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The Best & Worst Menu Items at Denny's, According to Dietitians

Next time you head to America's diner, consider what these dietitians have to say about the healthiest and unhealthiest orders off the menu.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Denny's is an all-day diner open 24/7 with locations across the United States. Perhaps most known for their pancakes and "slams", Denny's also offers plenty of lunch and dinner items. While some of these items were developed with health in mind, most of the Denny's menu prioritizes flavor and value over balanced nutrition. Luckily, we have you covered with the best and worst items in many of the Denny's menu categories.

When selecting your meal at Denny's, there are a few key ways to narrow down the healthier selections. When it comes to breakfast foods, choose egg whites when available, incorporate fruit or veggies into your meal, and skip sugary toppings and syrups. If you are at Denny's for a traditional lunch meal, choose fruit or veggie as your side and skip fried items, like fries and fried meat. When in doubt, practice portion control. There are many items well over 1,000 calories, and even some that hit over 2,000 calories. Even when using my tips for a more nutritious meal, enjoying only half of the dish allows you to keep your calorie intake more reasonable.

A seasonal pancake, topping-packed burger, and a side of onion rings can be enjoyed on occasion without negatively impacting your health. However, if you are visiting Denny's regularly, make sure to choose from the "best" categories more often than not. Here are the 20 best and worst orders on the Denny's menu.

Burgers

Best: Single Cheeseburger

Denny's Single Cheeseburger
Denny's
Nutrition (without cheese): 590 calories, 29 g fat (13 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat) 820 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (2 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 35 g protein

Simple is a good rule of thumb when it comes to choosing healthier items. Sauces, toppings, and condiments can add excessive empty calories to a meal with little nutritional value. This simple cheeseburger comes in under 600 calories and you can make some easy swaps to lower that number. Swap the burger for grilled chicken for 120 fewer calories, skip the cheese, and enjoy fruit as your side for the healthiest option.

 The #1 Healthiest Burger at 10 Major Restaurant Chains

Worst: Double Flamin' 5-Pepper Burger

Denny's Flamin' 5-Pepper Burger
Denny's
Nutrition: 1,400 calories, 97 g fat (38 g saturated fat, 3 g trans fat), 2,640 mg sodium, 53 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 78 g protein

This burger comes in at 1400 calories, which is enough calories for an entire day for many people. Not to mention, it provides nearly 100 grams of fat! A beef patty, cheese, bacon, mayo, and a special sauce contribute to this high count. Swap the burger for a veggie patty to cut 110 calories, but that still leaves you with a calorie-packed meal. Enjoy fruit or salad as your side and eat only half the burger to keep calories and fat grams more reasonable. Better yet, skip this option for the more simple burger or grilled chicken option.

Classic Breakfasts

Best: Classic Benny Breakfast

Denny's Classic Benny Breakfast
Denny's
Nutrition with hash browns: 730 calories, 37 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 2,020 mg sodium, 64 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 32 g protein

Eggs Benedict is a traditional dish made with an English muffin, eggs, ham, and Hollandaise sauce. Without a side, this meal comes in just over 500 calories. This is reasonable for a meal, but a few changes make it even better. Swap the eggs for egg whites to cut 80 calories and several grams of fat, and get your sauce on the side. Using minimal sauce will drastically cut calories as it is traditionally made with a base of egg yolk and butter. Enjoy fruit on the side for a balanced meal!

Best: Southwestern Benny Breakfast

Denny's Southwestern Benny
Denny's
Nutrition with hash browns: 950 calories, 60 g fat (20 g saturated fat), 2,100 mg sodium, 65 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 36 g protein

This Southwestern take on eggs benedict is higher in calories with chorizo in place of the lean ham, and comes in at 760 calories without any modifications. Swapping full eggs for egg whites is a good start, and swapping the hashbrown side for fruit makes this meal a little healthier. The classic benny is still a healthier dish, but this option with modifications comes in a close second.

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Worst: Grand Slamwich

denny's grand slamwich
Denny's
Nutrition with hash browns: 1,300 calories, 79 g fat (26 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 3,470 mg sodium, 94 g carbs (3 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 52 g protein

Starting at 1,300 calories, the grand slamwich also packs nearly 80 grams of fat. This makes it one of the least healthy breakfast options, and one you are better off skipping. Eggs, sausage, bacon, and American cheese loaded between two slices of potato bread make up this high-calorie sandwich. Skipping one of the meat options and half of the cheese improves the composition of this meal, but not enough to consider it a healthy option. Enjoy this one only occasionally and consider sharing it to reduce your calorie intake.

