French toast—along with most brunch staples, if we’re being honest—is not the healthiest of foods. It’s typically made with a thick, white bread, pan-fried, and then topped with butter and sugary maple syrup. It’s delicious, undoubtedly, but not exactly a nutrient-dense meal.
The best way to healthify French toast is by addressing the bread. Common French toast recipes use thick slices of Challah, brioche, or baguettes. A recent trend even has cooks swapping in sweet breads like banana bread or zucchini bread. All of these options use simple, refined carbs, which act similarly to sugar in the body, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and then quickly drop. Cue the mid-morning energy slump.
In this episode of Clean Eating, wellness chef Arielle Haspel subs brown rice cakes for bread to make a low-cal, low-carb French toast recipe.
Brown rice cakes have received flack over the years for being a faux health food but that’s only when you eat them plain-Jane style. These grains can be subbed in as a low-cal vehicle for hummus, nut butters, or other spreads, instead of filling your daily calorie allowance with refined chips or breads.
Because this French toast recipe is low-cal, you can supplement your breakfast with more nutrient-dense side dishes like a fruit salad, yogurt parfait, or green smoothies. That means your overall meal will be far more energy-sustaining and satisfying than a simple stack of syrup-drenched French toast.
Want to cut down the sugar even more? Try topping your French toast with peanut butter and fresh fruit instead of maple syrup. You can thin peanut butter into a sauce by whisking it (or processing it in a blender or food processor) with almond milk and a little vanilla extract. You can also blend or mash berries to give it a texture similar to preserves or a compote, which will give you a PB&J French toast.
If you’re not ready to mess with using bread in your French toast recipe, here’s a more traditional yet nutritionist-approved French toast recipe that’s even healthy for people with diabetes.