PODCAST: Is Avocado Toast Really a Healthy Brunch Choice?Sep. 27, 2022
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Sure, healthy eating and brunch may not seem like they go together. But how about if you order avocado toast? It seems like a healthy choice, especially compared to other brunch options like chicken and waffles or biscuits and gravy. In today's episode, we deconstruct avocado toast and put its ingredients through a wellness check.
Hosts: Zach Moore, Katie McCallum (interviewer)
Expert: Kylie Arrindell, MS, RD, LD, Wellness Dietitian
Notable topics covered:
- Whether avocado truly lives up to its "superfood" name
- How your bread choice can complicate things
- What you need to know about eating a whole egg vs. just the egg whites
- The unhealthiest avocado toast Kylie has ever seen
- What the healthfulness of an avocado toast really hinges on
- Kylie builds her ideal avocado toast
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KATIE: All right, we're here with Kylie Arrindell, wellness dietitian at Houston Methodist. Kylie, welcome. Thanks for joining.
KYLIE: Thanks for having me.
KATIE: So, today, we're going to talk about avocado toast —whether it's healthy. And…full disclaimer for you before we start…you have a huge avocado toast fan sitting across from you.
KYLIE: [laughs] Oh.
KATIE: Don't worry, I prepared myself for this. This is a health podcast, after all, so I am very committed to giving this a fair shake.
KATIE: Don't hold back.
KATIE: To start off, avocado toast…it's a bit of a complex dish. I think there's a couple of components. So, I think maybe we start with deconstructing — as they say in the culinary world — avocado toast. Let's start with avocado. Is it really this healthy superfood I want it to be…I think we all want it to be?
KYLIE: Yes and no. I think my answers to a lot of these questions might be yes and no. Everybody does want it to be a superfood. And it is. It's one of those things that you can add on top of different types of cuisines. You can put it on top of your avocado toast, obviously. You can put it on top of salad. You can put it in a smoothie. It really is a versatile type of food, and it gets its kind of star or superfood claim because of its source of healthy fats — specifically heart healthy fat. So, really good for your cardiovascular system. It also helps keep you full, so it's also a good thing to include because you're going to be a little bit more satisfied with that fat.
KATIE: So, speaking of fat…is it too fattening? For instance, on an avocado toast, when do you have to worry about the fat of avocado?
KYLIE: Good question. So, it's going to depend largely on the amount of avocado you use. So, if you use an entire avocado for one piece of toast, that's probably a little bit too much. Now, if that’s going to be your main meal of the day — like your breakfast and that's kind of your biggest meal — then maybe one avocado is okay. The serving size is about a third of an avocado. So, as long as you take that into consideration when you're looking at your overall fat intake for the day, you can get away with doing a whole avocado. It's also more about what else you're putting on top of it or what other components are in that avocado toast that kind of gives you the notion of it being too fatty.
KATIE: Okay, so avocado maybe gets a check here? As far as…
KYLIE: I give it a check. It gets a check, yeah.
KATIE: Okay. So far, so good.
KATIE: So, now we can move on to the toast. Bread aisle is huge. There's a lot of bread options. Talk to us about the bread concerns that may or may not be there when you're sitting down to have avocado toast?
KYLIE: That's a great point. I would say when you're at home, you kind of get the luxury of deciding what type of bread you're going to use for avocado toast. But whenever you're at a restaurant or something else, they're doing that for you. So, you can always ask for a whole grain option at the restaurant. But for the most part, if you're wandering the bread aisle and you're, you know, avocado toast is on the menu for that week, I would try to stick to something that has “100% whole” in front of it. So, don't go off the color of the bread. Just because it's brown doesn't mean it's going to be wholegrain. It could be multigrain…it could be white bread dyed brown. So, it's one of those things where you want to look at the actual label, look at the ingredients, and you want that first ingredient to say, whole grain, whole wheat, 100% whole whatever. And that kind of gives you an insight into what that bread actually is. And if it's going to be a whole grain and a good choice.
KATIE: So, let's say, for instance, you go to a restaurant, you don't have the whole grain bread option. You sort of have to order the avocado toast and it's coming to you as is — does the toast being something like a white bread or a sourdough…does that mean you need to be eating less of the avocado toast? Or what's the problem with the not whole grain option when it comes to bread?
