Food

The Good Guide to Fast Food

What are the best options when you're stuck eating on-the-go?
Published February 8, 2016

Hey, we all do it. It’s hard to avoid eating those quick and easy meals at fast food joints. We’re out and about and often don’t have more than fifteen minutes to figure out a meal on the go.

The good news is that some fast food places do offer viable alternatives. More and more restaurant chains are growing wise to the demand for healthy options for those who live active and balanced lifestyles. In recent years, they have come out with various options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks to keep health-conscious folks on track.

Starbucks


Many of us are guilty of a Starbucks trip at least once a day. After all, there is one basically on every corner of every city. With a newly expanded food menu it's now possible to get a healthier meal with your cup of joe.

Healthier options:

  • Skinny beverages. There are a few small things you can do to cut down the calories in that caramel macchiato. When ordering a specialty coffee, ask for skim milk to avoid the fat and calories that come from regular whole milk. The majority of Starbucks flavoured syrups come with a sugar-free option so ask for those. If you don’t prefer the sugar-free counterpart or if this is not available, simply ask for fewer pumps of your favourite syrup. Oftentimes, you do not even realize the difference in taste! Remember, don’t just cut out the things you love, make small modifications to keep yourself on track.
  • Bistro boxes. Starbucks introduced these to offer customers more wholesome options for complete meals. They are suitable for an on-the-go meal or a power snack during the day. Each box contains a variety of whole grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables, with a balance of essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fibre all packed into one box. All of these things are important to include in our meals everyday to stay satisfied and energized.
  • Hot breakfasts. Let’s reiterate one of the golden rules: skipping breakfast is not a good idea. Breakfast breaks your fast from the overnight period and in doing so, replenishes your depleted glucose stores to give you the energy and alertness needed to start your day. Breakfast fuels you for the day, gets your metabolism going and prevents you from overeating during the remainder of the day. Being rushed in the morning pressures a lot of people to grab a muffin and coffee on the way to work. Starbucks offers some balanced options for breakfasts. Try their spinach, feta, & egg white wrap for 8 PersonalPoints or a bacon-style turkey, cheddar & egg white breakfast sandwich for 7 PersonalPoints. For a savoury breakfast mini egg souffle, a great bet is also their egg white and red pepper sous vide bites for 6 PersonalPoints per 2 bites.

Avoid: 

  • Baked goods. Most, if not all of their muffins, croissants, dessert bars, loaves, cakes or other baked goods rank well above 10 PersonalPoints per serving. Before indulging, ask yourself if that blueberry scone is comparable to the same Points as a full meal later on in the day. Alternatively, adding Points to your budget by reaching for 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables, meeting your hydration goals, and tracking exercise will give you those extra Points to indulge in delectable snacks if you desire to do so. After all, everything is on the menu with WW!
  • Frappuccinos and flavoured lattes. If you're treating yourself to one of these indulgent drinks, take the time to truly enjoy it. Otherwise, avoid these tempting drinks as they are often high in calories, fat, added sugar, and have values of 12 PersonalPoints per serving for a tall.

Click here to learn more about Starbucks’ food options.

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons has come a long way from the days of just coffee and donuts. They have become a popular destination for daily meals and snacks.

Healthier options:

  • Skinny beverages. The Tim Hortons version of “skinny” coffee drinks is not as explicit as Starbucks. If you want a healthier coffee or specialty beverage, ask for it unsweetened. This way there will be no extra syrups added. You can also ask for skim milk instead of whole milk or cream. Alternatively, try asking for almond milk instead of cow’s milk as it is lower in calories and still adds that great creamy taste and texture.
  • Soups. Your local Tims will offer a rotating menu of soups that have a value of around 5 PersonalPoints for a regular size serving. Avoid creamy options as these tend to be higher in fat, calories, and Points, and stick to bowls featuring lots of non-starchy vegetables.
  • Breakfast sandwiches and wraps. Yes, Tim Hortons does have some healthier breakfast sandwiches. No need to make two stops when getting that morning coffee. You can grab a breakfast sandwich with egg whites and cheese for 7 Points or an egg white and spinach omelette bite for only 2 Points per bite. Steer clear of adding sausage which can double the value of your sandwich or wrap.
  • Oatmeal. Low in fat and a good source of fibre, Tim's homestyle oatmeal comes topped with brown sugar or mixed berries and can provide a warm, satisfying, and filling meal to start your day.

Avoid: 

  • Baked goods. Muffins, donuts, and croissants are the tempting treats that will take away from your Points budget. If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, try having one or two TimBits. Each TimBit can range from 2-5 Points depending on the flavour you choose.
  • Hot chocolate. Even without the fancy toppings like whipped cream and chocolate drizzle, Tim Hortons hot chocolate and French vanilla drinks pack a whopping amount of fat, added sugar, calories, and Points.
  • Sandwiches with meat. Whether you're grabbing something for lunch or breakfast, stay clear of the meat options such as bacon, ham, and roast beef, which can double the Points values. If you’re opting for a sandwich or wrap, try any of the chicken-based menu or try the caprese sandwich for a more veggie based alternative.
  • Bagels with cream cheese. Can you say fan favourite! Bagels and cream cheese are a classic grab-and-go breakfast or lunch item. Although Tim Hortons offers a delicious variety of bagels and cream cheeses, this seemingly healthy option may not be the most Point-friendly. Take the 12-grain bagel as an example, although it appears healthy, it comes in at 8 Points, while the classic cream cheese comes in at 4 Points. This tasty on-the-go item will remove 12 Points from your budget. Opt for a light cream cheese or for the cream cheese on the side to lower Points.

