When they’re made with refined white flour, smothered in butter and drowning in sugary syrup, pancakes are better suited for the dessert cart than the breakfast table. But what if you could toss these conventions and make a dish that’s as nutritious and energizing as it is tasty and fun to eat?
“The part about pancakes that’s ‘unhealthy’ isn’t necessarily the pancakes themselves, it’s what you put on top of them,” says Charlotte Martin, RD, a registered dietitian and recipe developer in Baltimore. “Calories, fat, and sugar can really add up with mix-ins like chocolate chips and toppings like butter and syrup,” Martin says.
Another issue: Most popular store-bought mixes lack fiber, she says. A diet high in fiber is satiating, and is associated with healthy weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
To build a healthier pancake recipe, start by using whole grains in place of refined flour, and opt for applesauce with no added sugar or mashed banana instead of sugar. You can pack in even more fiber by adding shredded zucchini or carrots, says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist who practices in San Francisco. “And if you’re looking to bring in some protein to a typically lower-protein breakfast, try adding cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or protein powder to the mix,” she says.
Next, look for healthier toppings. Great options include fresh-cut fruit, warmed berries, no-sugar-added nut butter, and spices like cinnamon. “You can still have a nutritious pancake breakfast while enjoying more classic pancake toppings like maple syrup and butter, but portion control is key here,” Martin says.
Finally, consider other foods as sides or toppings to bolster the nutritional value of your pancake breakfast. “I love pairing my pancakes with Greek yogurt and fruit — one way to get extra protein and make a balanced meal,” says Yasi Ansari, RDN, a certified specialist in sports dietetics in Los Angeles.
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Intrigued? Try one of these healthier takes on classic pancakes.