Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (2024)

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas,RD,LD on February 24, 2023

Written by Jon Cooper

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (1)

Best: Omelet


This favorite gives you plenty of protein, and it’s a nice way to sneak some vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes into your meal. But be careful, as you’ll probably use more than one egg, which can mean extra cholesterol. Using just the whites can cut down on that. Make sure you don't add too many high-calorie items like cheese or deli meats like sausage or ham.

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (2)

Best: Oatmeal


On its own, this is high in a kind of fiber that can help lower your cholesterol and give your immune system a boost. Problems can come when you try to liven it up. Stay away from butter and brown sugar. Go with things like nuts or fresh fruit instead.

Best: Shrimp and Grits


Shrimp is a good source of protein, calcium, and iron, and it’s low in fat. A cup of grits has about 140 calories. The trouble comes in the form of add-ons like cheese and bacon. Chicken broth can add a lot of salt. As long as you’re careful with those, this is a healthy choice.

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Best: Bagel and Lox


Lox -- cold, smoked salmon -- is high in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. That, along with a whole-grain bagel, makes this a solid choice. Just be sure to watch the cream cheese.

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Best: Frittata


While often compared to quiche, a frittata is a healthier option because it doesn’t have a crust. The benefits are a lot like those of an omelet. At home, you can pile on vegetables and control the amount of oil you use to make it even healthier.

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Worst: French Toast


French toast isn’t really French, but it is delicious. It’s also calorie-heavy. And toppings like brown sugar, whipped cream, and maple syrup add even more calories.

While the egg does provide some protein, that’s about as far as the benefits go. The rest is unhealthy carbs from things like bread, sugar, and syrup, and there’s fat in the oil or butter used to fry it and in the batter. Making it at home gives you more control of ingredients. You can use whole-grain bread, measure how much oil you put in the pan, and top it with fruit.

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Worst: Eggs Benedict


Eggs offer protein, and an English muffin isn’t too bad for you. The calories come in the high-fat Hollandaise sauce. When you’re eating out, going light on the sauce can help. If you’re making it at home, you can use an alternative, like crushed avocados -- think guacamole -- or low-fat cheese as a topping instead.

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Worst: Cobb Salad


It’s not the worst thing, but the word “salad” is a little misleading here, thanks to the hard-boiled egg, bacon, avocado, ham, cheese, and dressing (usually ranch). The calories add up fast. There is a salad down there, but it’s tough to get to it through all the tempting goodies.

If you’re going to get one, try to limit the unhealthy stuff. A healthier choice would be to avoid them entirely and simply have a more traditional salad.

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Worst: Alcoholic Beverages


A Bloody Mary or mimosa is a staple of brunch, but alcohol -- and orange juice -- are high in calories. And while both OJ and tomato juice are nutritious, it’s also easy to overdo it on the alcohol, and that can lead to unhealthy food choices.

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (10)

Worst: Burger


A juicy burger is a good source of protein, but it also can be high in fat. It’s a better choice if the restaurant uses a leaner kind like bison, which is lower in fat. Be careful of add-ons like cheese and bacon, and don’t toss aside the lettuce and tomato.

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Worst: Pancakes or Waffles


The batter packs a lot of calories, and you add more if you use them as a vehicle for butter, syrup, or powdered sugar. Fruit is a healthy topping alternative, and you’ll use less syrup if you dip your pancakes or waffles into a bowl instead of pouring your syrup over them. If you’re making them yourself, a batter of half whole wheat and half white flour is a good way to go.

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (12)

Worst: Home Fries or Hash Browns


Potatoes can be good for you, but not the way these are prepared at restaurants. They tend to be fried in oil or, even worse, deep-fried. At home, you can control the amount of oil or butter you use and bake them instead of frying them.

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (13)

Worst: Quiche


Eggs, milk, heavy cream, and cheese, along with a pie crust, are all high in fat. You can make it a bit healthier by adding veggies like spinach, but that won’t get this dish out of the “worst” category.

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (14)

Worst: Tuna Melt


Tuna is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, selenium, and vitamin D. But the “melt” -- cheese -- negates the health benefits. And some places fry their bread or make it panini style, which adds more calories. Your best bet is to just go with tuna.

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (15)

It Depends: Granola


This is often grouped with healthy foods, but it can be high in fat and sugar, especially in restaurants. When you’re buying granola at the store, check the label and look for fewer than 7 grams of sugar and at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. If you do that, keep the portion size small, and use it as a topping and not as a main dish, it can be a healthy choice.

Best and Worst Brunch Ideas (2024)
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