Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

For athletic success, follow STACK Expert Joe Pepe's advice about what to select and what to avoid from the breakfast menu.

Healthy eating at restaurants can make or break an athlete's diet. Fast-food joints are notoriously bad, and the local greasy spoon runs a close second. Let's break down some diner classics to see which menu items get a pass and which ones burn a hole in your gut.

Home Fries

Home Fries

The breakfast equivalent of French fries. The carb boost might give you an initial surge of energy, but you'll be running on empty long before lunch. One serving size (1 cup) has 29 percent of your daily fat and 25 percent of your daily sodium. Fuel your workout with some vegetables or wheat toast.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Made from melted butter and egg yolks, the hollandaise sauce that covers this egg dish is like a giant snuggie of cholesterol. Stay away! Some Eggs Benedict servings at popular breakfast chains come in at an incredible 1,050 calories and 57 grams of fat! Opt for scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast (see below) instead.

Pancakes/Waffles/French Toast

Pancakes

These are usually made from white flour, whole milk and eggs, for a total of around 165 calories and 5 grams of fat per pancake (before butter, syrup, chocolate sauce, etc). A typical waffle has 550 calories and 21 grams of fat. A slice of French toast (my personal weakness) has 150 calories and 7 grams of fat. Eat sparely and skip the toppings if you are eyeing these options. Your best bet is to go with a bowl of energizing vitamin B-rich oatmeal. You can top it with honey, berries and granola. The fiber will keep you fueled up, you will still get your carb fix, and you will avoid any type of crash in energy before your day of training.

Spinach and Feta Cheese Omelet

Omelet

One of the most nutritious omelets on the menu. Feta cheese has one third less fat than cheddar, and spinach is packed with nutrients. An excellent choice.

Check out this great egg white omelet recipe.

Wheat Toast

Wheat Toast

Your goal at breakfast should be to pack in as much fiber as possible, and little choices matter. Choosing wheat toast over white will give you a much-needed 5 grams of the belly-filling nutrient.

Sticky Buns

Sticky Buns

You might as well paste them to your belly because that's where they will end up anyway. These bad boys are the Legion of Doom on the breakfast menu. One serving can contain 13 grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar, with hardly anything that will promote a healthy athletic lifestyle.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal

Best choice on the menu. Oats have soluble fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol, and they are very low in fat and sodium. Keeping your cholesterol levels under control is important, because it enhances your overall health and prolongs your training efforts. The more you can train, the better the athlete you can become. If you feel oatmeal is too bland for your taste, add some raisins for sweetness.

RELATED: 6 Delicious and Healthy Overnight Oatmeal Recipes

Breakfast Meats

Breakfast Meats

Canadian bacon is lower in fat and higher in protein than regular bacon, but it's still best enjoyed in moderation. Remember, protein helps maintain, repair and grow lean muscle mass, so it is important to make the correct decision to properly fuel your body.

When it comes to your diet, you have to make correct choices if you want to succeed on the field. Training leads to success, but fueling your body properly is what allows you to give your all during training. Don't let the allure of certain food destroy your path to greatness as an athlete. As always, remember, everything in moderation.

RELATED: 8 High Protein Breakfast Ideas


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: PROTEIN | FIBER | SODIUM | CALORIES | HEALTH | ENERGY | TRAIN | OATMEAL | TOAST | CHOLESTEROL | BREAKFAST | CHEESE | BUTTER | BACON