If you want breakfast for dinner, you're probably going to hit up Denny's. This diner-style chain first earned a following for its pancakes and omelettes, but they now also serve mouth-watering burgers and finger-licking sandwiches all day long.
However, not all of the items on Denny's menu are created equal. Some are extremely high in fat, sodium, and sugar, making it important to scan the menu with caution.
To help you figure out what you're really ordering at Denny's, we spoke to registered dietitian nutritionist Kelsey Peoples, MS, RDN, about the best and worst choices amid Denny's pancakes, burgers, salads, sandwiches, kids' items, and more. See where your favorite breakfast-for-dinner or lunch-for-breakfast meals fall—and what you should maybe avoid the next time you find yourself at America's diner.
Best: Fit Slam
430 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 860 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (4 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 27 g protein
"The Fit Slam is probably your best choice in this category," Peoples explains. The egg whites and turkey bacon are loaded with protein to keep you full, and you even get a serving of vegetables to boot.
Worst: Lumberjack Slam
970 calories, 49 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 3,200 mg sodium, 96 g carbs (4 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 38 g protein
The Lumberjack Slam is the dish to skip in this category, Peoples says. The triple serving of breakfast meats is mostly to blame for that. When it comes to calories, fat intake, and sodium, "the whole platter packs 90 percent more than the maximum daily recommended intake," Peoples explains. And that's without accounting for your specific bread and meat choices!
Best: Hearty 9-Grain Pancake Breakfast
410 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 880 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (5 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 10 g protein
Though still high in carbohydrates, Peoples says that the protein and fiber in this "hearty" breakfast help slow down the digestion of the carbs. This nutritional info doesn't include your fruit, egg, and meat choices, so be sure to choose wisely. "Add scrambled eggs or egg whites for additional healthy protein, and you'll have a solid breakfast choice," Peoples says.
Best: Double Berry Banana Pancake Breakfast
540 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 1,360 mg sodium, 103 g carbs (8 g fiber, 36 g sugar), 12 g protein
"The Double Berry Banana Pancake Breakfast may still be high in sugar, but it is also packed with antioxidants and eight grams of fiber," Peoples says. She suggests skipping the hash browns that come with this meal (and that aren't included in the above nutritional information) and subbing in fruit as a great way to increase the nutritive value of what you're eating. (It's also worth noting that this nutritional information doesn't account for your egg and meat choices.)
Worst: Cinnamon Roll Pancake Breakfast
1,350 calories, 34 g fat (16 g saturated fat), 1,760 mg sodium, 247 g carbs (4 g fiber, 184 g sugar), 10 g protein
"The Cinnamon Roll Pancake Breakfast is about as decadent as food can get," Peoples explains. They are loaded with more carbohydrates than most people need in a day, she adds. Plus, they have 185 grams of added sugar, which is the equivalent of 46 sugar packets. And these values again don't include hash browns, eggs, and meat. Unless you forego all three sides, this "worst" is only going to get worse.
Worst: Dulce De Leche Crunch Pancake Breakfast
1,220 calories, 240 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 2,090 mg sodium, 228 g carbs (4 g fiber, 154 g sugar), 13 g protein
The Dulce De Leche Crunch Pancake Breakfast has a sweet crunchy topping baked right in, which totals a wild 154 grams of sugar and a whopping 1,220 calories to this already over-the-top meal. Considering this doesn't include hash browns, eggs, or meat either, Peoples suggests you "save the splurge for another time and choose a more balanced breakfast to start your day right."
Best: Loaded Veggie Omelette With Hash Browns
620 calories, 44 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 970 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 31 g protein
"This is arguably the best omelette choice because of the sheer volume of added vegetables you get," Peoples says, noting the omelette includes spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes. To make this dish even healthier, she suggests choosing egg whites for a high-protein and low-fat super meal. (And please note, this nutritional info—and the omelette info that follows—doesn't include your bread choice that comes with Denny's omelettes.)
Best: Wild West Omelette With Hash Browns
750 calories, 53 g fat (16 g saturated fat), 2,630 mg sodium, 24 g carbs ( 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 43 g protein
"The Wild West Omelette is a high protein omelette with the added benefit of sautéed veggies for extra nutrients and fiber," Peoples explains. But the downside of this omelette is that the ham and jalapeños bump the sodium content up way too high. She suggests asking for those ingredients on the side, especially if you have any issues with high blood pressure or fluid retention.
