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Are Pancakes Fattening?

author image Paula Quinene
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.
Are Pancakes Fattening?
A stack of pancakes with maple syrup and raspberries. Photo Credit: OlenaMykhaylova/iStock/Getty Images

Eating three large pancakes with butter, syrup and whipped cream can make you fat, especially if you eat over 3,500 calories in a day and are sedentary. Sitting down to a breakfast of two medium pancakes and a tablespoon of syrup after a workout refuels your muscles without enlarging the size of your fat cells. Reducing the fat content and calories in a pancake is possible if you make pancakes from scratch instead of from a mix.

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Traditional pancakes are made with all-purpose flour, a refined grain. Refined or fast-digesting carbohydrates are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream, causing a surge in blood sugar and a large production of insulin. If most of your diet consists of fast-digesting carbohydrates like refined pancakes, white bread and white rice, your body will become proficient in storing body fat because insulin is a fat-storing hormone, according to R. Paul Gustafson, Ph.D., in the “Strength and Conditioning Journal." Reserve your pancakes for after a workout or replace one-fourth of the refined flour with whole wheat flour.


Oil is typically the primary source of fat in pancake batters. Few recipes use butter. There is also fat in egg yolks, milk and buttermilk, common ingredients in pancakes. While butter has only 100 calories and 11 g of fat per tablespoon, it contains mostly saturated fat. Unsaturated oils like olive oil, canola and vegetable oil have about 120 calories per tablespoon and 14 g of fat. Use olive oil in your recipes primarily because it has mono unsaturated fats which help lower your bad cholesterol. Most batters have no more than ¼-cup oil, necessary to keep your pancakes moist, according to Paula Figoni, author of “How Baking Works, Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science."


Milk and buttermilk are the primary liquid ingredients in pancakes. Full fat milk, reduced fat milk, skim milk, buttermilk and low-fat buttermilk may be incorporated. One cup of skim milk has practically half the calories of full fat milk and no fat compared to the 8 g of fat and 150 calories in whole milk. One cup of reduced fat milk has 130 calories and 5 g of fat. The difference between regular buttermilk and reduced fat buttermilk is only 10 calories and 2 g of fat per 1 cup. Milk and buttermilk enhance the flavor and color of your cooked pancakes. It helps develop a fine, tender crumb and strengthens the egg proteins in your pancakes so they remain fluffy once cooked. Buttermilk also leavens your batter, creating a higher rising pancake.


Pancake recipes are alterable to decrease the calorie and fat content. Make one small change in your recipe, noting the differences in the outcome of the cooked hotcake. Make additional adjustments to your liking every time you mix a batch. If you want to reduce calories, replace half the volume of whole milk with skim milk. You can also replace one whole egg with two egg whites or ¼-cup of an egg substitute. One whole egg has 75 calories and 6 g of fat, while one egg white contains 17 calories with no fat. Egg substitutes have about 30 calories per ¼-cup with no fat. Pancake batters include a small amount of sugar, which you may reduce by only one-quarter of the measurement; one teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories and no fat.

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  • “How Baking Works, Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science”; Paula Figoni; 2008
  • “ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal”; Applying Concepts of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load to Active Individuals; Melinda Manore, Ph.D., et al; Septemeber/October 2004
  • “Strength and Conditioning Journal”; The Glycemic Index and Weight Control; R. Paul Gustafson, Ph.D.; June 2008
  • “ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal”; Eat Like You’re in Crete: Teach Your Clients the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet; Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D.; September/October 2007
  • “The NutriBase Complete Book of Food Counts”; NutriBase; 2001
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