You were nine vodkas deep when brunch plans were being made. In the hours that have since passed, you (somehow) spent $68 on fast food, puked in the kitchen sink and woke up feeling like a pizza pocket that was microwaved for six consecutive hours (which is ironic, since the pizza pocket you ate last night was still frozen and, indeed, still inside its microwaveable sleeve).
Alas, brunch no longer sounds like such a good idea.
Then again, a healthy meal — and absolutely zero mimosas, possibly — might do you some good. To help you make the right choice, I asked Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, to help me rank popular brunch dishes by how healthy they are — from “have the capacity to fix the damage done by those nine vodkas” to “why not just stab yourself in the kidney, pal?”
Here’s what she came up with.
1) Omelette: Hunnes says that a veggie omelette is an ideal brunch option, since the vegetables provide fiber and the eggs provide protein. I also previously wrote about how an omelette (and soup, of all things) is the ultimate hangover cure, since eggs contain healthy fats that can help the body digest any remaining alcohol, and the veggies help support the liver while it attempts to process all that booze. That’s a win-win!
2) Bagel and Lox: Hunnes explains that lox in particular is super healthy, since it provides both protein and B vitamins that help the body convert food into energy and prevent heart disease. It also contains considerable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which prevent heart disease as well.
As for the bagel, Hunnes recommends opting for whole-wheat, which is loaded with phytochemicals that help to improve digestion, reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol. She also suggests swapping regular cream cheese, which is high in calories and potentially unhealthy saturated fats, for either vegan cream cheese, hummus or avocados that are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
3) French Toast: Despite the unhealthy reputation, Hunnes says French toast is a fine meal, especially when made with whole-wheat bread. Plus, French toast is made with eggs, which provide a nice dose of protein. However, Hunnes emphasizes the importance of going easy on the syrup, since a sugar-laden diet is associated with all kinds of ailments, from heart disease to depression.
4) Belgian Waffle with Berries and Powdered Sugar: This might sound overindulgent, but Hunnes explains that berries provide fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients, which possess an impressive list of health benefits — they have anti-inflammatory properties, while also providing support for the immune system, repairing DNA from exposure to toxic chemicals and detoxifying carcinogens (which reduces cancer and heart disease risks). That said, Hunnes again recommends easing up on the sugar, and when possible, opting for whole-wheat waffles.
5) Bloody Mary: I admit that I was surprised when Hunnes placed a Bloody Mary this high on our list; however, her reasoning is sound. “While I don’t condone alcohol at breakfast — this is way too early in my book — it at least has vegetables in it,” she explains, emphasizing the fact that we should all be eating more veggies.
In fact, you could argue that a Bloody Mary is the healthiest cocktail ever, in part because tomatoes contain a high amount of lycopene, an antioxidant that’s been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. You’re also doing your body good by chomping on the celery garnish, which is hydrating and sports some much-needed vitamins and minerals.
6) Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros, Biscuits and Gravy, Fried Chicken and Waffles and Hash Browns, Bacon and Eggs: According to Hunnes, everything else on this list can be lumped together as straight-up unhealthy, since these dishes are basically some combination of white flour, which is terrible for your waistline and your pancreas, unhealthy saturated fats and heart-crushing red meats. More importantly, though, in most cases these dishes contain zero vegetables, which again, explains why Hunnes says a Bloody Mary might well be a better choice.
Cheers to that, I guess.