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3 Top Budget Hotel Chains Offer Healthier Free Breakfasts

This article is more than 9 years old.

Might the days of the sugar-fueled "Continental" free hotel breakfast finally be behind us? On a recent stay at Holiday Inn Express (formerly Hotel Cass) on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago, I was pleasantly surprised to see the range of healthy breakfast choices arrayed in the hotel's free breakfast buffet. There wasn't a plastic-wrapped Danish in sight.

Instead, there was oatmeal, there was Greek yogurt, there were bagels and cream cheese and whole grain muffins, there were egg-and-cheese omlettes. Nothing gourmet, of course - this is, after all, budget travel. But in ten minutes you could eat a reasonably well-rounded meal that included protein, fresh fruit, nonfat dairy, and fiber - a far cry from the all-carb white flour selection on offer at your typical budget hotel.

My experience, it turns out, is part of a larger effort to add healthy fare to the brand's Express Start Breakfast Bars, rolling out at Holiday Inn Express properties across the country.

Helping travelers stay healthier is becoming a priority at hotels across the country, but up to now the trend has been primarily limited to higher-end brands and specialty hotel brands. It's something new to see whole grains, non-fat yogurt, and fruit other than apples and bananas on offer.

Other budget hotel chains jumping on the health-conscious bandwagon include Days Inn, which recently launched their DayFit program, which includes both more nutritious breakfast fare and a promise to have a decent gym available at many properties.

The waffle stations at Comfort Inns and Comfort Suites now feature whole grain waffles as part of the brands' new Your Morning breakfast. Acknowledging the importance of not skipping breakfast, the hotels also offer a grab-it-and-go breakfast packet with a granola bar and fresh fruit.

Higher-end properties, meanwhile, are taking the healthy travel message still further, launching specialty brands designed entirely for the traveler who wants to stay fit, sleep well, and eat nutritious food while on the road.

Intercontinental's brand new EVEN hotels are health-oriented from the ground up, with high-end 24-hour fitness centers, yoga classes, and ionizing air purifiers. And if you prefer to work out in front of your favorite guilty pleasure TV show, there are in-room fitness zones stocked with weights, pulleys, stretch bands and other equipment. While EVEN properties don't offer free breakfast, they've amped up their dining menus to cater to pretty much every health need you can think of including dairy-free, gluten-free, low carb and diabetic menus.

"Whole living" is the message at Westin's Element hotels, where the rooms feature gourmet pantries kitted out with artisanal cheese, whole grain snacks, and everything you need to cook a fresh meal right in your room. The free breakfast bar features smoothies, vegetable-centric wraps, and a fruit stand's worth of fresh fruit.

Other chains are introducing multi-faceted wellness programs at selected existing properties, such as the Stay-Well Suites at the MGM Grand, Trump Wellness, and Westin Well Being, all of which promise to help guests breathe better, sleep better, and eat better on the road. The Westin Well Being program goes the furthest, offering a panoply of groovy amenities like in-room spa baskets, New Age music, and a "mind-training" meditation routine from partner Headspace that promises to teach you to meditate in 10 minutes.

All this is clearly evidence of a trend in the making, and one that's consumer-driven.  Travelers are tired of coming home bloated, out of shape and sleep-deprived, and they're demanding a better experience with their choice of stay. According to a report in Hotel Executive, the wellness movement is gaining momentum, and there are plenty more innovations on the way.

Have you've stayed in a hotel with an extra-special breakfast or discovered a new wellness feature? Share it here.

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