Pancake Picks & Ordering Tips, Plus Zero-Calorie Claims!

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Hey Hungry Girl,

Pancakes are my absolute favorite breakfast food in the world. How can I enjoy them guilt-free?

#1 Flapjack Fan

Hi Flapjack Fan,

I, too, am a huge fan of fluffy p-cakes. In fact, every year on my birthday, I enjoy a stack of super-decadent pancakes! But on a regular basis, you really have to be careful -- they're typically loaded with carby calories, and that's BEFORE you add all the fat-packed butter and sugary toppings. Here are some tips, tricks, and picks for enjoying pancakes without packing on the pounds...

Dining out? Pancakes can really set you back in the stats department. Even the most basic ones are made with eggs and oil. And there's often a hidden pat of butter in between your flapjacks. If you've gotta have 'em, your best bet is to get a side order or short stack, and fill out your meal with things like fresh fruit, scrambled egg whites, and turkey bacon. Then request no butter, and see if they have sugar-free or light syrup. (Use the light stuff sparingly.) Also look for whole-grain options -- you'll get a little extra fiber. IHOP has some reasonable picks on its Simple & Fit menu. But honestly, you're much better off enjoying pancakes at home! So keep reading...

Grab some heat 'n eat finds. Aunt Jemima makes Low Fat Buttermilk Pancakes that are tasty and have pretty great stats -- you get three pancakes for 210 calories and 2g fat (PointsPlus® value 6*). Or chomp on two of Van's Natural Foods whole-grain pancakes for 150 calories and 1.5g fat, plus an impressive 6g fiber and 4g protein (PointsPlus® value 4*). Weight Watchers Smart Ones has a breakfast meal that comes with two pancakes and two small turkey sausage links, plus a side of syrup, for just 280 calories and 6g fat (PointsPlus® value 7). Not bad! And if you want something completely different, Jimmy Dean has a breakfast sandwich consisting of a turkey sausage patty in between two maple-flavored pancakes -- only 240 calories and 8g fat (PointsPlus® value 6*).

Boxed mix 101. Whatever you do, don't follow the directions if they say to add things like eggs and oil. Use fat-free liquid egg substitute like Egg Beaters Original instead of whole eggs (1/4 cup egg sub for each egg) and canned pure pumpkin or no-sugar-added applesauce in place of the oil (use the same amount of the swap as the amount of oil called for). In general, look for mixes that are low in fat with a good amount of fiber and have about 150 calories per 1/3-cup serving. I love Fiber One's just-add-water Complete Pancake Mixes -- a serving makes 3 pancakes and has 180 calories, 3.5g fat, and 5g fiber (PointsPlus® value 5*).

Stock up on guilt-free toppers. Some of my favorites? Sugar-free pancake syrup, chopped fruit, powdered sugar (just 10 calories per teaspoon!), sugar-free or low-sugar jam and preserves, and fat-free whipped topping. BTW, while a 1/4 cup of sugar-free pancake syrup has only around 30 calories, the same amount of light/reduced-calorie syrup has about 100 calories -- so not worth it!

Get your recipe on! This flapjack stack is like the beautiful love child of pancakes and cheesecake... SO indulgent! These pancakes with a gooey apple topping are the perfect pick for fall. Here are two more dessert-inspired pancakes, and here's a swap for a crazy pancake dish from IHOP. Want more recipes? There's an entire pancake section in HUNGRY GIRL TO THE MAX!

There you have it -- TONS of pancake options, ALL of them guilt-free. Happy chewing! 

Hi HG,

I just read about a lawsuit involving "calorie-free" spray butter that actually has hundreds of calories and dozens of fat grams in a bottle. I use that butter ALL THE TIME, and I had no idea. How is this possible? Help!

Bad-News Butter

Hi Bad-News Butter,

It's scary but true. Here's the deal... According to FDA rules, if something has less than FIVE calories per serving, the label can claim it has ZERO calories. And while that might not seem like much of a difference, that small difference really adds up when you're talking about a product that has MANY servings per container. In a perfect world, products would have their EXACT calorie counts on nutrition labels with reasonable serving sizes, but it's not a perfect world. The best things you can do are to be aware and be honest with yourself. Really pay attention to the amount of a product you're using. A no-calorie sweetener packet actually has about 4 calories, so if you're using multiple packets throughout the day, keep track, and add up the calories. And sure, the labels on most nonstick cooking sprays say 0 calories for a 1/4-second spray, but who sprays for only 1/4th of a second?! I don't think that's even possible. A much more realistic serving is a 1-second spray, which has about 5 to 10 calories and 0.5 to 1 gram of fat. That's still a lot less calories and fat than you're likely to take in using regular oil, but it's not ZERO. A "no-calorie" butter spray is great for day-to-day use if you're trying to cut calories and you only need a few spritzes. But each teaspoon (about 25 sprays) actually has 20 calories and 2g fat. That's more calories and fat than the same-sized serving of light whipped butter or light buttery spread (like my favorite, Brummel & Brown). If the thought of calculating calories in zero-calorie products baffles or overwhelms you, you're probably better off getting low-calorie versions instead and being careful with your portions. BTW, when it comes to zero-calorie condiments and syrups, a lot of them don't taste great. Mix them with regular or reduced-fat versions to bring down the calorie counts while maintaining the flavor, or skip 'em altogether and opt for low-calorie kinds. Hope all of this info helps!

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Today, November 7th, is... wait for it... National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day! We like our chocolate solely sweet, thankyouverymuch. If you do too, celebrate with our Old Time Rocky Road Fudge!

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