Just when I thought cereal with skim milk was the only healthful choice for weekday breakfasts, a breakthrough happened.
Now there are breakfast sandwiches to add variety as well as speed to daily options.
CONAGRA is now producing "Healthy Choice" English muffin breakfast sandwiches in several flavors that fit comfortably in a low-fat, low-sodium eating pattern.
The one I tasted looked like an Egg McMuffin but was made of cholesterol-free egg product, turkey ham and pasteurized process cheese food. For only 200 calories I got 16 gm of protein, 30 gm of carbohydrate, and only 3 gm of fat and 20 mg of cholesterol. The sandwich had only 510 mg of sodium and went from freezer to microwave to plate in 3 minutes.
For a complete breakfast, I combine the sandwich, a container of Dannon light non-fat yogurt, and a giant honey tangerine, for under 400 calories. That means that for just 1/4 of my calories for the day I've met half my protein requirements, half my calcium requirements and 100 percent of my vitamin C needs. Now that's "nutrient dense."
And it's quick.
Ideally, you would eat this at home, sitting at the table, relaxing. But if that's not for you, it only takes a few seconds to toss it all in a brown bag. Microwave the sandwich at work and have a real breakfast instead of a doughnut break.
But don't be fooled into thinking a quick stop at a fast food shop will meet the same good-for-you results. An Egg McMuffin has 290 calories, 11 gm of fat, and 740 mg sodium. A McDonald's biscuit with bacon, egg and cheese provides 440 calories, 26 gm of fat and 1,230 mg sodium.
A quick trip to Hardee's can be equally risky. A sausage biscuit provides 448 calories, 30 gm of fat and 1,053 mg sodium. A steak and egg biscuit offers 563 calories, 34 gm of fat and 1,425 mg of sodium.
And just because a bagel is a non-fat bread, a bagel sandwich isn't necessarily "safe." A Burger King bagel with sausage, egg BTC and cheese contains 621 calories, 36 grams of fat and 1,185 mg of sodium.
Because fast food sandwiches contain so much fat, the calories are higher than the Healthy Choice breakfast even before you add a yogurt/milk serving or a fruit. So you aren't even close to your calcium and vitamin C goals for the day. That's why we call those "empty calories."
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and director of Eating Together in Baltimore.