Worst: Philly Cheesesteak Omelette With Hash Browns
880 calories, 64 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 1,540 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 48 g protein
This omelette is high in saturated fat—21 grams, to be exact—and that's the kind of fat linked to high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Though there are some vegetables tossed in, Peoples says you would be better off steering clear of decadent omelets like this, especially because these high numbers also don't account for your bread option.
Worst: Ultimate Omelette With Hash Browns
890 calories, 71 g fat (22 g saturated fat), 1,590 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 38 g protein
The Ultimate Omelette may seem like a relatively healthy choice because of the pile of vegetables included, but, as Peoples explains, the sausage and bacon packed inside are a huge reason this dish carries 71 grams of fat, which ultimately makes this choice a poor one. And if you added a side of toasted buttered sourdough here, which isn't included in these nutritional values, that would make this meal one of the more fattening ones on Denny's menu at 93 grams.
Best: Fit Fare Veggie Sizzlin' Skillet
390 calories, 16 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 1,270 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (7 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 22 g protein
"The Fit Fare Veggie Skillet is a strong, well-balanced choice and definitely this dietitian's pick," Peoples says. "It's high in protein, but low in fat, thanks to the egg whites. And the vegetable medley provides seven grams of fiber with minimal carbs sourced from potatoes, which are a great source of potassium," she adds.
Worst: Grand Slamwich With Hash Browns
1,320 calories, 85 g fat (28 g saturated fat), 3,320 mg sodium, 87 g carbs (3 g fiber, 10 g sugar) 52 g protein
"The Grand Slamwich with hash browns is definitely the breakfast fave to steer clear of," Peoples explains. This dish has sausage, bacon, and ham packed in with eggs and cheese, which contributes to its high calorie and fat content, she says.
Best: Chicken Strips
240 calories, 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 17 g protein
Most appetizers at Denny's are deep fried, so it can be difficult to find a healthy option. Peoples says that your best bet is to choose the high-protein chicken strips, but only eat half the order since these nutritional facts are only for two strips.
Worst: Zesty Nacho Platter Full Size
1,670 calories, 108 g fat (36 g saturated fat), 3,110 mg sodium, 131 g carbs (14 g fiber, 14 g protein), 46 g protein
"The full Zesty Nacho Platter is enough food to feed a small army," Peoples says. "So it's no surprise that this is the least healthy appetizer on the menu if you plan on eating it by yourself." Choosing the half-size will slash those calories, Peoples adds—so sharing that dish is probably the best idea.
Best: America's Diner Cheeseburger
790 calories, 47 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 1,630 mg sodium, 50 g carbs (2 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 41 g protein
Peoples says that the America's Diner Cheeseburger is technically the best burger option on Denny's menu if you order it as-is, because it has fewer toppings than the other burgers. "If you omit the cheese and sauce, you can knock off some of the added saturated fat and salt," she suggests. Also, be warned that if you're going to throw in french fries, that's an added 400 calories and 22 grams of fat to this meal.
Worst: Bacon Avocado Cheeseburger
1,000 calories, 66 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 1,800 mg sodium, 53 g carbs (5 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 50 g protein
"The Bacon Avocado Cheeseburger sounds like a pseudo-healthy option because of the avocado, but the high saturated fat content in the bacon and cheese outweigh those benefits," Peoples says. For a better choice, she advises ordering this burger without the extra toppings. And, of course, skip the deep fried sides.
Best: House Salad
190 calories, 9 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 9 g protein
Denny's House Salad is the leanest option on the menu. Plus, you can add a protein—like grilled chicken or avocado—for filling unsaturated fats that can turn it into a satisfying entree. To keep it healthy, opt for low-fat balsamic vinaigrette or fat-free Italian dressings. They're the lowest in calorie and fat of Denny's options.
Worst: Caesar Salad
410 calories, 37 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 780 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 13 g protein
"Like most Caesar salads, this one is a sneaky source of fat," Peoples says. It's also high in sodium, which you likely aren't expecting from a salad, she adds.