KYLIE: It's not necessarily that you have to eat less of it or be super mindful of it being white bread or sourdough bread or something other than that whole grain. It's just that you can't count that as a fiber source now, so you kind of want to have a topping on top of your avocado toast that gives you that fiber source because you're not going to get it from that bread. So, if that's, you know, chia seeds on top or if that's shredded carrots or some other type of vegetable that can then provide you with a little bit more of that fiber. The fats are going to be filling from the avocado, but you also kind of are looking for a fiber source as well to make it more of a balanced meal.
KATIE: At this point — when we're just thinking about avocado on toast, so, avocado toast at its simplest — is this a balanced meal already?
KYLIE: Almost. You've got two of the three components, or — I guess it just depends on who you talk to — two of the five components. You have the fat and you have the carbohydrate, [but] you're missing the protein. And then, yes, avocado is technically a fruit, too, but I would suggest having a little bit more variety on top of that, maybe another vegetable or something else. That's really what's missing.
KATIE: So, you know, this is our perfect segue into the toppings, because I think this is where avocado toast varies the most. So, let's talk about toppings. What are some examples of, I think, quote unquote unhealthiest toppings you've ever seen? Say, for instance, you go to a restaurant — you don’t have to name names — you order an avocado toast, it arrives on the table and you're like this is probably a better exception rather than the rule when it comes to an avocado toast. You wouldn't eat it every day, but it's a good brunch option.
KYLIE: I think I've seen like a meat lover's avocado toast, which was really interesting because you had the bacon, you had breakfast sausage and I think there was one other meat…it was ham on top of it. So, I would say maybe by themselves it would have been okay. But just all of that on top — I think there was also cheese on it and I definitely think there was a slab butter somewhere in there — so then we're getting into the whole cheese, butter, bacon, all the other types of fats on top of the healthy avocado fat. And it can just be a little bit too much at one time. That was probably the worst I've ever seen. And then also the sodium, too. You have no idea how much sodium is in a lot of those toppings. And just because they don't taste salty doesn't mean there isn't sodium in there.
KATIE: That makes sense. So, what then would be a healthier? I think you said we're missing the protein if it's just avocado and toast. So, what's the kind of healthy protein you could consider putting on top of your avocado toast?
KYLIE: So, I think the star usually comes down to eggs. I mean, that's always typically available at a restaurant. If you're doing it yourself, it's also a good idea. You can [also] have the avocado mixed into like a Greek yogurt or some other type of solid protein source. That's not really changing the flavor of the dish, but maybe the texture just a little bit. But that Greek yogurt would be a great thing to add because you can get calcium, you can get an extra source of some of the other vitamins and minerals in addition to that protein. So, that would be a great thing to incorporate into your breakfast.
KATIE: Got it. You know, one of my favorite avocado toasts that I order fairly often, it has egg on top, but it's just egg whites. So, is there something about the yolks of eggs? That they're leaving it out for some reason to make it a healthy option? Or is that just a general maybe kind of assumption they're making?
KYLIE: I think it depends on who you talk to. The egg white is going to give kind of the flavor and the texture that you're looking for from the whole egg. I'm assuming they were scrambled or something like that?
KYLIE: Yeah. So, that's going to be something that people prefer for a texture purpose. It's also kind of gotten this notion that it's a healthier option because it's a leaner protein. The yolk itself provides a good amount of protein still, but it also provides a little bit of fat. It provides some vitamin D. It's one of the few food sources of vitamin D that we actually can consume. So, [egg yolk] has a lot more nutritional value, but it kind of gets this unfortunate connotation of it being bad for you because it's a little bit higher in fat. I prefer the whole egg. If you are somebody who has, you know, six or seven eggs per week, then maybe we dial it back a little bit. But, for the most part, if you're brunching on the weekend a whole egg is perfectly fine if it’s your taste.
KATIE: All right, so some wayward topping choices aside, the ingredients that make up avocado toast sound pretty healthy…but we're not done. From the classic American breakfast, chicken and waffles, there's biscuits and gravy, a good breakfast hash — it's time to see how avocado toast stacks up against our other brunch favorites after the break.
