I like free stuff. The two facets of this blog reflect my two big personality pushes--get healthy and save money. So offering a frugal, but wanna-be fit guy like me a big ol' plate of free, bad for you food is like telling Yogi Bear he can have a picnic basket as long as he didn't steal from anybody. Which idiosyncratic personality quirk do you let win?
Well, I guess we have to cop to actually getting in the car, putting on our seat belts, and then driving to Denny's with the intent of eating the food.
In our defense, I've always felt, and stated in this blog, that you can eat at crazy places and eat crazy food as long as you figure it into your calories. So we figured out the calories for the Grand Slam, figured that into our calories for the day, packed up our kids and headed out.
And you saw the news. So you know what we saw. So we got back in our car, turned around, and headed . . . to the grocery store.
See, I have this amazing wife. And while I'll be waxing poetic about her culinary skills later this month, she decided our best bet would be to create our own lower calorie version of the same meal. So using ingredients we had at home, and ingredients purchased at the grocery store for less than we probably would have given the frazzled, overworked Denny's waitress for a tip, she was able to create a better-than-Denny's Grand Slam breakfast plate, for about 2/3rds of the calories.
Just check out how you can break it down:
Denny's Grand Slam has 795 calories, 450 of which are from the 50 grams of fat, of which 14 grams are saturated. Is that bad? Well, just for comparison, a bowl of Cheerios in milk is only about 150 calories, with only 2 grams of fat, none of which are saturated. If you ate the Grand Slam instead of the Cheerios for a year, you'd be up 67 pounds at the end of the year.
Now, to be fair to Denny's, if you had two Sausage McMuffins with egg, you'd have had 900 calories, 54 grams of fat, and 20 grams of the dreaded saturated fat, and you wouldn't have even started on the hash browns yet, which I'm guessing you ordered, because, hey, combo meals are good deals, right?
So the Grand Slam is neither the best nor the worst thing you could eat for breakfast. But at $6.00 a pop for the things most days, you can probably do it cheaper and healthier on your own.
So that's what we did! Here are the components of the Grand Slam, with some tips for making it healthier:
For this one, my wife went with a lower calorie mix--I believe it was the Bisquick Heart Smart Pancake mix, but there are a ton of lower calorie, higher fiber pancake mixes out there if you just look.
Pancake Calories: 140
Calories So Far: 140
There are tons of syrups out there. Sugar-free syrups, low calorie syrups, and Walden Farms even has a zero calorie syrup, although the three reviews on Amazon seem to be mixed.
I normally don't go for syrup, but when my wife pulled out a bottle of some sugar free syrup with only 30 calories in a quarter cup, I went for it.
Calories in Syrup: 30
Calories So Far: 170
It's part of the iconic image of the Grand Slam: that big ol' scoop of butter sitting on top of the pancakes like a blob of ice cream.
Gotta tell you, although I love butter, I recommend leaving this one out. All of us did, and we didn't miss it. I will say that if you do use butter, feel free to use real butter instead of margarine--it's probably better for you. Just go sparingly.
That doesn't mean I didn't dress them up, though--I use peanut butter instead. If that sounds gross to you, that's fine--don't try it. But if you're curious, give it a whirl. We use the natural peanut butter your grind yourself at WinCo.
It's completely an indulgence, though. It's still 100 calories per tablespoon, but some of those calories are from protein instead of fat, it adds a gram of fiber, and the fat is that good, heart-healthy kind.
Calories in (Peanut) Butter: 150
Total So Far: 320
Okay, here's where the fit meets frugal. For a buck, you can get 8 Farmer John links, enough for two each for the four of us. It actually was among the better choices without getting into the more expensive stuff, but the two links came in at 140 calories, with 12 grams of fat, 4 grams saturated.
The trick here is to keep it to just the two sausages. If you had a second two, you'd be just 40 calories shy of just the sausage having as many calories as the pancakes, syrup, and peanut butter combined.
Calories in Sausage: 140
Total So Far: 460
We used two slices of Farmland Hickory Smoked Bacon, which came in at 80 calories.
The astute among you will notice two things:
First, bacon only has about half the calories of sausage. If you like bacon more than sausage, you could skip the sausage and have 4 strips of bacon and save 60 calories, or six strips of bacon and only have 40 more calories.
Second, we didn't use turkey bacon. Unless you're getting some kind of nitrate-free, organic, super-healthy turkey bacon that I'm just not ready to shell out for, chances are your turkey bacon is loaded with tons of nitrates, sodium, and chemicals that make it taste almost, but not quite, entirely unlike bacon. As Mitch Hedberg used to say, "Somebody should tell the turkey to just be himself."
Calories in Bacon: 80
Total Calories in Alternate Meal: 540
Calories in Grand Slam: 795
Calories Saved: 255
I'll be waiting for the call from the Nobel committee.