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Healthy Alternatives: Late Night Breakfast

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Cramming for finals and 24-Hour diners go together like butter and salt. Diners and eating healthy, not so much. So when we decided to step up the difficulty level and make this week's healthy-alternative meal center on late-night breakfast, we enlisted a little help via the Internet. Living south of town leaves one with the following local late-night breakfast options: Jack in the Box, IHOP and Denny's. Though we were a bit undecided, the constant barrage of Denny's commercials sadly swayed us to give it a try. Post- midnight, we apparently turn into gullible robots willing to follow all commands.

Before heading out to Denny's, we utilized our trusty resource, the Internet, to get nutritional information so that we would arrive armed with the invaluable knowledge of what would be our best bets. First, a word to the wise: Anyone wishing to avoid a sudden onset coronary blockage should avoid the new Grand Slamwich like the plague. At 1320 calories and a whopping 90 grams of fat, it is by far the scariest thing on the menu. And that doesn't even include hash browns.

After a long and careful perusing of the menu, we found a few options to be both figure-friendly and reasonably palatable. If you're craving eggs, substitute two regular scrambled (250 cal, 21 g of fat) for two egg whites, and you'll shave off 80 percent of the calories and 100 percent of the fat (50 calories, 0 g of fat). If you're more in the mood for pancakes, go for the Hearty Wheat cakes (two pancakes have 310 cal, 1.5 g of fat, 8 g of fiber) instead of the traditional buttermilk variety (two of those have 340 calories, 4 g of fat, 2 g of fiber). While the 30 calories and 2.5 grams of fat saved is not terribly drastic, the quadrupling of fiber is what is most important. If you're going to be eating carbs, at least make sure you're getting some fiber in there to keep your bowels running smoothly and stave off future hunger pains. For those seeking a little more animal protein, you can swap two pieces of regular bacon (90 calories, 7 g of fat) for a couple of pieces of turkey bacon (76 calories, 4 grams of fat) or even better, eat one piece of the real stuff and give away the second. They also offer low-fat yogurt (6 oz has 160 cal and 1.5 g of fat) and a seasonal fruit selection (4 oz has 70 calories and 0 fat).

After all of this research, we settled on the build-your-own breakfast with Hearty Wheat Pancakes, two scrambled egg whites and seasonal fruit, which encompassed a pleasant mix of bananas, strawberries, cantaloupe and grapes. Since we were in the midst of a study session, we also ordered coffee, which we drank black, like always. The Hearty Wheat Pancakes were surprisingly good. They were a nice amber hue and had a "heartier" texture, which was actually a nice change from the buttermilk blandness. Obviously adding on a little syrup upped the calories, but we were very stingy with it, we promise. The egg whites were fairly innocuous, as egg whites tend to be. The fruit gave the meal a nice bit of sweetness to end on.

Although this was certainly not a meal worth writing home about, it wasn't too far beyond what we expect from a midnight diner run, and we were quite proud to feel full and not deprived for only about 430 calories (not bad, given the circumstances). And as mentioned above, there are several other combinations that would work equally well and better suit your personal palate. So next time you're trying to eat well, but still eating at your local greasy spoon, just remember that you can often research nutritional facts beforehand, which is truly, truly beyond helpful.

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