Worst: Chicken Biscuit and Gravy Bowl

Denny's Chicken Biscuit and Gravy Bowl
Denny's
Nutrition without eggs: 1,020 calories, 61 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 3,070 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (4 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 39 g protein

Biscuits and gravy may be a traditional breakfast in the South, but the staple is far from healthy. Add fried chicken, cheese, and eggs, and you have a calorie-packed meal with minimal fiber and more sodium than is required in a full day. You could swap the full eggs for whites for a slight improvement, and ask for the gravy on the side to reduce your portion of sauce, but this still leaves this meal as one of the least healthy.

Melts & Handhelds

Best: Super Bird

Denny's Super Bird
Denny's
Nutrition: 760 calories, 33 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,130 mg sodium, 69 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 49 g protein

For a lunch meal, this simple turkey sandwich is a good selection. Unfortunately, the sandwich comes in at 760 calories, not including a side, making it higher in calories than many may want at a meal. However, this option provides the lowest number of calories and grams of fat of all the sandwiches. Enjoy open-faced to reduce your intake of calories and low-quality carbs, and go with fruit as a low-calorie, nutrient-packed side.

Worst: Brisk-It-All-Melt

Denny's Brisk-It-All Melt
Denny's
Nutrition without egg or side: 1,190 calories, 76 g fat (21 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,670 mg sodium, 75 g carbs (3 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 53 g protein

Red meat is notorious for its high fat content, and this brisket sandwich is no exception. Brisket, bacon, eggs, and cheese make up the bulk of calories in this over 1,190 calorie meal. Egg whites are a healthier option, and skipping half of the meat would drastically cut fat and saturated fat grams. However, this option still leaves much to be desired when it comes to balanced nutrition.

Omelettes

Best: Loaded Veggie Omelet

Denny's Loaded Veggie Omelet
Denny's
Nutrition with hash browns & white toast: 920 calories, 56 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,540 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 36 g protein

Omelets pack protein and are a good way to incorporate produce into your breakfast. This option is loaded with veggies and is only 550 calories without any modifications. However, sides of toast and hashbrowns will almost double this number, so choose wisely to keep this a healthier meal. Swap the eggs for egg whites to reduce calories by 230, and trade the starchy sides for a double side of fruit for a balanced breakfast full of fiber.

Best: Build Your Own Omelet

Denny's Build Your Own Omelet
Denny's

Nutrition information varies.

Creating your own omelet may be one of the best breakfasts on this entire list. Starting with egg whites, add in your cheese of choice to incorporate more protein and fat into the meal, and select your favorite veggies to make for a balanced option. Tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers, and onions will add tons of flavor and fiber for a few calories. You could even top with avocado for a boost of healthy fat and fiber. Choose fruit as your side for a dietitian-approved breakfast!

Worst: Philly Cheesesteak Omelet

Denny's Philly Cheesesteak Omelette
Denny's
Nutrition with hash browns & white toast: 1,130 calories, 71 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 2,010 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 54 g protein

This omelet starts at 760 calories and the full meal comes in at a jaw-dropping 1,100! Swapping the full eggs for egg whites is a good start to a healthier meal, and choosing fruit as your side makes this option much more reasonable. However, the prime rib meat in the omelet will contribute significant calories, fat and saturated fat. Enjoy this option with modifications and consider asking for a "light" portion of meat for a healthier dish.

 10 Breakfast Chains That Serve the Best Omelets

Pancakes

Best: Hearty 9-Grain Pancake Slam

Denny's Hearty 9-Grain Pancake Slam
Denny's
Nutrition without hash browns, egg & meat choices: 400 calories, 11 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 870 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (5 g fiber, 10 g protein), 21 g sugar

Carbohydrates are the main source of calories in pancakes, which doesn't make them inherently bad. However, the added sugar, toppings, and syrup can drastically turn your reasonable pancakes into sugar bombs. These 9-Grain Pancakes are only 410 calories and provide 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein. This makes them a reasonable meal on their own, and a side of egg whites makes it a more balanced option. The order comes with a stack of two pancakes, so save one for later to make this meal a calorie-conscious and well-rounded choice.

