Food

The Good Guide to Fast Food

What are the best options when you're stuck eating on-the-go?

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. 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 and fat 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 fuels you for the day, gets your metabolism going and prevents you from overeating during the remainder of the day. It gives you energy first thing in the morning and helps you lead a productive 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 egg white, spinach and feta wrap for 8 SmartPoints or a reduced-fat breakfast sandwich with turkey bacon and egg whites for a value of 7. A great bet is also their Seasonal Harvest Fruit Blend salad.

Avoid: 

  • Baked goods. Most if not all of their muffins, croissants or other baked goods rank well above 10 SmartPoints per serving. Before indulging ask yourself if that blueberry scone is really worth a full meal of SmartPoints later on in the day.
  • Frappuccinos and flavoured lattes. If you're treating yourself to one of these high value, sugary drinks, take the time to truly enjoy it. Otherwise, avoid these tempting drinks as they often have values of 12 SmartPoints per serving.

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.
  • Soup. Your local Tims will offer a rotating menu of soups that have a value of around 5 SmartPoints. Avoid creamy options and stick to bowls featuring lots of 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 only 7 SmartPoints or an egg and cheese grilled wrap for only 8. Steer clear of the sausage which can double the value of your sandwich.
  • Oatmeal. Low in fat and a good source of fibre, Tim's homestyle oatmeal comes with mixed berries on top and can provide a warm, satisfying meal to start your day.
  • Snack wraps. While they are better suited to snacking than as a full meal, the Chicken Wrap Snackers will only cost you 5 SmartPoints and can hold you over until you can eat a healthier meal at home.

Avoid: 

  • Baked goods. Muffins, donuts, croissants, all these tempting treats will set you way back in your SmartPoints budget. If you're really craving something, try just having one or two Timbits.
  • Hot chocolate. Even without the fancy accoutrements like whipped cream and chocolate drizzle, Tim Hortons hot chocolate and French vanilla drinks pack a whopping amount of sugar.
  • Sandwiches with meat. Whether you're grabbing something for lunch or breakfast stay clear of the meat options. You're looking at double-digit SmartPoints values for the steak panini or sausage anything.
  • Bagels with cream cheese. It's a classic grab-and-go breakfast or lunch item and Tim Hortons offers a delicious variety or bagels and cream cheeses, but this is not a great option. A seemingly healthy 12-grain bagel with herb & garlic cream cheese will eat up 15 of your SmartPoints values. 

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 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 items can be entirely customized. You get to pick and choose the ingredients for your salad or sandwich. Having that control allows you to make smarter choices. You can create the right combinations to ensure you’re getting enough servings of vegetables, carbohydrates, fibre and proteins. 

Healthier options

  • Soup. Like at Tim Hortons, Subway offers a rotating menu of soups to choose from. While they are high in sodium, if you just need a quick bite to tide you over, a bowl of chicken noodle soup will only cost you 3 SmartPoints. Avoid anything cream-based.
  • Turkey, chicken, ham or veggie. If you're going to eat a sub, stick to a 6 inch, and choose a veggie option. 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 relative low SmartPoints value. If you're craving protein try turkey, chicken or ham as your choice of meat. These sandwiches will cost you around 8 SmartPoints (without cheese or sauce), making for a satisfying lunch that won't ruin your budget. 
  • Salad. Subway offers all of their sandwich options served as salads. If you're trying to lower the SmartPoints value of your meal this is an easy way to do so. Load up on all the fresh veggies you want, limit your use of dressing and once again stick to the healthier meat options like turkey or chicken.
  • Breakfast flatbreads. If you're looking for a quick breakfast options, you might consider Subway's flatbread sandwiches. Both their ham, egg white and cheese flatbread and their egg and cheese option have values of less than 6 SmartPoints. Plus you can add whatever veggies you'd like making for a more nutrition sandwich.
  • Whole wheat bread. Opt for the 9-grain wheat or honey oat bread. They will give you the most daily fibre. The honey oats packs in 5 grams of fibre and the 9-grain has 4 grams. Fibre is what keeps you feeling full longer to stay satisfied until the next meal. 

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 SmartPoints budget. Most sauces will add between 2 to 4 SmartPoints to your sandwich. Stick to mustard which won't cost you anything. Cheese is an excellent source of protein and a good addition to a balanced lunch but it will add another 2 SmartPoints to the value of your sandwich. Stay with a single portion of cheese instead of doubling it up and opt for feta if it's available.
  • 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 SmartPoints to spare, beware. These subs will cost you between 10-15 SmartPoints 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 set you back by a value of 15 Smartpoints and a salad, 10. 
  • Baked goods. It can be tempting to finish off a meal at Subway with one of their chewy, chocolate-filled cookies but at a value of 10 SmartPoints you might want to reconsider.

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 be too hard on your SmartPoints budget. Choose grilled chicken over crispy and apply dressing sparingly to keep the value down. Try the Greek-ing Out Salad bowl, a mix of kale, greens, grilled chicken, feta, peppers and cucumbers for only 7 SmartPoints.

Chicken nuggets. Healthier fare is few and far between at McD's, so if you're stuck eating off their menu and a salad won't cut it, try having a small order (4 or 6) of chicken nuggets. They have a value of either 5 or 8 SmartPoints. But remember, that's without sauce which will add another value of 2 or more.

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. Even their value-sized hamburger has a value of 8 SmartPoints and the classic Big Mac will set you back by a value of 18. Same goes for French fries. A large has a value of 16 SmartPoints.

Breakfast. An Egg McMuffin might be seem like a small snack, but with a value between 9 and 15 SmartPoints (depending on meat choice) you might want to consider eating something else to start your day. Just make sure it's not the Fruit & Maple oatmeal which packs an astonishing 12 Smartpoints per serving.
Find more nutritional information about McDonald's food, here.