Canada’s Healthiest Fast Food Options

No matter where you live, where you work or where you work out, it is inevitable that you are going to pass by some fast foods spots trying to lure you in with welcoming exteriors, bright signage and fast, delicious foods. And now, to make things worse, they all offer you “healthy” options. Being tempted by these sirens of convenient foods is natural; everything about these restaurants has been designed to bring you through their doors.

Even the most stoic amongst us may give in from time to time, but it’s important not to let that moment of weakness derail multiple work outs by tipping the calorie scales back in the wrong direction. How do you accomplish this? Well here is a little bit more about the items that are healthier fast food options and some Expert Tips and Tricks to help you make the right choices in your weaker moments.

Get the bad food out of your system

When it comes to how to handle your fast food choice, Jess Spieker,  President and Personal Trainer at Full swing Fitness Inc, says that how you approach it, is very dependent on your current lifestyle. “For those who eat out seldom, I would say  to choose the item that you crave the most, no matter how god awfully unhealthy it is, and enjoy the heck out of every second of consumption.  Get the need to indulge out of your system, and then avoid eating out for a long time.  For those who eat out often, my advice is the opposite: focus on harm reduction.  Avoid trans fats, avoid high sodium, avoid ultra-calorie-dense food to the greatest extent possible.  Try to emphasize lean animal protein and/or plant-based protein, and get as much veg on the plate as possible.”

Know more, grow more

Andrew Judson,  professional fitness model, trainer and nutritionist, is definitely more in agreement with the later option, “Try not to make fast food an option.  Research which companies have better quality ingredients.  Most chains food providers are the lowest bidders which equals poor quality food.”

“Any “outside” meal I eat is considered a cheat meal only because you never really know what goes into your food or where it came from,” says Sylvia Takada, Canfit Pro Trainer and Certified Healthy Weight Loss Coach….. and adds,”My two main goals that will make me feel a bit better about eating fast food is high protein and low sodium. Avoid sauce or control it by always ordering it on the side and drink plenty of water. Anything you can customize is best!”

All of our experts agreed that your main goal should be to go as unprocessed as possible and don’t choose anything if you don’t know the facts about it. Luckily the bigger the chain the more transparent they feel the need to be in terms of providing the public with their nutritional information, so you can go online and put a little time into researching your options.

When in doubt, go natural

Isreal Blume, President of Coincident Speaker Technology and fitness nut  , recommends looking for the items that are high in protein, omega 3 oils and soluble fibre while avoiding high carbs, sodium and Trans and saturated fats. He also adds, “Food should be unprocessed, free of chemicals and artificial colours or flavouring, and as close to its natural state as possible.”

But who has time to research? Fast food is always a spur of the moment decision. Well, have no fear as we have put together some options for you to consider.

We’ll start with the granddaddy of them all, because you are all going to be wondering what the golden arches have to offer on the healthier side of the coin. McDonalds has gone out of their way over the past decade to try and rehab their image as kings of salt and the deep fryer, including all kinds of wraps, grilled options and salads to their menu, but what are some of their healthier options. The good news is, they are completely transparent with their nutritional information, making it all available online. Two such, more recent, options were the Grilled Country Chicken Sandwich and the Harvest Salad with Grilled chicken. Both come in at a cost under $5 and 15 grams of fat while being higher in the protein department at 30 and 25 respectably. The sandwich losses it’s luster a bit on the Sodium, ranking in at 900 mg.  Spieker said that as a “budget-conscious choice the McDonald’s Harvest Salad with Grilled Chicken is a decent choice.  It’s cheap, moderate in sodium, and has a decent amount of protein.”

Another choice in the fast food world that seems to be popping up in more and more places is Swiss Chalet. As a restaurant that’s primarily known as a chicken first restaurant, they actually don’t have the abundance of healthy options you’d think they might. While it may just be an urban legend that they’re rotisserie chickens are dunked in lard before being placed in the oven, there are also grilled items and once again, they present the best options, the Chicken on a Kaiser and the Spinach Chicken Salad. Given those two options Davida Vineberg, Personal Trainer,  said she’d go with the “Spinach chicken Salad – hands down, has better overall content of protein, carbs and fat, and less sodium than the Chicken on a Kaiser.”

