For some people, there is nothing more satisfying than a hearty pancake meal in the morning. This carbohydrate-rich breakfast can provide enough energy to keep you physically active throughout the day. But are pancakes healthy, too? Not always. But if you like to start your day with a fluffy pancake, there are ways to increase the nutritional value of pancakes and lower the calorie and carbohydrate count so you can incorporate them into a balanced diet.
If a small stack of rich pancakes with lots of butter and syrup is your idea of a delicious breakfast, you should put down your fork. Although an occasional pancake breakfast is probably nothing to worry about, making it your favorite meal can lead to unhealthy weight gain. That’s because pancakes and their various toppings contain a lot of calories, fat and sugar that can cause you to pile on the pounds. But do not despair, because there are several ways to modify pancakes so that they have fewer calories and are much healthier.
Normally, pancakes are not a healthy breakfast option, especially if they are made with a store-bought mix. However, if you make them yourself with healthier ingredients, they are a smarter choice and less harmful to the body.
Pancakes have long been a breakfast staple, and canned pancake mixes have made them a quick and easy option. Typically, ready-made mixes contain a long list of ingredients, including bleached flour, sugar, salt and additives. While a stack of pancakes is a filling meal, the carbohydrates, fat and calories ensure that you won’t stay full for long. Another major nutritional problem with pancakes is that most people prefer to top them with syrup, which adds a huge amount of calories, possibly high fructose corn syrup, and no nutritional value.
Basic Nutrition For Pancakes
An ideal breakfast contains 350 to 500 calories, depending on your nutritional needs. A 3.5-ounce serving of pancakes has 221 calories, although the usual addition of butter and maple syrup adds extra calories and fat. While the extra calories don’t usually keep pancakes off the menu, the extra fat can. One serving of pancakes contains 8.8 grams (g) of fat, and adding more fat may not fit into your diet plan. About half of the fat in pancakes is saturated fat: 3.9 g. One serving of pancakes contains 27.2 g of carbohydrates, which is 8.3 to 12 percent of the amount you need in a day. It also contains 8.1 g of protein, which is 14.4 to 17.6 percent of the recommended amount.
A 6-inch diameter buttermilk pancake contains 7 grams of fat and 175 calories. Since most people eat more than one pancake, you could consume far more than that. If you eat three pancakes, that’s 21 grams of fat and 525 calories. If that sounds reasonable for one meal, keep in mind that these numbers refer only to the pancakes and do not include any toppings. If you eat a breakfast like every morning, you may be taking in more calories than you can burn, leading to weight gain.
The Butter And The Syrup
If you put one stick of butter on your pancake, you will have 36 calories and 4 grams of fat. If you put a stick of butter on each pancake, you double or triple that. Maple syrup, while low in fat, contains 56 grams of sugar, or 14 teaspoons per 1/4 cup. According to the American Heart Association, women should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons. Too much sugar in your diet contributes to weight gain. A 1/4 cup of maple syrup also contains 216 calories.
Fruit pancakes sound healthy, but often the fruit served on restaurant pancakes is preserved in heavy syrup or contains a large amount of sugar, such as canned fruit used to make pies. A serving of apple pie filling, for example, contains 85 calories and nearly 12 grams of sugar. Powdered sugar is also a common topping, and 1 tablespoon contains 31 calories and about 8 grams of sugar. The fruit provides tiny amounts of fiber and vitamin C, but overall, canned fruit and powdered sugar only drive up the calorie and sugar content of your pancakes without also providing plenty of nutrients in return.
Make Them Lighter And Healthier
Make a batch of pancakes with a dry mix instead of making a buttermilk version. A 6-inch pancake made with a dry mix contains 149 calories and about 2 grams of fat. Save a whole bunch of calories by leaving out the butter and using just a small drizzle of maple syrup. Omit the powdered sugar and opt for fresh fruit instead of canned fruit. Stir fresh blueberries or raspberries into the pancake batter or sprinkle chopped peaches, cherries or bananas over the pancakes. Keeping the total calories, fat and sugar content of your pancakes as low as possible will allow you to eat them more often without gaining weight.
Alternatives To Pancakes
Whole grain pancakes provide extra fiber and a serving of whole grains. Those who have an intolerance to wheat gluten should avoid pancakes made with wheat flour, but you can make changes to add pancakes back into your diet. With a few changes to your recipe (or buying a ready-made mix), you can make pancakes using gluten-free flours such as quinoa, rice and corn. These alternatives offer good texture and plenty of protein, and they shouldn’t trigger symptoms of celiac disease, a condition characterized by an intolerance to wheat gluten. Buckwheat is also gluten-free and, despite its “wheaty” name, can be made into delicious pancakes.
In summary, unless it’s a whole wheat pancake with nuts and berries, I would usually prefer eggs because they are naturally more nutritious and contain more protein, which helps you feel full with fewer calories.
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