Consumer Reports tests grab-and-go breakfasts

Panera Bread fares best among six chains tested

SAN ANTONIO – Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but finding time to make a home-cooked breakfast is a challenge.  

Americans are increasingly grabbing a quick breakfast at a fast-food drive-through or coffee shop. 

So, Consumer Reports' food experts decided to check out some breakfast options for taste and nutrition.

Consumer Reports checked out the offerings at six popular chains -- McDonald's, Au Bon Pain, Jamba Juice, Panera Bread, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks.  

Tasters judged 48 items that stood out on the menu as better choices, including sandwiches, oatmeal, smoothies and other morning favorites. They also analyzed the nutritional information.  

Quick breakfast sandwiches can span the nutrition spectrum. 

The Starbucks Chicken, Sausage and Bacon Biscuit has over 1,100 milligrams of sodium. By comparison, Panera Bread's Avocado, Egg White and Spinach on a sprouted grain bagel flat has nearly half the sodium. Tasters found it fresh-tasting and flavorful. 

Panera Bread fared the best overall with five recommended items, including the Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries & Pecans and Egg and Cheese on sprouted Grain Bagel Flat. 

Consumer Reports recommended four items from Starbucks including the Hearty Blueberry Oatmeal with Fruit, Nuts, Seeds and Agave Syrup, and the Eggs and Cheese Protein Box.

Au Bon Pain and Jamba Juice each had three recommended items. 

McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts did not receive any recommendations. 

More and more chains now have oatmeal as an option. 

The whole-grain breakfasts can be a great source of antioxidants and dietary fiber. But Consumer Reports said to watch out for added sugars. The best oatmeal is unsweetened oatmeal with toppings like fresh fruit, nuts and raisins.

Consumer Reports said that if you have to grab and go, there are good choices available and you can upgrade almost anything you pick. Consider choosing multigrain bread over a croissant and have your egg sandwich without the bacon or ham.

Research shows that people who eat breakfast have lower rates of obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes than people who skip the most important meal of the day. 

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