Like you, I'm too rushed to cook myself a nice breakfast. That's why my idea of a hot morning meal is to stuff Pop-Tarts under my arms and heat them up by jogging off to work. Why once I even jammed frozen waffles up my ... wait, maybe I've gone too far.

Like you, I'm too rushed to cook myself a nice breakfast. That's why my idea of a hot morning meal is to stuff Pop-Tarts under my arms and heat them up by jogging off to work. Why once I even jammed frozen waffles up my ... wait, maybe I've gone too far.

OK, of course I fabricated those silly stories, but it was only to illustrate how poorly so many people eat in the morning. Yeah, this country is on the run with the a.m. sun and it's knocking back crappy food in a sad attempt to jackstart its day. And the indisputable fact is that fast-food outlets wind up being a lot of people's all-too convenient breakfasts of choice.

I could lecture folks to stop eating at these chainy diabetes-growing places, but I know old habits are hard to break - and besides, it's pretty hard to argue with something that's hot, inexpensive and rapidly consumed during the morning rush hours. So in the interest of making the best out of a creaky situation, here's some healthier and better-tasting selections from those notoriously quick, cheap and easy corporate breakfast sandwich peddlers.

Keeping it real

White Castle doesn't advertise its breakfast sandwich much, but maybe it should, because it's pretty good. There's nothing revelatory about it, yet it stands out from the vast fast-food pack by virtue of its simplicity, authenticity and freshness. Instead of a factory-formed ovum-like mass (I'm looking at you, McMuffin), you get a real egg recently liberated from its shell and fried to order; while steaming hot it gets laid on - by request - grocery-store-style whole wheat bread, just toasted. You can add on bacon or sausage, but that adds on greasy calories, so I suggest sticking with a little slice of eye-opening jalapeno cheese. Pair that real-deal sandwich with a large, very decent White Castle coffee and the "that's more like it" tab comes to a paltry $3.21.

Don't do the donut

The candy-colored pink "D" door handle to the recently opened Dunkin' Donut shop Downtown clues you in to the sweet-spot store's abundance of sugary calories. If you then think DD's the last place you'd look for a healthyish morning munch, well have a gaze at the place's breakfast flatbread sandwiches. They're made with a nice, brown and thin multigrain toasted bread pocket that tastes yeasty, nutty and slightly sweet. Peeking between the crunchy, chewy halves is a pre-made, egg-white-only omelet-like wedge. These relatively low-cholesterol breakfast flatbreads come in two flavors: veggie (flecks of bell peppers and a hint of mushroom with melty cheese goo); and turkey sausage (my preference - nibbles of sagey meat and spinach preincorporated into the egg white patty). Both of these clock in under 300 calories and are surprisingly good.

Going to pot

Potbelly is easily one of the better fast-fooders out there, and the Belly's sub-style breakfast sandwiches represent some of the better pre-noon values, too. Three dollars cops a behemoth of a morning torpedo layered with pig meat (go with the sweet, salty and smoky ham - it has far less fat than bacon or sausage), a decent heated-up omelet thingy with mushrooms, cheese and, unlike many others of its ilk, a string of options for accessorizing - like lettuce, tomato, onion, all the expected condiments and (I consider this mandatory) Potbelly's spicy Chicago-style giardiniera (hot pickled veggies). To health things up a bit, choose Potbelly's thinner "skinny" whole wheat bread, which gets freshly toasted. Another Potbelly plus is that it's easily the most comfortable and accommodating place to dine in among this better fast-food breakfast bunch.