Nutrition Fact Check: Brunch Makeover
Who doesn't love brunch? Just the word alone reminds me of get-togethers with a full house of family and friends. Hosting a brunch is a great way to feed a crowd at a cost comparatively lower than most other meals. But there are other costs if you're not in the know. A typical spread can derail your diet and your digestion, leaving you sluggish and bloated long after you're done with your meal.
While the offerings can vary greatly from one brunch menu to another, a typical brunch lineup can contain up to 4,000 calories. That’s approximately what the average adult should eat in two days! Not to mention the carbohydrates, fat, sodium and sugar it contains. Take this sample menu, for example:
- Vanilla maple French toast with warm berry preserves
- Breakfast sausages with apricot-mustard glaze
- Bagel platter with butter, cream cheese and cold cuts
- Grapefruit cups with wine syrup
- Mushroom and 3 cheese strata
- Fresh squeezed orange juice
THE DANGER ZONES
Carbohydrates: Generally speaking, refined carbohydrates and added sugars are "empty calories" that most of us should keep to a bare minimum. The menu above offers ample opportunity to overindulge in both these types of carbs. Bread made from refined white flour is a leading ingredient in the French toast, bagel platter and strata. Carbs in the form of added or refined sugars are also ingredients in the French toast, berry preserve topping, sausage glaze and wine syrup. Our brunch makeover swaps these dishes for "good" carbs and naturally occurring sugars like those found in dairy, fruit and vegetables. We switch regular bagels with bagel "thins" and uses nut flour to make yummy pancakes instead of the French toast. A crustless frittata does the work of the strata minus the carb overload.
Fat: Between the sausage, butter and multiple varieties of full-fat cheese, a typical brunch is a surefire way to exceed the recommended daily intake of fat. Fats, both saturated and unsaturated, pack a hefty calorie punch - 9 calories per gram compared with 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein. It's fine to have some good-quality fats with every meal, but be mindful of portions to keep calories reasonable. Try turkey or chicken versions of sausage and bacon to provide flavor while saving on excess fat and calories. Choosing low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products is another small step that can help lighten the overall calorie load.
Not Enough Protein: Consuming adequate protein daily is an essential part of successful weight loss and maintenance. The key is to choose lean sources and keep portions reasonable. The traditional brunch menu offers few choices of lean protein and an overload of carbs. In addition to swapping leaner versions of breakfast meats and nut-based flours, our makeover boasts an egg and veggie frittata, yogurt and some high-protein fillings for “thin” bagel sandwiches.
Liquid calories: Liquid calories add up quickly and don’t contribute to a full feeling like eating solid food does. Brunch beverages can range from juices to cocktails and should be consumed sparingly, if at all. In addition to providing empty (mostly sugar) calories, alcohol can contribute to overeating by lowering inhibitions and affecting judgement. Instead of calorie-laden drinks, choose coffee or espresso with a little milk or a cup of hot tea with lemon. Sparkling water with fruit slices offers a refreshing alternative to juice. And should you prefer a cocktail, stick with a spicy bloody Mary or a basic mimosa made with reduced-sugar juice or 100% juice instead of cocktail mixers. Avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach and stop after one or two.
Brunch Menu Makeover (*recipe included below)
- Almond flour pancakes with fresh berries*
- Turkey bacon and chicken breakfast sausage links
- Spinach frittata*
- Fresh fruit plate
- Parfait bar: plain yogurt, chopped nuts, chia seeds and low-sugar granola
- Bagel platter: bagel or sandwich “thins,” smoked salmon, reduced-fat cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, capers, olives, lemon wedges and some romaine lettuce leaves or mixed baby greens
- Drinks: herbal or green teas, coffee, sparkling water infused with fresh fruit and mimosas made with reduced-sugar or 100% orange juice
Almond Flour Pancakes
- 1 cup almond meal/flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons ground flax
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil (measure solid, then melt)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Makes 8 pancakes – Serving size 2 pancakes
- Add dry ingredients to a small mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- In medium-sized bowl, beat eggs then add remaining wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined. Do not over-mix.
- Preheat skillet and spray lightly with cooking oil.
- Using 1/8 dry measuring cup, drop batter on hot skillet and gently flatten batter with back of cup. Allow pancakes to cook over medium-high heat until browned on bottom and set throughout. Flip gently with spatula and cook until brown on remaining side. Serve immediately or transfer to warm (250 degrees F.) oven to keep warm while cooking rest of pancakes.
Optional topping: Warm 1 cup frozen blueberries and 2 teaspoons honey or pure maple syrup in a saucepan or microwave-safe dish until berries are thawed and mixture thickens slightly.
Nutrition Facts per serving (does not include optional berry topping):
- Calories: 225
- Fat: 13gm
- Carbs: 11gm
- Protein: 16gm
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 med red onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup (optional)
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- 1-6oz bag baby spinach
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8 large eggs
- 2 tablespoon low-fat milk
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a 10-12 inch nonstick, oven-safe skillet (a well-seasoned cast iron skillet works well). Add the onions and scallions and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir together until garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted. Stir in ½ tsp of salt, and pepper to taste.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Spread out the spinach mixture evenly on the bottom of skillet. Add the egg mixture over the spinach mixture. Use spatula to lift up the spinach mixture along the sides of the skillet to let the eggs run underneath during the first few minutes of cooking.
- When the mixture is half set, put the skillet in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until frittata is puffy and golden. Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes. (Handle will be hot and will remain hot, use oven gloves).