Sundays in New York are synonymous with casual walks in Central Park, the Times cross word puzzles, window shopping in Soho, and of course – the quintessential Sunday Brunch. Brunch has a different definition for each New Yorker – it can be the time to gab with girlfriends about titillating weekend trysts, or an extension of said tryst, or even a chance to catch up with yourself and the special extra-thick Sunday Times.
When I think of brunch – visions of pancakes, eggs, French toast, and mimosas pop up in my head. Unfortunately, right alongside those visions, are thoughts of high-cholesterol and wacked-out blood-sugar levels. What’s a health-savvy brunch connoisseur to do?
Believe it or not, breakfast and brunch foods are often times the healthiest choices at restaurants. One just has to have the know-how on which foods to chow down on and which to decline. Here’s a quick ‘How To’ guide for healthy brunch picks which will keep your taste buds satisfied and your body grateful.
1) Eggs – Let me break it down for you. Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense food you can eat. A medium egg has only about 65 calories, and packs about 5.5 grams of protein. This brunch staple comes poached, scrambled, or folded into a delectable omelet – eggs are a definite DO for brunch. Recent studies have shown that the egg yolk is the part of the egg that contains the most nutrients including iron, zinc, folate, phosphorous, riboflavin, vitamins A, D, E and B-12. However, keep in mind that the egg yolk is also filled with cholesterol and fat grams. Restaurant omelets are usually made with 3-4 whole eggs – all those yolks will definitely add up! Request that your omelet have a 3 to 1 ratio of egg whites to egg yolk. This way, you’ll still get the vitamin-medley from the yolk but you’re limiting the fat and cholesterol. Opt for fiber-fabulous green veggies in your eggs – such as broccoli or spinach – and you’ll have yourself a satisfying, body-friendly, protein-filled meal.
2) Bread -Many popular brunch spots provide their clientele with a basket of various pastries and breads before their main course. Avoid the bread basket. In fact, tell your server ahead of time to simply not bring it over. Next time you’re itching for a piece of white bread – think about this fact: White bread gets its bright white color by being chemically bleached – just like you bleach your clothes! So when you’re biting into a piece of white bread, you’re also biting into chemicals that simply should not have a place in your body. If you want toast with your meal, ask for whole grain (wheat) bread. Wheat bread is less processed, and thus not stripped entirely of its nutritional value. 1 slice of whole wheat bread can give your body at least 4 grams of healthy, naturally-filling fiber – enjoy it!
3) Sweets – Of course, sometimes all you really want is a stack of pancakes dripping in sticky delicious maple syrup. I’ve been to places where an order of pancakes will get me 5 pancakes bigger than my face, covered in syrup, strawberries, and nuts. This is a big plate of sugar, calories, and fat that really is just not necessary. Tweak this brunch favorite by requesting that your pancakes be topped with fresh antioxidant-filled berries rather than the syrupy, sugar-laden goo-from-a-can that restaurants typically pile on top. Also, why not share your dish with your brunch-mates! I always opt for veggie-filled omelets at brunch, yet swipe a few bites of sweet ooey-gooeyness from my brunch partners – this way I get the taste but not the complete calorific ‘dessert for brekkie’ meal. Sharing is key when dealing with sweets! *An added bonus: If the restaurant offers buckwheat or whole-wheat pancakes – go for it! Whole-wheat = Heart-Healthy Fiber!
If you’re having trouble picking a brunch spot or are looking for a new one, here are two lovely eateries which I happen to frequent fairly often for a wonderful weekend brunch- Bon Appetit!
-Sarabeth’s East- 1295 Madison Ave (Cross Street: 92nd Street) – cozy spot, expect a line and wait your turn for a table – it’s totally worth it!
Healthy Brunch-Do: Skip the scones, split an egg white omelet and a plate of whole wheat banana pancakes with a friend. Divine.
-Café Orlin – 41 Saint Marks Pl – A brunch spot with a middle-eastern spin. Healthy options include hummus, tabouli, and egg whites.
Healthy Brunch-Do: Try the avocado, tomato, goat cheese egg white omelet or grab a veggie burger – protein and folate galore! Choose an outdoor seat in the spring time and enjoy your brunch with a side of people-watching.