KATIE: We're back. So, to recap: Avocado, good, but not too much; Bread, fine…but it's got to be the right bread; Add some protein, but don't pile on with all the meats. And, now, it's time to find out once and for all where avocado toast stands in the pantheon of brunch basics.
[Sound effect signaling return to interview]
KATIE: In the grand scheme of brunch on a brunch menu, are we calling avocado toast healthy at this point?
KYLIE: I would think it is, yes.
[Sound effect of people cheering]
KYLIE: Especially because a lot of your breakfast items are going to have some sort of refined carbohydrate or some sort of really sugary type of a carbohydrate — whether that's French toast or waffles or pancakes. So [avocado toast] is kind of a nice alternative to some of those. You're still getting a carbohydrate with that toast, but you're getting a little bit more nutritional value from the avocado. Yes, you can make a poor choice with the toppings that you put on top of it. But, for the most part, I would say that it’s one of the healthier brunch choices on the menu.
KATIE: Okay. And since we're at a restaurant and we and we know oftentimes at a restaurant, the portion sizes can be a bit distorted, even if it is the healthy option. Should I be eating the whole dish? And, for instance, when I think of, you know, an avocado toast that I've ordered recently, it's two slices of bread, usually avocado on two slices of bread, typically some toppings, eggs included. Should I just be eating one piece of toast, saving the other toast for later? Does it matter? Is it okay if I'm just indulging? What are your thoughts?
KYLIE: I think it depends on what you're going to be doing for the rest of the day. So, if that's kind of your splurge for the week, or the day, or the weekend — or whatever that is for you — then absolutely you can eat it all. I would definitely kind of check in with your body a little bit, maybe do some more intuitive eating types of internal reflection to see if you really do need that entire two pieces. Or if one piece would suffice and maybe you can take the other half home with you. It kind of just depends on what you're feeling for that day or that particular time. Maybe you're really hungry and maybe it's okay for you to definitely have those two pieces. But, for the most part, if you can kind of listen to your body and really know one piece is going to be sufficient for me, I can definitely take this home. It's one of those things where I'm not wasting any food, but I'm still kind of keeping to my calorie allotment or my fat allotment for the day, depending on what it is.
KATIE: I want to ask one last question, just to bring us full circle here. We deconstructed the avocado toast. Let's construct it again. I’m going to give you a scenario here. Let's say a popular restaurant here in Houston wants to redo their brunch menu. They're thinking: We want it to be healthy, still delicious. They want to put avocado toast on it. They come to you and they say, “Kylie, can you please build a healthy but delicious avocado toast for us?” What are you putting on it?
KYLIE: Oh! I get to put anything on it?
KATIE: Anything on it. How would you build your perfect avocado toast?
KYLIE: Is it a breakfast avocado toast or is it a lunch avocado toast? Because those could be two different things.
KATIE: It's a really good point. I say let's go brunch avocado toast.
KYLIE: So ideal avocado toast, from a health perspective, I would say let's do a really great wholegrain seed type of bread. So, I don't know if you've ever heard of Dave's Killer Bread©, but it has a bunch of different nuts and seeds on it. So, something similar to that — they can make it in-house. But just so it's it's really fresh and you do get that whole grain option. And then, obviously, avocado — it’s avocado toast so we're putting some of that on there. I would say, since we're talking about it, portion it correctly. So maybe a third of an avocado, two thirds of an avocado. You don't want an overwhelming amount, but if you're paying 12 or 13 bucks for it, then you want a good amount of avocado. And then definitely I would have eggs on it. I think that's just a solid, kind of well-rounded protein source and it's filling. It goes really well with the textures. And then I would play around with maybe some fresh herbs or, like I mentioned, chia seeds or some other type of seed on top to get a little bit of a crunch. I also really like other types of vegetables on top of them, too. So I mentioned the carrots before, tomatoes — whatever kind of goes best with the particular cuisine or culture they're trying to go for.
KATIE: I love it. It sounds delicious. I would definitely eat it.
KATIE: All right. Well, thanks for being on with us today, Kylie. Appreciate it.
KYLIE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
[end of interview]