Breakfast is served … in a brown to-go bag

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Story and photos by Kiah Haslett, NewsNetNebraska

Elijah Aden knows breakfast is important, so he grabs a Sausage McMuffin when he’s pressed for time.

But then he feels disgusting, guilty and greasy for the rest of the day.

When Cassidy Cook has to grab a McDonald’s McSkillet Burrito with Sausage, she never worries, and gets through her day with more energy.

Aden, a junior business administration major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Cook, a sophomore business administration major, both buy McDonald’s breakfasts items because of the restaurant’s convenient location and cheap offerings. But they also could buy breakfast from Runza in the Nebraska Union, or nearby Burger King, Amigos, Arby’s, Wendy’s or even Subway. More fast food restaurants are making the foray into breakfast by revamping, expanding or inventing new twists on eggs, cheese, sausage, bacon, biscuits and rolls.

Nutritionists stress moderation, but say fast food breakfasts aren’t necessarily bad for busy college students.

“Some people aren’t breakfast eaters,” said Linda Young, assistant professor of nutrition and health sciences at UNL. “But most of us find breakfast to be pretty important. People tend to generally feel more balance and eat more moderately throughout the day if they’ve had breakfast.”

Young said breakfast isn’t magical. But the meal refuels the body after a hiatus, jump-starting the brain and feeding the cells much-needed glucose.

Research supports that college students need three meals a day, said Karen Miller, a registered dietitian with UNL Campus Recreation and the University Health Center. Students tend to wake up hungry and usually feel hungry three to five hours after each meal.

Young acknowledged that people have different medical histories, dietary intake and activity levels. A hard and fast rule on what to eat doesn’t exist. Some students can afford to eat an unhealthy breakfast every other day, while some students should stay away completely. Some students can eat breakfast sandwiches as long as they have a salad for lunch. Some need to think about caloric intake or the amount of sodium, while others can chow down blissfully ignorant.

The most important thing, Young said, is that students don’t go overboard when it comes to fast food breakfast.

When eating out, students need to be careful not to overeat. An Egg McMuffin with milk or orange juice is a pretty balanced breakfast, Miller said, but a deluxe meal with eggs, pancakes, hash browns and sausages is probably too much food for anyone, regardless of the rest of his or her diet.

Young said students generally should include proteins and fats in their breakfast, since they last longer than carbohydrates. Students who just eat toast will experience hunger faster than those who eat toast with peanut butter and wash it down with milk.

Many breakfast items do include a fatty protein and dairy source, along with some kind of a carbohydrate. For example, Subway’s sandwiches feature eggs, cheese and ham, steak or bacon. On one end of the scale, the egg white and cheese melt has 140 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 12 grams of protein. On the other, indulgent end of the scale, the six-inch double bacon, egg and cheese has 520 calories, 25 grams of fat and 29 grams of protein.

But even with nutrition facts like that, Young said, the biggest mistake students make is passing on fast-food breakfast with fat and protein for a latte and donuts from Starbucks or LaMar’s Donuts.

“One advantage of the Egg McMuffin is that for 300 calories, it’s a pretty good source of protein,” Young said.

The McDonalds’ Egg McMuffin has 18 grams of protein, 300 calories and 12 grams of fat. Aden’s beloved Sausage McMuffin has 21 grams of protein, 370 calories and 22 grams of fat. He said he thinks nutrition facts like these make him feel guilty after breakfast and workout at the end of the day.

Aden said he eats breakfast because he’s hungry. When he doesn’t eat breakfast, he compensates by eating lunch earlier. He buys McMuffins because they are convenient and cheap, about five or six times a month.

Cook said she eats the McDonald’s McSkillet Burrito with Sausage about twice a month. The breakfast burrito has 610 calories and 36 grams of fat. She only eats it a few times a month when she wakes up late for early classes, and she prefers to eat cereal or yogurt. The rest of her diet is balanced with a lot of fruits and vegetables and a healthy amount of proteins.

She said she notices a difference if she eats breakfast, no matter where it comes from.

“When I eat breakfast, I’m more alert because I’m not thinking about how hungry I am and I have more energy.”

A breakdown of some breakfast items on the McDonald’s and Burger King menus:

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Nutrition information:
McDonalds
Burger King
Arby’s
Wendy’s
No information is available about Amigo’s or Runza

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