Worst: Cinnamon Roll Pancake Slam With Cream Cheese Icing

Denny's Cinnamon Roll Pancake Slam
Denny's
Nutrition without hash browns, egg & meat choices: 1,100 calories, 26 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,700 mg sodium, 207 g carbs (4 g fiber, 145 g sugar), 10 g protein

Not all pancakes are created equally, and these cinnamon roll cakes pack a whopping 145 grams of sugar. This number doesn't even include syrup, which would add plenty more calories and grams of sugar. Modifications won't make these pancakes a more reasonable option. Instead, skip them all together. If you can't resist trying them, order the cakes for the table to split and enjoy just a bite to satisfy your craving.

Salads

Best: Salmon Salad Your Way

Denny's Salmon Your Way
Denny's
Nutrition without dressing: 540 calories, 33 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 1,290 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (4 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 40 g protein

Although salmon is higher in calories than poultry, it packs healthy fats. This salad combines veggies, cheese, and iceberg lettuce to be served with wild-caught salmon. This meal starts at 560 calories, not including the dressing, so you'll have to make some concessions to keep this a healthy option. Choose the light Italian dressing for only 20 extra calories, and consider getting rid of the croutons and cheese to save a few calories. You'll get plenty of protein and healthy fats from the salmon, you won't miss any nutrients from skipping the cheese.

Worst: Mama's Fried Chicken House Salad

Denny's Mama's Fried Chicken Salad
Denny's
Nutrition without dressing: 590 calories, 33 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 1,840 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (5 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 36 g protein

As I mentioned before, fried ingredients should be limited to build a healthy meal. The base of this salad is the same as the salmon option, and the salmon has been swapped with fried chicken tenders. This makes for a higher-calorie meal that also provides way more sodium. Skip the tenders and go with salmon or grilled chicken for a healthier salad.

 10 Unhealthiest Restaurant Salads—Ranked by Sugar Content

Slams

Best: Fit Slam

Denny's fit slam
Denny's
Nutrition: 450 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 860 mg sodium, 59 g carbs (5 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 27 g protein

The "slams" are a signature menu item for Denny's that combines eggs and side items for a full meal. The Fit Slam is a take on this concept but is built as a much healthier option. A base of egg whites with veggies is complimented with turkey bacon, fruit, and an English muffin for a 410-calorie meal. No modifications are needed to keep this a healthy option, but limit the amount of butter and jam on your bread to avoid excess empty calories.

Worst: Strawberry Stuffed French Toast Slam

Denny's Strawberry Stuffed French Toast Slam
Denny's
Nutrition without egg: 1,210 calories, 60 g fat (23 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,820 mg sodium, 135 g carbs (6 g fiber, 67 g sugar), 35 g protein

This slam combines four slices of French toast stuffed with a cream cheese filling, all topped with strawberries, a berry sauce, and powdered sugar. This leads to a starting calorie count of over 1,200, and sides of eggs and meat will drive that number to 1500. This seasonal French toast dish no doubt packs loads of sugar, too. If you choose to order this dish, skip the strawberry sauce and powdered sugar to limit sugar, go with egg whites instead of meat as your side, and save half of your French toast for later.

Starters & Sides

Best: Fresh Seasonal Fruit

Denny's Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Denny's
Nutrition: 100 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (3 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 1 g protein

You have no doubt noticed fruit as my most commonly suggested side item. This choice contributes roughly 100 calories and 3 grams of essential fiber. Compared to the high-fat meats, low-fiber carbs, and fried starches that serve as other side options, fruit is certainly the most nutritious and can allow the meal to feel more filling.

Best: Garden Side Salad

Denny's Garden Side Salad
Denny's
Nutrition without dressing: 170 calories, 9 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 8 g protein

Another way to get produce at your meal is with a side salad. Especially when enjoyed in place of fries or onion rings, this option can be lower in calories which provides fiber and essential nutrients to your meal. Dressing can drive calories up quickly, so go with the light option for only 20 calories, or enjoy your favorite dressing on the side and use only half. Skip the croutons to save a few more empty calories, too.

Worst: Stack of Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Denny's Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
Denny's
Nutrition: 1,100 calories, 26 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,700 mg sodium, 207 g carbs (4 g fiber, 145 g sugar), 10 g protein

I already harped on the sugar and calories in the cinnamon roll pancake slam, but they are worth mentioning again as they are also offered as a side item. Unless you plan to split this 1,100-calorie order across a full table, skip them all together. If you want some pancakes, go with the 9-Grain or Buttermilk cakes. While you're at it, avoid the Double Chocolate Pancake puppies on the start menu as they can pack over 100 calories and 97 grams of sugar.

Kelsey Hampton Abdullah, MS, RDN
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey