Fast food is exactly that – fast. And sometimes in our busy schedules, it’s the only option available to us. But just because it’s fast doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy or throw our PersonalPoints quotas completely off track. There are ways to order smarter at fast-food restaurants.
Nadia Atzori, Manager of Food and Nutrition at WW Canada, shares some healthier menu items at some well-known fast-food chains that you can use to make more informed choices.
Healthy Fast Food Options
- Greek yogurt with mixed berries
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “Although this parfait has 25 grams of sugar, the good news is that only 12 grams of this is added sugar, equating to four teaspoons. The remainder is natural sugar found in the yogurt and berries. Each serving contains eight grams of protein and is a great source of calcium and iron. The granola is made from whole grain oats, providing three grams of fibre. As a whole, this breakfast parfait will keep you feeling fuller for longer, provides sweetness, and is more nutritious than a muffin or doughnut.”
- Maple oatmeal
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “This maple oatmeal will provide satiating effects that will keep you fuller, thanks to the power of the whole grain oats, that contribute four grams of fibre. Out of all the menu options, this is by far the healthiest, with the lowest amount of fat and saturated fat, especially when compared to the breakfast and lunch sandwiches and wraps.”
- Turkey club sandwich
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “It’s nearly impossible to make a low-sodium sandwich at Tim Hortons but modifications can help. On the menu, this is called the turkey bacon club sandwich, but bacon is high in fat so for this reason, ask for this sandwich without the bacon. You can also make customizations to this sandwich by asking for whole grain/whole wheat bread, mustard, asking for more turkey breast, adding more lettuce and tomatoes. All of these little changes will increase your NSV (non-starchy veggie) intake, fibre, and lean protein, while reducing the total fat and sodium.”
If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, Atzori suggests choosing doughnuts over muffins – yes, doughnuts! “Doughnuts have a better nutritional profile than muffins,” she explains. “If you are unsure which doughnut is the lowest in Points the best options are: chocolate dip, maple dip and strawberry dip. All of these treats have the lowest amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates, and have some of the lowest milligrams of sodium, while being the highest in protein.”
If you’d rather have a classic Tims bagel, Atzori recommends the everything bagel, which is lower in calories and fat while being high in fibre and protein.
- Veggie delight sub (6”)
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: Atzori says this sandwich is full of non-starchy veggies, which allows WW members to add Points to their daily Budget. “This sub is loaded with cucumbers, green peppers, lettuce, onions, spinach and tomatoes and is low in calories, fat, added sugars and sodium. To increase the amount of fibre, swap the white bread for whole grain/whole wheat and opt for the sweet onion dressing, which is low in calories, sodium and has no total fat.”
- Turkey breast sub (6”)
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “If you’re looking for a healthier option, while still ordering a filling and flavourful sub, look for this sandwich, which is full of turkey breast and topped with your favourite, crispy non-starchy veggies, on a nine-grain wheat bun. This sandwich has one of the lowest calories, total fat and sodium, while providing 16 grams of lean protein, and one of the highest grams of fibre per serving.”
- Rotisserie-style chicken sub (6”)
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “This is one of the healthiest, protein-packed subway sandwiches, with fresh chicken breast, crispy non-starchy veggies, on a whole wheat bun. Coming in at 350 calories and 29 grams of protein, this sandwich is a great addition to any order. If you are looking for a low sodium sauce, opt for the mayonnaise, which only has 70 milligrams of sodium and has the lowest sodium content out of the available options.”
Atzori points out that Subway also has the option to make all subs into salads by trading the bread base for leafy greens. Doing this adds non-starchy veggies to your dailies and ups the amount of fibre, vitamins, and minerals you’re consuming.
Six-inch subs can also keep you full for a long while (as an alternative to footlongs) if you add more non-starchy veggies, fibre, and lean protein to them. And it’s worth keeping in mind, Atzori says, that adding ingredients such as cheese will increase the total caloric value and fat and sodium levels of your meal.
- Sous vide egg bites (egg white and red pepper & egg white with Monterey cheese and peppers)
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “These breakfast, lunch or snack poppers pack 13 grams of protein, two grams of fat and five grams of sugar per two bites. They are lower in fat, sugar and sodium when compared to many of the egg sandwich and egg wrap options.”
- Chicken and hummus protein box
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “When you’re looking for a snack on the go, look no further than a protein box. Of all the protein boxes on the menu, this option has the lowest amount of calories, total fat and sugars, while having one of the highest amounts of dietary fibre and protein. This protein box contains grilled chicken breast, snap peas, carrots, red pepper hummus, and naan, satisfying your carb craving while adding a protein punch.”
- Turkey bacon and egg white breakfast sandwich
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “You won’t miss the fat in this reduced-fat turkey bacon, which is very comparable to regular bacon, especially when sandwiched between the egg white patty. This sandwich contains half the amount of sodium when compared to other Starbucks sandwiches on the menu, has the lowest amount of total fat, and one of the lowest amounts of sugar, while coming in at 17 grams per serving.”
- Egg McMuffin
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “If you’re craving a breakfast sandwich, the egg McMuffin is the healthiest option, coming in at 16 grams of protein with the lowest amount of fat (11 grams) and saturated fat (five grams). Although high in sodium, you can reduce the sodium by half by omitting the Canadian bacon.”
- Fruit and maple oatmeal
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “If you’re looking for a satiating breakfast, look no further than this oatmeal, full of whole grains that are rich in soluble fibre. In terms of nutritional profile, aside from the side salad, this oatmeal has the lowest amount of sodium, has five grams of fibre and six grams of protein. Although it has a considerable amount of sugar, you can cut this down by asking for the brown sugar topping on the side.”
- Caesar McWrap with grilled chicken
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “Filled with grilled chicken breast, bacon pieces and shredded iceberg lettuce, this whole wheat wrap not only contains NSV but also lean protein. If you’re looking to reduce the sodium content, ask for the Caesar parmesan sauce on the side. You can also ask to add tomatoes to bulk up the NSV. This wrap contains one of the lowest amounts of calories, fat and saturated fat, and sugar, and the highest amount of protein (36 grams per serving).”
- Side salad
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “If you’re looking for a healthier side option, swap your fries for a side salad, or if you prefer, size down for a small fry and add a garden salad for your leafy greens. The side salad has 15 milligrams of sodium, 15 calories, zero grams of fat, one gram of fat, one gram of protein, one gram of sugar, and will add Points to your budget. Pair this with a low-fat balsamic dressing to keep the sodium levels low.”
- Deli turkey pita
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “Part of their nine fully dressed pitas that are under 500 calories, this pita is filled with lean turkey breast and NSV (romaine, tomatoes and green peppers).” Atzori adds that it has 320 total calories and 3.8 grams of fat.
- Garden with hummus pita
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: “This pita is perfect for all our veggie lovers as it is filled with hummus, and NSV (romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers),” says Atzori. “Hummus is a great source of fibre and protein,” she adds. This pita comes in at 350 calories and 10 grams of fat.
- Chicken pita
➔ Why it’s a healthier choice: This pita is filled with lean chicken breast, romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers, coming in at 350 calories and 5.6 grams of fat.
Pita Pit also offers a number of customization options, Atzori explains:
● You can order a Petita, which is 2/3 the calories and fat of the regular size pita.
● You can have any of the ingredients in a pita, on a salad to get more veggies, or in a rice bowl with whole grains as the base to increase your fibre intake.
● Atzori suggests choosing Swiss cheese over cheddar to reduce total calories and fat of any meal, and choosing light Italian dressing for the lowest amount of calories, sodium and fat.