- Wendy’s is offering several new breakfast items as part of the company’s newly revamped morning menu.
- The new items include a honey butter chicken biscuit, a breakfast bacon sandwich, and a Frosty-ccino (a milkshake mixed with cold brew coffee) that contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.
- Nutritionists point out these new items offer little nutritional value and suggest alternative choices from the Wendy’s menu may be healthier choices.
Popular fast-food chain Wendy’s announced in a press release this month that it’s revamping its breakfast menu.
The new menu, which is currently available in 300 of its restaurants with plans to expand nationwide in 2020, takes some of its popular items and gives them a first-meal-of-the-day twist.
“Launching breakfast in our U.S. restaurants nationwide provides incredible growth opportunities,” Todd Penegor, president and CEO of The Wendy’s Company, said in the release.
The company recently teased part of that growth to the public by unveiling a few signature items on the new menu: a honey butter chicken biscuit, a Frosty-ccino (a cold brew coffee–infused milkshake), and the Breakfast Baconator sandwich.
While Wendy’s fans might welcome the idea of a milkshake with cold brew in the morning, just how nutritious are these new breakfast menu items?
Registered dietitians say that if you’re looking for the healthiest breakfast items, you might want to look elsewhere.
“I would not recommend these for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There is nearly no redeeming quality to these items,” Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, told Healthline.
“Perhaps the one thing they offer is protein, like the sandwiches. However, their protein sources are extremely high in saturated fat, salt, and calories,” she said.
The honey butter chicken biscuit consists of a chicken fillet that’s seasoned with maple honey butter and sandwiched between a buttermilk biscuit.
The Frosty-ccino is listed as coming in either vanilla or chocolate and is mixed with cold brew coffee.
Finally, the Breakfast Baconator is a sandwich that’s made up of grilled sausage, smoked bacon, eggs, and American cheese, with a final topping of Swiss cheese sauce.
Hunnes says that if you were to order a combination of the Baconator sandwich and the cold brew milkshake, you’d be consuming 1,100 calories, or “more than one-half the calories an average woman should be eating and around one-half the calories an average male should be eating” in a day.
She adds these items don’t include any fiber, while their ingredient lists consist of a “laundry list of processed, salty, fatty, sugary items.”
Christina Crowder, MS, RDN/LD, CNSC, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in nutrition support, echoes Hunnes’ concerns.
Crowder says she encourages her clients to aim for about 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, something that both of these sandwiches get close to, but nevertheless deliver a “very high caloric punch” in a small item.
Crowder stresses that both sandwiches contain excessive amounts of saturated fat and 2 teaspoons of sugar each. “[This] doesn’t make sense for a savory breakfast sandwich,” she said.
“The Frosty-ccinos have 7 to 10 teaspoons of sugar, depending on small versus large sizes. Would you eat this much out of a sugar bowl? Probably not,” Crowder told Healthline.
“For context, a sweetened flavored Greek yogurt has about 24 grams of sugar, which is still 6 teaspoons — 2 tablespoons — of added sugar, which is a lot.”
You can find additional nutrition information for all three items listed on Wendy’s website.
Obviously, one of the most appealing aspects of fast food is its convenience. If you’re on the go, a stop at Wendy’s seems like a quick and easy option.
If one were to choose Wendy’s for a meal, what about the salad options? Are those better?
Hunnes says the company’s featured fresh-made salads appear to be the safest choice. That being said, she adds the caveat that some dressings can “turn a benign salad into a 600- to 700-plus calorie affair.”
“The benefits to the salad choices are that at least there is some fiber and fresh produce in the mix. You are getting crunch from fresh lettuce instead of fried white flour. I would limit the corn chips on the taco salad, but again, at least any one of these would be a better choice,” Hunnes said.
She adds that a side of chili along with a baked potato with green onion topping would be a decent choice for those looking for a nutritious meal at Wendy’s.
“Again, it is much more ‘real’ food with actual recognizable ingredients with fiber,” Hunnes said.
However, these items may not appeal to most people as a choice they’d make for their first meal of the day.
Crowder has a somewhat different take. If forced to choose Wendy’s for breakfast and sort through these options, she says she’d go with cold brew coffee that you could add your own cream or sweetener.
Crowder also suggests choosing the bacon, cheese, and egg sandwich with apple slices to get protein along with the vitamins and fiber that would come from the fruit.
When looking at competing options, Crowder says that McDonald’s bacon egg McMuffin offers a better alternative for a breakfast sandwich.
“I’d personally not order a salad for breakfast, but they are about the same calories, fat, sodium, protein — with dressing — as the breakfast offerings, depending on whether they are half- or full-sized, and lower carb,” Crowder said.
“So, it would be a good option for someone really trying to control their blood glucose, like diabetes. It’s easy for restaurant salads to be the deceivingly ‘unhealthy’ option, so check the label,” she said.
Whether it’s Wendy’s or another fast-food restaurant, are there any general rules of thumb for finding healthier choices?
Hunnes recommends people try to order from either the kids menu or find something that has beans, other vegetables, or “something else that at least has some semblance of produce, fruit, or vegetable.”
“Yes, a salad is not as easy to hold in one hand as a sandwich, but it is much better for your heart, waist, and arteries. I remember one time I was with my family, and we were out for many hours and it was a holiday. We were super hungry. We stopped in a Del Taco, I think. We ended up getting their bean salad bowls,” Hunnes recalled. “So, I think you need to step back and look at the menu wherever you are before you just order.”
Crowder stresses that you should always check the label. If it says 15 grams of protein, she cautions that you shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself still hungry in the next 2 to 3 hours.
“Protein is important for helping you feel full by delaying how long food takes to leave the stomach and help the body to produce hormones that tell the brain you’re full,” she said.
Crowder adds that if you see an item has more than 15 grams of saturated fat, you could likely do better. And then there’s the sodium. “Fast-food items generally have more sodium than if you made their counterpart at home, because sodium is a preservative and flavoring agent.”
“The food company’s job is to sell you a product and find what your taste buds love, not look out for your health. If there’s more than 500 to 750 milligrams of sodium — about 25 to 30 percent the daily allowance — you need to keep an eye on the rest of your packaged, processed, restaurant foods the rest of the day, or choose another item,” she said.
Popular fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s recently announced that it would expand its breakfast menu from 300 locations to nationwide starting in 2020.
This means three key items — a honey butter chicken biscuit, bacon sandwich, and cold brew–infused milkshake — will be more widely available for breakfast throughout the country.
How healthy are these items? Not very, according to experts.
To make sure you stay healthy, they suggest you look at food labels and keep in mind how much sodium, protein, and other ingredients their made-at-home equivalents would be if you were left to your own devices.
Experts advise that if you have to eat one of the options, try to monitor what you eat throughout the rest of the day so you don’t exceed your healthy nutritional limits.