Best: Cali Club Sandwich
820 calories, 48 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 2,060 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (7 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 43 g protein
The Cali Club Sandwich is packed with protein and while it's still high in fat, Peoples notes it includes healthy unsaturated fat from the avocado. "Order with seasonal fruit on the side for a filling but overall nutritious choice," she advises. That side option, instead of something fried, will only add 110 calories to your meal.
Worst: Mega Philly Cheese Melt With Prime Rib
910 calories, 52 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 2,120 mg sodium, 62 g carbs (3 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 50 g protein
"The Mega Philly Cheese Melt With Prime Rib is a fat bomb, with 19 grams of unhealthy saturated fats from the prime rib and cheese," Peoples says. Plus, she adds, the sandwich's sodium content is higher than your goal of under 2,000 milligrams for the whole day. Peoples says swapping the prime rib for chicken saves you a bit of saturated fat, but it's not enough to turn this dish into a healthy option. And again, it's worth noting this nutritional information doesn't include your side of choice.
Best: Wild Alaska Salmon
350 calories, 23 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 830 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 32 g protein
"The Wild Alaska Salmon is a great way to get omega-3 fatty acids," Peoples says. "They're an important type of healthy fat that you must get from your diet since your body isn't able to produce it." Choose a healthy vegetable side, like broccoli or steamed squash, to round out a great dinner, Peoples suggests. And if you're trying to eat healthy, best to skip the bread option here too, which isn't accounted for.
Worst: Crazy Spicy Sizzlin' Skillet
860 calories, 56 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 2,600 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (5 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 50 g protein
Peoples says that the Crazy Spicy Sizzlin' Skillet makes the worst list because of the combination of its high-in-fat ingredients and massive portions. "Though the grilled chicken, peppers, onions, and mushrooms should theoretically be a healthy foundation for a dish, the additions of pepper sauce, queso, chorizo, and cheddar cheese massively increase the fat and sodium content of this meal," she explains.
35 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 3 g protein
"Non-starchy vegetables are always a reliable way to add bulk and nutrients to your meal, so the broccoli—or the steamed squash and zucchini—are good choices here," Peoples says. The real difference is that the latter has fewer calories, but more sodium.
Worst: French Fries
400 calories, 22 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein
"French fries are the only fried option on the sides list, so it's no surprise that they are the least healthy option," Peoples explains. If you're getting a heavier entree, you'd be better off skipping the fries, she suggests.
Best: Everyday Value Slam
450 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 1,390 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (2 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 10 g protein
"The Everyday Value Slam is the most appropriately-portioned meal on Denny's Value Menu," Peoples says. The two eggs are a good source of protein, and you can choose 9-grain pancakes to make it an even better option, she adds.
Worst: Fried Cheese Melt
750 calories, 37 g fat (17 g saturated fat), 2,730 mg sodium, 74 g carbs (3 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 31 g protein
Though it sounds tasty, Peoples says that combining mozzarella sticks with a grilled cheese sandwich results in far too much saturated fat and sodium in one dish. "You'd be better off ordering the mozzarella stick appetizer and eating one or two sticks to curb that craving," she suggests.
Best: Grilled Chicken On A Stick
200 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 29 g protein
"Grilled Chicken On A Stick is a fun way to make a lean protein more appealing," Peoples says. It's pure protein at 29 grams per serving, she notes, and you can add healthy sides like steamed broccoli, a garden salad, corn, or apples to help round out the meal.
Worst: Jr. Cake Batter Milkshake
730 calories, 37 g fat (25 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 93 g carbs (0 g fiber, 77 g sugar), 9 g protein
Thanks to its high levels of calories and saturated fat, along with the equivalent of over 19 packets of sugar, "it's best to skip this one altogether," Peoples says.
Best: 55+ Grilled Tilapia
250 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 570 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 41 g protein
"Whitefish like tilapia is naturally very low in fat and packed with protein to keep you full," Peoples says. Plus, you can add healthy sides like broccoli, steamed zucchini and squash, or whole grain rice to complete the meal.
Worst: 55+ Scrambled Eggs & Cheddar Breakfast
1,010 calories, 58 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 2,530 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (3 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 41 g protein
"The Scrambled Eggs & Cheddar breakfast turns a normally healthy choice—scrambled eggs—into a poor option by adding too much cheddar cheese, along with two breakfast meats that are high in sodium," Peoples explains. Instead, opt for regular scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and one pancake, which provides a better portion size and lower saturated fat, she says.