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Are Pancakes Good For You? (Plus Healthy Recipes)

Saturdays are fun in the Bacon household. It’s our designated “Pancakes and Movie Night”. No matter how busy our week is, we know we can usually end our week with some fluffy pancakes and something on Disney +.

A stack of pancakes with text "Are pancakes good for you?"

I’ve actually had people comment on our frequent pancake meals, claiming it to be unhealthy and that I should do better. Pancakes are one of the most popular breakfast foods. Are they actually “bad”? Or can they be part of a healthy lifestyle?

As a nerd, I love compiling data and looking at all angles of a problem. So in this post, I’ll go over what pancakes are made of, whether they’re healthy, and great recipes to try!

What are pancakes made of?

Traditional pancakes usually have the following ingredients:

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Milk (Typically cow milk, but almond milk can be used too)
  • Eggs

And then you can add a ton of different mix-ins, like fresh berries, chocolate chips, etc.

Here’s where the problem comes. Most pancakes are made with all-purpose flour (Or white flour), which is a refined flour that has most of the nutrients and fiber stripped from it. That means you’ll get a large blood sugar spike right after eating these pancakes.

Add some maple syrup to it, and you get a HUGE sugar bomb that may cause you to crash in a couple hours.

This is why a lot of people say pancakes aren’t good for you. They’re mostly made of carbs, which won’t keep you full very long. But there are plenty of options to help with this, like using whole grains, as I’ll share below!

Golden brown pancakes cooking on a griddle

Pancake nutrition info

Nutrition info varies greatly depending on what kind of pancake you eat. This is what I got from Hungry Jack’s website, from their Buttermilk Pancake Mix.

For 1/2 cup dry mix (2 or 3 pancakes):

  • 130 calories
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 28 grams of carbs
  • 5 grams of added sugar
  • 1 gram of fiber
  • 3 grams of protein

There’s a huge imbalance here in the ratio of carbs to protein and fat. Without a good balance of protein and fat, you may get a huge spike in your blood sugar levels. This means your energy may crash shortly and you’ll be hungry again soon after.

How to make pancakes healthier

Pancakes can be a filling breakfast if you know what to add to it! Here are ways I add extra nutrition to pancakes.

NOTE: I use the word “healthy” knowing that everyone has different health and nutrition needs. Do what’s best for your body!

Pancakes cooking on a griddle

Use whole wheat flour

Whole wheat flour still has its nutrients and fiber intact. The fiber helps digest carbs more slowly, keeping you full longer and stabilizing your blood sugar.

This flour tends to be more dense than all purpose flour, so your pancakes may not be quite as fluffy. But you can always use a mixture of half whole wheat, half all purpose. I’ve found that this is one easy way to make pancakes healthier that doesn’t involve a lot of effort.

Baby spinach leaves

Mix with pureed fruits or vegetables

Some recipes call for fruits or vegetables to go INSIDE the recipe. I’ve used unsweetened applesauce before; and I’ve also seen recipes that use spinach and even carrots.

The use of a blender helps to finely puree your produce, which really helps if you have kids that shudder at a fleck of spinach.

A bowl of fresh berries

Add some fresh fruit

Fruit has fiber and vitamins. So even if you use a regular pancake mix, you can add fiber by topping your pancakes with your favorite fruit: strawberries, fresh blueberries, sliced banana, or even diced apples.

You don’t actually need to add much sugar in your pancake batter. Fruit toppings can help sweeten a plate of pancakes, along with some maple syrup!

A basket of white and brown eggs

Add a protein on the side

Typical pancakes and pancake mixes don’t have much of a protein content. Protein keeps you full longer and helps maintain and rebuild muscle, and can aid in weight loss. When you add a protein to your meal, you’re able to go longer between meals and not crave sweets quite as often.

Here are some of my favorite proteins to eat with pancakes:

  • Eggs
  • Sausage (Pork or turkey)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese

In addition, you could also use a protein pancake mix, like Kodiak Cakes!

A small container of peanut butter, next to a small container of whole peanuts

Add a different topping

I’ll be honest, I love adding maple syrup to my pancakes. But have you ever spread peanut butter on top instead? It adds a whole new layer of flavor! And it still gives pancakes a sweet taste.

In addition to other health benefits, peanut butter is a source of healthy fat. Fat adds both flavor and satiety, so you’ll stay full longer and go longer between meals.

Other favorite toppings include chopped nuts and even yogurt!

Sheet pan pancakes on a plate covered in maple syrup

Healthy pancake recipes

Pancakes can definitely be part of a healthy diet! Whether you use wholesome ingredients inside the pancakes, or simply eat some fruit on the side with a traditional pancake recipe, pancakes are totally a healthy breakfast option.

Here are some of my favorite recipes that have served me well over the years:

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