Breakfast is hands-down my favorite meal of the day. Mostly I keep it simple—toast and peanut butter, fruit and yogurt. But when I have more time or when I go out to eat, I’m faced with an important choice: pancakes or eggs?
As a dietitian, I know that when you’re cooking at home, both pancakes or eggs can be a healthy choice (more on that below). So let’s look at the health pros and cons of pancakes and eggs and I’ll give you my verdict in the pancakes vs. eggs smack-down.
Typical pancakes are made with white flour, which is low in fiber and, thus, less filling. Pancakes are also not particularly high in protein—another food component that helps you feel fuller longer. Add to that maple syrup—or worse, a maple syrup knock-off!—which just adds more sugar (i.e., empty calories) to your meal, and we’re looking at a breakfast that might be tasty, but doesn’t power you through the morning. (Which is healthier: butter or margarine?
Health Benefits: When you’re making pancakes from scratch they can have a lot of healthy qualities. First, you can make them with whole grains like whole-wheat flour, which will add heart-healthy filling fiber. You can also add extra-healthy toppings, like fruit to boost vitamins and fiber- and protein-packed nuts to transform them into a nutritious breakfast that will help you stay full through the morning.
Cons: Eggs deliver some saturated fat (2 grams per egg, or 9% of the daily recommended limit on a 2,000-calorie diet) and cholesterol (185 mg per egg; the recommended daily limit is 300 mg). If you eat them scrambled and fried in butter, you’ll be getting even more saturated fat and cholesterol with those eggs.
On the flip side, a single egg is only 70 calories (that’s if you eat it hard-boiled or poached, not fried or scrambled in butter or oil). Plus, egg whites deliver protein (4 grams each) and the yolk delivers some vitamin D, plus lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that help protect against macular degeneration. Research has shown that most people can eat an egg a day (or the equivalent) without it raising their cholesterol levels. To make the healthiest eggs, try using one whole egg and one or two egg whites to up the protein content without adding extra saturated fat and cholesterol. For an extra health boost, pair the eggs with vegetables—sautéed onions, peppers, broccoli and spinach are some of my favorites (or try these easy egg recipes
)—for added fiber and nutrients. This is a breakfast that will keep you feeling full and satisfied for hours.
Unless it’s a whole-grain, nut-flecked, bursting-with-berries kind of pancake, I’d usually stick with eggs because they’re more inherently nutritious and higher in protein, which will keep you feeling full on fewer calories.
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