Click here for Tim Hortons nutritional information.

Subway

This popular spot has several options with less than 6 grams of fat, along with whole-grain breads and plenty of non-starchy vegetables. The key is picking the right ingredients and putting together a sandwich or salad that will be satisfying, healthy, and tasty. The advantage of eating at Subway is that you remain in the driver’s seat. Since their menu is entirely customizable, you have the control to make smarter and healthier choices regarding ingredients for your sandwich or salad. Creating the right combinations can ensure you’re getting enough servings of vegetables, carbohydrates, fibre, and proteins.

Healthier options

  • Turkey, chicken, ham or veggie. If you're going to eat a sub, stick to a 6 inch, and choose one filled with veggies. With so many delicious, fresh vegetable options like tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, red onions, spinach and avocado, you can pack a lot of flavour into a veggie sandwich for a relatively low Points value. If you're craving protein try turkey breast or chicken breast as your choice of meat. These sandwiches will cost you around 7-10 Points (without cheese or sauce), making for a satisfying lunch that won't ruin your budget.
  • Salad. If you’re looking to cut Points without cutting the flavour, Subway offers all of their sandwich options served as salads. Load up on all the fresh veggies you want, limit your use of dressing, or ask for it on the side, and once again stick to the healthier meat options like turkey or chicken. Not only will the veggies provide rewardable fibre, but they will also add Points to your budget! Don’t forget that for every 1 cup of non-starchy veggie consumed, you can add 1 Point to your daily budget. Sounds like a win to me!
  • Whole grain bread. If you’re opting for a sub over a salad, choose the bread which will keep you feeling fullest for the longest. What bread is that exactly? Anything that says whole grain or whole wheat! These options will have the highest amount of fibre that will provide satiating effects and prevent you from snacking throughout the day. Bread with fibre will also be more Point-friendly than white bread so keep that in mind when choosing your bread base.

Avoid:

  • Sauce and cheese. The many sauce and cheese options available at Subway are a big part of the chain's allure. Unfortunately, those additional toppings can be a major drain on your PersonalPoints budget. Most sauces will add between 2 to 4 Points to your sandwich. If you’re looking for a Point-friendly option, mustard is your dressing of choice. Cheese is an excellent source of protein and a good addition to a balanced lunch but it will add another 2 Points to the value of your sandwich. Stay with a single portion of cheese instead of doubling it up.
  • Specialty subs. Pizza sub, meatball marinara, chicken bacon bbq melt, sweet onion chicken teriyaki...Subway features a lot of loaded specialty sandwiches that can be quite tantalizing when we're at our hungriest. Hoagies smothered in cheese, sauce and extra meat can get your mouth watering, but unless you've got the PersonalPoints to spare, beware. These subs will cost you between 10-15 Points and that's before adding mayo or any other sauces. Consider splitting a 6 inch with a friend if you really feel like indulging.
  • Tuna salad. Isn't fish supposed to be a healthy meal option? Not when it's swimming in mayonnaise. A sub will remove 13 Points from your daily budget, while a salad is 8 Points. Now although the salad is the more Point-friendly option, opt for salads with more non-starchy vegetables to keep you feeling fuller for longer or ask to add more veggies to this salad! The more the merrier! That way, you get the fibre, protein and Points added back to your budget.
  • Baked goods. It can be tempting to finish off a meal at Subway with one of their chewy, chocolate chip cookies but keep in mind that one cookie is 10 Points. With that said, budget your Points wisely if you’re wanting to reach for this delectable treat.

Find more information about Subway's meal options, here.

McDonald’s

The golden arches are practically ubiquitous across our country and for many people, McDonald's is their go-to fast-food chain when eating on the go. While the company has taken great efforts to offer healthier options, the not-so-healthy still dominates their menu.

Healthier options:

  • Salad. McDonald's currently offers a few varieties of salad that won't put too much of a dent in your PersonalPoints budget. Choose grilled chicken over crispy and apply dressing sparingly to keep the value down.
  • Chicken nuggets. If you find yourself staring at the McDonald’s menu and are looking for a Point-friendly option, opt in for a small order of chicken nuggets. Four nuggets are 6 Points while 6 nuggets are 9 Points. Keep in mind that these Points do not include the savoury dipping sauces, which are at least 2 Points or more per packet.

Avoid :

  • Burgers, wraps, sandwiches and fries. It goes without saying that McDonald's burgers and sandwiches aren't anyone's idea of a healthy meal. Their value-sized hamburger is 8 Points while their classic Big Mac will set you back 18 Points. Same goes for French fries. A small is 7 Points while a large comes in at a whopping 17 Points.
  • Breakfast. An Egg McMuffin might seem like a small snack, but with a value between 10 and 16 Points (depending on your choice of meat) you might want to consider alternative ingredients such as egg whites to lower the Points while still indulging in your breakfast go-to.

Find more nutritional information about McDonald's food, here.

Whether you want to indulge in your fast-food favourites during the week or weekend, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, don’t forget that everything is on the menu with WW, it is just based upon how you budget your Points. And now with PersonalPoints the program is even more tailored to fit you and your lifestyle. If you’re planning a trip to any of the above restaurants or perhaps ones that are not listed, make sure to plan ahead: add Points for healthy habits, whether it be through eating non-starchy veggies, reaching your water goal, or tracking movement. These added Points will help to budget in these fast food menu items and so much more.