Okay, I’ll admit it. I haven’t been to a Denny’s in years. Even before I was careful about what I ate, I found the food just too darn greasy.
Nevertheless, based on a request from reader Christy — and realizing that they have 1,500 locations nationwide — I’m happy to work up some recommendations.
They’ve got a large menu, so today I’ll focus on Breakfast. (Here’s Part 2: Everything else).
There are some obvious pitfalls, as there are with any diner. Hash Browns are laden with grease and sodium (and not many nutrients), and dousing your refined-flour pancakes with maple-flavored sugar (or even real maple syrup!), can rack up the “empty” calories in no time.
- Ask them to go easy on the cheese.
- Substitute fruit for hash browns (for an additional charge).
- Substitute Egg Whites for Eggs (for free).
- Decide what you’re going to eat before walking in.
Omelettes – Better Choice
These numbers are for the omelettes only — without sides.
500 cal, 12g sat fat, 37g total fat, 740 mg cholesterol (!), 940 mg sodium (!), 10g carbs, 4g sugars, 2g fiber, 29g protein
Omelettes – Worst Choices
Relative to the rest of the menu, these aren’t too bad. Again, consider going easy on the cheese and substitute egg-whites for no additional charge.
Ham & Cheddar Omelette
590 cal, 17g sat fat, 44g total fat, 755 mg cholesterol (!), 1,330mg sodium (!!), 4g carbs, 1g sugars, no fiber, 40g protein
670 cal, 18g sat fat, 54g total fat, 730mg cholesterol (!), 740mg sodium, 8g carbs, 3g sugars, 36g protein
Build Your Own Grand Slam – Better Choices
They’ve got a huge array of options here, so depending on what you choose you can have a balanced, relatively healthy breakfast… or roll out of there with half-a-day’s worth of calories and two day’s worth of saturated fat and sodium.
The Build Your Own Grand Slam lets you pick FOUR options, so it’s easy to hit 800+ calories. To play it safe, choose from these Better Choices:
Seasonal Fruit (4 ounces)
70 cal, no fat, 7mg 18g carbs, 17g sugars, 3g fiber, 1g protein
Sadly, they charge extra for fruit.
Scrambled Egg Whites (2)
50 cal, no fat, 180mg sodium, 1g carbs, 11g protein
English Muffin (hold the butter)
180 cal, 1g sat fat, 3g fat, 300 mg sodium, 25g carbs, 1g sugar, 1g fiber, 4g protein
Oatmeal (with 8 ounces of milk)
270 cal, 4g sat fat, 7g total fat, 290 mg sodium, 37g carbs, 20g sugars, 4g fiber, 14g protein
Low-Fat Yogurt (6 ounces)
160 cal, 1g sat fat, 1.5g total fat, 100 mg sodium, 30g carbs, 25g sugars, no fiber, 6g protein
Sadly, they charge extra for the Yogurt.
Chicken Sausage Patty (1)
110 cal, 3g sat fat, 9g total fat, 260mg sodium, no carbs, 1g sugars [sic], 7g fiber
Turkey Bacon Strips (2)
76 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 4g total fat, 304mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 8g protein
Build Your Own Grand Slam – Worst Choices
Watch out for the Bagel & Cream Cheese and the Granola. They seem like they’d be healthy, but they’re loaded with calories.
105 cal, 2g sat fat, 2g trans fat (!), 6g total fat, 285mg sodium, 13g carbs, no sugars, no fiber, 2g protein
Grits (12 ounces)
260 cal, 1g sat fat, 5g total fat, 840mg sodium (!), 47g carbs, no sugars, 1g fiber, 5g protein
210 cal, 2.5g sat fat, 12g total fat, 650mg sodium, 26g carbs, 1g sugars, 2g fiber, 2g protein
“Hearty Wheat” Pancakes (2)
310 cal, no sat fat, 1.5g total fat, 950mg sodium (!), 64g carbs, 2g sugars, 8g fiber, 10g protein
With the amount of sodium in these, it’s amazing they can get away with the word “Heart” in the name. They are, however, better than the buttermilk pancakes, with less sodium and more protein and fiber.