This sentiment was echo’d by Sylvia,”I would choose the Swiss Chalet option because of the rotisserie style chicken and option for white meat available I never use the dipping sauce because I find it too salty.” Sylvia also points out a fact that all is too true when it comes to the search for healthy fast food, “Its funny how one of the healthier options seems to be the more expensive one.”

Spieker also spoke highly of the salad, “I would choose Swiss Chalet’s Spinach Chicken Salad.  My reasoning is that it is low in sodium and high in protein, which are things I like to emphasize in my eating.  As a bonus, with the spinach, I should be getting lots of vitamins (K, A, B6 etc) and minerals (iron, magnesium, copper etc).  I presume with these values the salad doesn’t include any dressing, so if dressing is added by the consumer, that’s great because you can add only a little, and boost up the (hopefully healthy monounsaturated) fat level assuming the dressing is olive oil based.”

That comment from Spieker presents another interesting option, as it mentions returning some of the nutritional control back over to you by giving you the option of adding your own dressing and controlling the amount of dressing. If you can get the dressing on the side, do it! Fast Food Dressing is often where the healthier aspects of salads fall apart. By controlling this yourself you can use a minimal amount, or swap it out for your own.

Pita Pit is an option that is harder to find but has long hours and presents a different option than most fast food places and does all of their cooking on a grill top right before your eyes, taking some mystery away. To add to this, Judson said he would make the choice to eat at Pita Pit because it’s ingredients are the freshest.

So that’s just a few of the fast food options we looked at and showed to our experts, but the key take away from this exercise is realizing that Fast Food restaurants aren’t the only options when it comes to take out.

Glow Fresh Grill and Wine Bar in Toronto has a lot of options for take-out food that is genuinely healthy. To help fill a desire for something rich, you can hit up their Lobster Mac N Cheese which contains just 9 grams of fat while giving you 27 grams of protein. For a giant burst of Protein you can try their grilled ahi tuna, which is what Blume would choose, “Ahi Tuna – no carbs, high protein and heart healthy omega oils.” He does add however that it is “a little high in sodium and you need to eat it only occasionally due to mercury levels.”

Another independent take out option in Toronto is IQ Food Co which offers an amazing selection of salad boxes for take-out. One of their better options is the Spicy Salmon, which is what jumped off the menu for Davida, saying that it’s low in fat, has high calories, which is a plus for her and that it can be had at a good price.

So, it is possible to get a quality meal from fast food and take out places, just remember to do your research and stay vigilant when making your choices. Just below is some of our picks for fast food items that fit the bill of being on the healthier side, let us know what your healthier options are in the comments.

 

Item Protein Carbs Fat Sodium Calories Price
McDonalds            
Country Chicken (Grilled) 30 44 14 980 400 4.19
Harvest Salad w/ Grilled Chicken 25 27 13 480 350 4.79
Harvey’s            
Grilled Chicken Wrap 32 52 12 930 440 5.99
Veggie Burger 24 40 10 700 340 4.69
Swiss Chalet            
Spinach Chicken Salad 39 20 5 19 270 12.99
Chicken on a Kaiser (White Meat) 58 47 8 910 480 11.49
Hero Certified Burger            
Turkey Burger Patty 21 3 9 70 180 6.99
Wild Alaskan Salmon Patty 25 0 2 450 110 7.99
Pita Pit            
Chicken Souvlaki 21 43 4.5 482 200 6.85
Lick’s Home Burger            
Nature Burger 17 8 11 720 210 6.49
The Gobbler (Turkey Burger) (no bun) 24 3 7 500 170 6.49
Take Out            
Glow Fresh Grill and Wine Bar            
5 Grain Veggie Burger 14 47 12 620 350 17
Grilled Ahi Tuna 39 0 9 580 270 26
Lobster Mac n Cheese 27 35 9 570 330 14
iQ Food Co            
Spicy Salmon 27 79 17 824 559 12.83
Sparta 39 38 25 1718 516 11.28

Posted by Lorne Marr.
Lorne Marr is a Toronto-based fitness enthusiast and lifelong advocate of healthy living. He is on a journey to discover the best methods of training and nutrition for athletes and weekend warriors over 45. Connect with Lorne on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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