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Fast food investigation

by Cristina Sanza September 8, 2015
Fast food investigation

Keep your health in check when you rush for your lunch

School is back, and for many of us that means pressing snooze one too many times and having to rush for the bus at the very last minute. What that also means is many of us won’t have the time, energy, or even food in our fridges to make that perfectly healthy, balanced lunch.

A lot of students find themselves in fast food joints because their hectic schedules call for something cheap and easy to acquire. Let’s face it—sometimes this can happen even a few times a week.

Luckily, you don’t have to make yourself feel guilty about eating fast food all of the time. There are better choices available to you, even at the raunchiest of fast food chains. Some might argue that if you’re going to commit to fast food, you may as well go all out, but over time the calories, fats, and sodium can really catch up to you.

With that in mind, here are some reasonably healthy food options you can try next time you’re in a lunchtime pinch.

  1. Tim Hortons 

    Sugar is through the roof for many drinks at Tim’s.

    Sugar is through the roof for many drinks at Tim’s. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Ah yes, Timmies. I see you right when I come up from Guy-Concordia station, and I want you. Your line is always long, but I must get that Iced Capp. Wait, no!

While the traditional Iced Capp is only 150 calories, don’t be fooled because a small one contains 32 grams of sugar! If you want to go for a cold drink, keep it simple and get the iced coffee, which in comparison has only eight grams of sugar and nearly half the amount of calories. For hot drinks lovers a single-single (or just black, get crazy) will not only perk you up, but also protect you from that sugar high.

Tims seems to have this reputation of being the “healthy” fast food joint. While this may be true if you compare it to McDonald’s or Wendy’s, let’s not forget that doughnuts are pretty evil. Don’t even bother with calorie count here—the cake doughnuts specifically (old fashioned glaze and chocolate glaze, for example) have nearly the same amount of fat, if not more, than one of their sandwiches! Keep in mind that the sandwiches are double the weight of a doughnut in grams, if not more.

If you still can’t get enough of their doughnuts, go for the sugar loop as fats and sugars are to a minimum. The apple strudel, however, is only 150 calories. Not bad for a dessert if you ask me.

In terms of food, the wraps are generally your best bet but the chicken salad wrap wins, at only 190 calories, seven grams of fat, no trans fat, and 570 milligrams of sodium. While that might sound like a lot of salt, the ham and Swiss sandwich contains 1180 milligrams, which is close to an adult’s intake of salt for one day, according to the Tim Horton’s nutritional guide.

Your ideal meal: Chicken salad wrap, apple strudel and an iced coffee.

  1. McDonald’s 

    The average adult consumes double their salt intake per day.

    The average adult consumes double their salt intake per day. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

McDonald’s can really have a bad rep when it comes to health, but lately, they’ve been trying to step up their game. They’ve added many wraps and salads to their menu, but many of them still contain a lot calories and salt, so it’s kind of an illusion. Despite the additions, many people go to McDonald’s for the grease and grime anyway.

The traditional McDonald’s hamburger sits at 240 calories, with 510 milligrams of sodium. While this isn’t terrible, you’re going to have to put up with those unhealthy saturated fats if you’re going the burger route.

A small order of fries contains the same amount of calories. With only 180 milligrams of sodium (which is shocking based on how salty those things taste). Keep your drink small, but if you’re going for traditional McD’s, maybe sacrifice that Coke for a water bottle.

If you genuinely want to keep it healthy, the chipotle chicken snack wrap is a filling, flavourful choice. It contains only two-and-a-half grams of saturated fats and has three grams of fibre. Moreover, it’s only 230 calories. Woo! A side of garden salad will add 40 calories to the mix, and you’ll even have room for a cookie as a dessert.

Your ideal meal: Chipotle chicken wrap, side garden salad or a small order of fries, cookie, glass of water.

  1. Subway 

    Subway sandwiches with less fat still pack in a lot of salt.

    Subway sandwiches with less fat still pack in a lot of salt. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

You’re craving carbs. You’re tired of those measly wraps and want a more substantial. I get it. There are ways around this problem too.

Serving size makes all the difference here: that means a six-inch sandwich.

For breads, the Italian white bread or regular whole wheat will do the trick. Calorie count is nearly the same; the only difference is the whole wheat will give you that extra fibre.

For meat, stick to some lean ham or roast beef. The grilled chicken can be a fairly good option too. Stay away from the greasy, dressed meats, such as the teriyaki chicken or meatball subs.

From there, you have to dress your sandwich. Vegetables for the most part will do no harm so load them up. Be careful when it comes to the final dressing. Dressings are often high in fat and sodium content. A mere tablespoon can contain over 100 calories depending on what it is. If you can, keep it simple with salt and pepper.

If you don’t want to make a sandwich from scratch, Subway has a convenient menu with sandwiches with less than six grams of fat. Out of these options, the healthiest ones are the “Veggie Delite” and the “oven roasted chicken” options. Be aware that although they are low in fat, the fair majority of the sandwiches on the menu contain over 600 milligrams of sodium, with the sweet onion and chicken teriyaki at 900 milligrams! We’re talking six inches of sandwich here!

We all know that Subway cookies are a must. The good news is all cookies are between 190-230 calories with around 16 to 18 grams of sugar… so while they’re all bad to some degree, they’re at least nearly equally bad. So, you may as well indulge here and go for what you really want. I mean, you’ve already sacrificed your sandwich, am I right?

Your ideal meal: Six-inch whole wheat bread with ham and assorted vegetables, one or two cookies of your choice, glass of water.

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