Buttermilk Pancakes (2)
340 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 4g total fat, 1,180mg sodium (!!), 68g carbs, 12g sugars, 2g fiber, 2g protein
Sausage Links (2)
182 cal, 6g sat fat, 18g total fat, 330mg sodium, 2g carbs, no sugars, 1g fiber, 5g protein
Bagel & Cream Cheese
428 cal, 7g sat fat, 12g total fat, 560mg sodium, 48g carbs, 8g sugars, 2g fiber, 11g protein
Granola (4 ounces, with 8 ounces of milk)
690 cal, 3g sat fat, 1g trans fat (!), 12g total fat, 430mg sodium, 131g carbs, 53g sugars (!), 9g fiber, 20g protein
Bacon Strips (2)
90 cal, 3g sat fat, 7g total fat, 350mg sodium, 1g carbs, 1g sugars, no fiber, 7g protein
Toast Slices (2)
260 cal, 2g sat fat, 14g total fat, 110mg sodium, 32g carbs, 4g sugars, 1g fiber, 6g protein
Why the heck does toast need to have 14 grams of fat?
Regular Slams – Avoid
They have four ready-to-go grand slam combinations, including the All-American, French-Toast, Belgian-Waffle, and Lumberjack.
All of them are high in calories, fat, and sodium — and these numbers are without hash browns or grits.
820-940 calories, 15-27g sat fat, 0-0.5g trans fat, 46-49g total fat, 1,270-2,770mg sodium, 32-68g carbs, 1-14g sugars, 2-4g fiber, 30-47g protein
Grand Slamwich – Avoid!
The Grand Slamwich gets a category all to itself.
It’s like eating two and a half KFC Double-Downs, and yup, that’s just the sandwich, without the hash browns.
CSPI’s Nutrition Action magazine also featured it in their “Food Porn” section this month.
1,320 cal, 42g sat fat, 1g trans fat, 90g total fat, 3,070mg sodium, 71g carbs, 9g sugars, 3g fiber, 52g protein
Skillets & Scrambles – Avoid
Southwestern Sizzlin’ Skillet
990 cal, 21g sat fat, 2,140mg sodium, 71g carbs, 10g sugars, 6g fiber, 35g protein
Prime Rib Premium Sizzlin’ Breakfast Skillet
850 cal, 15g sat fat, 40g total fat, 2,110mg sodium, 77g carbs, 14g sugars, 6g fiber, 41g protein
Meat Lover’s Scramble
1,130 cal (!!!), 29g sat fat, 0.5g trans fat, 66g total fat, 3,180mg sodium (!!!), 80g carbs, 12g sugars, 6g fiber, 51g protein
I’m guessing it’s the two pancakes on the side that really put the calorie count over the top, but still. 29 grams of sat fat? 3,180mg sodium? Really?
1,150 cal (!!!), 20g sat fat, 0.5g trans fat, 66g total fat, 2,800mg sodium (!!!), 97g carbs, 12g sugars, 7g fiber, 40g protein
“Favorites” – Better Choice
Remember once again that these numbers are without the side of hash browns or grits.
200 cal, 5g sat fat, 15g total fat, 330mg sodium, 1g carbs, no sugar, no fiber, 13g protein
“Favorites” – Worst Choices
Moons Over My Hammy (Full Order)
780 cal, 16g sat fat, 42g total fat, 2,580mg sodium (!!!), 50g carbs, 3g sugars, 2g fiber, 46 g protein
Moons Over My Hammy (Half Order)
380 cal, 8g sat fat, 21g total fat, 1,240mg sodium (!), 26g carbs, 2g sugars, 1g fiber, 22g protein
I almost put the half-order in the Better Choices category, but it’s just too high in sodium. Sorry.
Country-Fried Steak & Eggs
660 cal, 15g sat fat, 3g trans fat (!!!), 42g total fat, 1,620mg sodium (!!), 29g carbs, no sugar, 3g fiber, 39g protein
Southwestern Steak Burrito
910 cal (!), 14g sat fat, 52g total fat, 1,970mg sodium (!!), 76g carbs, 4g sugars, 5g fiber, 33g protein
Bacon Avocado Burrito
1,010 cal (!!), 15g sat fat, 59g total fat, 2,210mg sodium (!!!), 91g carbs, 6g sugars, 8g fiber, 29g protein
T-Bone Steak & Eggs
780 cal, 19g sat fat, 36g total fat, 1,210mg sodium (!), 4g carbs, 1g sugars, no fiber, 110g protein (!)
The $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu – Avoid
This one’s easy: Avoid everything on this menu. Every breakfast item has over 1,100mg sodium, and yet again, that’s without any sides.
Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.
indicates the “best-of-the-best,” and indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.
Denny’s Nutrition Facts (PDF)
Photo of Denny’s Grand Slamwich by fmk.