It’s sort of incredible to me what symbols of wanton excess doughnuts have become; what totems of over-indulgence and fat-kid behavior. They were once fed to soldiers as a health food during World War II, after all. I’m not quite sure when things went off the rails in terms of public perception, although I think Homer Simpson had something to do with it. Anyway, when Dunkin’ Donuts said it was taking a “glazed donut breakfast sandwich” nationwide earlier this week, the country let out a collective gasp of head-wagging disapproval, as if Dunkin had crossed some kind of invisible threshold of common breakfast sandwich decency. The thing is, the school-marmish reaction doesn’t map particularly well onto the actual health credentials of doughnuts, which are hardly as ruinous to one’s health or to the moral fabric of American society as everyone seems to believe (I’m particularly attuned to this topic because I’ve co-authored a doughnut cookbook, out later this summer, which I will now shamelessly plug via this pre-order link).
Not that you’re necessarily counting, but just for the record, a glazed doughnut is not the most calorific breakfast bread that Dunkin’ Donuts could have used — or has used — to sandwich your morning bacon and eggs. For reference, a Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Donut is tabulated at 260 calories; here are four alternatives that rank higher on the gut-busting scale.
1. Biscuits: Biscuits, while gloriously delicious, are essentially little hockey pucks of flour and lard. Dunkin’ Donuts’ versions contain 280 calories and are guaranteed to sit like a rock in your stomach all day long.
2. Croissants: These butter-soaked French pastries tend to be pretty unrepentent fat and calorie bombs, but are commonly used as buns for breakfast sandwiches without anybody batting an eyelid. Dunkin’ Donuts croissants run you 330 calories. I cannot speak for the caloric content of cronuts.
3. Bagels: Yeah, bagels. Some of you might think of bagels as doughnuts’ sensible, vaguely-nutritional-seeming cousin, but you would be wrong — at least from a calorie perspective. A plain bagel at Dunkin clocks in at 310 calories.
4. Brioche: Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t stray into brioche territory, but it’s a common enough type of sandwich bun that it deserves a mention. See, brioche is basically France’s attempt at dressing butter up in a bread costume. It’s just butter with enough flour mixed in it to create the semblence of a carbohydrate. A brioche hamburger or sandwich bun will likely run you 300 or more calories.
So, gentlemen, enough with the rending of moo-moos and throaty howls of outrage. If you’re really concerned about your health, you’d go to your local bagel shop right now and order a donut sliced in half and slathered with cream cheese. And if they look at you funny, tell them you’re watching your figure.