Mornings can be hectic -- getting the kids to school, trying to beat the traffic -- and sometimes fast-food places seem like the only option for breakfast in a hurry. The key is to make the best choices.

"It's better to eat something in the morning than to skip breakfast entirely," says Lalita Kaul, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and professor of community and family medicine at Howard University. "Your body hasn't gotten any nourishment between dinner and waking. By trying to make it to noon, you're starving yourself."

If you must go the drive-through route, here are some guidelines:

McDonald's

Try: The Egg McMuffin, the granddaddy of breakfast sandwiches, at only 290 calories and 11 grams of fat. Even the Sausage McMuffin isn't too bad at 370 calories.

Avoid: The huge Deluxe Breakfast, which weighs in at a shocking 1,220 calories, 60 grams of fat and 1,900 milligrams of sodium, and the hotcakes and sausage at 770 calories. And definitely stay away from the Deluxe Cinnamon Roll at 590 sugary calories and no protein to keep you from getting hungry too soon.

Dunkin' Donuts

Try: For a breakfast sandwich, the egg-and-cheese English muffin sandwich at 280 calories. If you only have time for a doughnut, choose a French cruller at 150 calories, a glazed doughnut at 180, even a chocolate frosted doughnut at just 200 calories. Wash it down with skim milk for protein.

Avoid: Cake doughnuts -- they have twice as much fat and a lot more calories. A glazed cake doughnut has 350 calories and twice the fat of the chocolate frosted doughnut. Among the beverages, stay away from the Tropicana Orange Coolatta at 370 calories and the 290-calorie Peppermint Mocha Latte.

Starbucks

Try: The Fresh Fruit and Cheese Plate at 380 calories or the Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon, Egg and White Cheddar Sandwich at 330 calories for a breakfast with protein to stave off hunger. For a drink, remember this rule: the longer the name, the higher the calories. Get plain coffee, or a latte or cappuccino with skim milk (no whip). If you want something fancier, an Espresso Frappuccino Light (no whip) is only 140 calories.

Avoid: Topping any drink with whipped cream, which adds 100 fatty calories. The regular Frappuccino drinks all tend to have calories counts north of 200, some as high as 500 calories (the Tazo Chai Creme Frappuccino with whipped cream is 510). Even a Pumpkin Spice Latte has 380 calories. Scones are generally about 400 calories and up -- go for a low-fat blueberry muffin at 300 calories.

Chick-Fil-A

Try: A biscuit with egg at 350 calories or a biscuit with bacon at 330 calories. Or try three pieces of Chick-N-Minis at only 269 calories. Hint: Stay away from multiple ingredients.

Avoid: Chicken, egg and cheese on a bagel at 500 calories.