For over 58 years, IHOP has left our stomachs smiling with short stacks, which we look forward to getting for free on National Pancake Day. However, the “OP” grin may begin to fade once you learn that their Chicken and Waffles pack a hefty 1160 calories.
But we know that their expansive menu spans far beyond the griddle, which is why I’ve dissected it to pick out which items have the least amount of calories, saturated fat, and sugar. I’ve also included healthier substitutes to á la carte and side items. Now you can enjoy a good IHOP breakfast (at any time of day) that’s actually good for you too.
Look for these 3 Little Words: “Simple & Fit”
Any “Simple & Fit” entree gives you an entire meal for less than 600 calories. This includes the Two-Egg Breakfast combo, served with two strips of turkey bacon, a couple slices of whole wheat toast, and mixed fruit with scrambled egg whites.
If you want to get fancy, the Simple & Fit Vegetable Omelette is made with egg whites; features spinach, mushrooms, and onions; and is topped with melty Swiss cheese and diced tomato.
Skip the Guilt When it Comes to the Griddle
Your best choice is to keep it classic with the Original Buttermilk Pancake. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that the Original Buttermilk, Buttermilk Chocolate and Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Red Velvet, and Strawberry Banana Pancakes are all 400 calories or less (per two pancakes). The Original has the least amount of sugar, the Strawberry Banana has the least amount of saturated fat, and both share under 900 milligrams of sodium.
If you’re looking for more unconventional griddle items, I recommend trying the crepes. The Swedish and German Crepes have the least amount of calories, sodium, and sugar. Under the “Made to Indulge” dessert section, you can choose the Fruit Crepe & Ice Cream, which is under 300 calories without toppings or fillings — and who wouldn’t want ice cream for breakfast?
Choose Toppings Wisely
A mere dollop of butter adds an extra 70 calories and 8 grams of fat to your pancakes, and the whipped topping can add up to 100 calories alone. I regret to inform you that the sweet fruit toppings have syrups that you may want to avoid when trying to reduce sugar intake.
If toppings are absolutely essential, your best bet is to reach for some all-natural jam and honey or sugar free syrup. However, keep in mind that sugar free sweeteners often contain artificial contents that may do more harm than good.
Know How to Sub
If the above menu items aren’t exactly what you were hoping for, and you’re willing to make sacrifices, breakfast items make it especially easy to make almost any entree a little bit healthier. You could choose egg whites over whole eggs, ask for no butter on whole wheat toast, or swap out a greasy side like hash browns, sausage or bacon for fruit, turkey sausage or turkey bacon. Personally, I love to create my own omelettes, so that I can load up on veggies and egg whites, without cheese, and then just order mixed fruit as my side.
And remember that you should never be afraid to speak up for yourself or ask about healthier alternatives. As long as you’re respectful and don’t do anything that would drive your server insane, you’re the customer and he or she has a job to serve you.
Be Smart and Á la Carte
If too many substitutions makes you or your server’s head spin out of control, just order á la carte. Pick and choose small portions from a little bit of everything — select a protein like poached eggs or egg whites, turkey bacon or sausage; and add healthier carbs like whole wheat toast or an English muffin, fruit, or a single flapjack. It’s the perfect way to order for picky eaters, but it’s also a great way to keep portions in check.
Portion Your Pancakes
Don’t forget other conventional methods for eating smaller portions (which allows you to naturally consume less calories and fat by scale) such as ordering off the kid’s menu, simply saving half for later, or sharing with table mates. While they may seem obvious, once that glorious plate of hot breakfast arrives in front of you, such simple logic may be fleeting.
Don’t Drink Your Calories and Sugar
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but don’t forget that the rules still apply here. Black coffee or coffee with skim milk, unsweetened tea, and of course water will save you some room for other sugary indulgences. Try sipping after every few bites and eat slower so that you become fuller faster.
You can find out more about how much carbohydrates, cholesterol, protein, and more go into everything IHOP has to offer by viewing their nutritional information here. While I did my best to summarize the best options, I also recognize that everyone’s diet requires different levels of nutrients and that “less calories” isn’t necessarily synonymous to “healthy.” This guide will definitely help point you in the right direction, but I strongly encourage you to do some digging yourself.