
But the most popular breakfast sandwiches at most restaurants with hefty layers of cheese and fatty meats range between 400 and 600 calories.
Throw it all on a croissant and you increase the fat stats. According to the company's website, the Burger King Double Croissan'wich with sausage, egg and cheese is a breakfast-busting 660 calories with 48 grams of fat.
What's the harm in a hand-held breakfast splurge every once in a while? Actually it can be documented.
Canadian researchers at the University of Calgary measured the blood vessel function of healthy college students who were fed two breakfast sandwiches (totaling more than 50 grams of fat) and found that after two hours, blood flow in the arteries had slowed down by 15 to 20 percent.
The study didn't compare blood vessel function changes with subjects fed healthier breakfasts, but the findings do sound an alarm that food choices affect our health, often immediately.
If you're a breakfast sandwich fan, choose lower-fat meats such as turkey sausage, turkey bacon, Canadian bacon, or lean ham with reduced-fat cheeses, whole-grain bread or tortillas.
Registered dietitian Holley Grainger, nutrition editor of CookingLight.com, says think about what you should be adding for good nutrition, such as heart-healthy avocado instead of cheese, and pile on the sliced onions, tomatoes, green pepper or salsa.
"The combo of protein from the eggs, fiber from the bread and fat from the avocado will keep you fueled throughout the morning."
Is one sausage biscuit or egg and cheese muffin just not enough for breakfast? Enjoy a fruit salad on the side to help fill you up with fiber and healthy nutrients.
Carolyn O'Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.