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Eat Healthier While Dining Out – Part I

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Have you ever passed by a Subway ® & a McDonald’s ® on your daily travels and noticed that there is sometimes a much bigger line up into Mickey D’s, but not one into the other?

It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner (and second breakfast, elevensies & supper if you’re of the Lord of the Rings persuasion), there’s always a much longer line for the burger fast food restaurant. Sure, it could be the drive-thru convenience or perhaps they just have a hankering for a burger, but then we remember that there was a time when McDonald’s ® was actually an incredibly cheap place to eat. Now-a-days, if you want a standard combo, you’re looking upwards of $7-$10! Compare that with one of the most basic foot-long subs at Subway ®, the sub seems to be a better choice in terms of cost and health. This all being said, it only made me even more confused as to why the line was so much longer (and always is) at one than the other.

While we wouldn’t say that Subway ® is a supremely healthy fast food choice, taking a simple look at the nutritional information will give you all the answers you need in terms of daily sodium, fat and of course, calories.

There is no fast or solid answer for everyone, as each of us has very different caloric requirements dependent on our activity levels, but if you’re trying to maintain your current shape or slim down, watching what you eat is more than half the battle. Experts say that it doesn’t matter how many hours you put into the gym if you eat more calories than you burn, and fast food restaurants are notorious for slamming in the calories in ways we’d never expect.

We’re fairly devoted to the topic of eating well & affordably, and we know not everyone has the time to prepare meals at home in advance for a whole week, or you might not even have time to cook for yourself and depend on take-out. So, for each of you interested in eating well but not having to give up dining out, we’ve come up with a basic list of recommendations of what to eat at restaurants that are fairly common.

 Ham Sub

Subway®

This one is fairly simple as the restaurant posts nutritional information right on the glass around where you stand to order. However, remember that this nutritional list does not include any sauces or additions like bacon or cheese. Most vegetables are negligible in calories, so don’t worry about getting “everything” when it comes to the greens. If you’re hungry and need a foot-long, opt out of the high-in-calorie sauces like ranch, southwest sauce, sub sauce or mayo. For an entire sub, you could be adding up to 250 calories needlessly (you see how they put on 2-3 rows of sauce after-all!). Need something to wet the sandwich, though?

Mustard is a flavourful favourite and is very low in caloric value. If you must have your favourite sauce, however, ask for half or “light on the sauce”. Or sacrifice something else if the sauce is your favourite. Opt out of the cheese if you want sub sauce. This rule of sacrifice and swapping applies for your entire order, too. Don’t order a combo with chips or cookies if you want one of the heavy-duty subs. And remember, just because the ingredient is “healthy” doesn’t mean it’s low in calories. Avocado, for example, is incredibly good for you but it packs a mean calorie punch.
Lastly, if you’re really trying hard, skip the bread. This may sound very “atkins-y” but there’s science behind it, especially if you’re trying to cut calories. Bread is loaded with them and turning your favourite sub into a salad might just be the thing, and it’s still delicious!

Our favourite pick: Ham on wheat bread with no cheese, mustard and all veggies except for olives. You choose the size of sandwich depending on your own needs.

Click here for Subway’s Nutritional Information.

Burger

Harvey’s® / A&W® / Wendy’s®

Doesn’t that picture look delicious? Sure does, but rough estimate on that is a whopping 800 calories. Yikes. And it’s only one meal! Don’t worry though, there’s definitely a way to enjoy a good burger with all the toppings without sacrificing taste. We’re grouping some of the most popular burger restaurants just to make a point. They all have the same thing, ultimately, just with different “in house” seasonings and sauces and bread-styles. It’s a piece of meat between two buns and some condiments and toppings, right? The same rule of “sauce” from our Subway adventure applies to any burger. Mayo, ranch and “creamy” sauces are all very high in calories, and while you don’t have to cut them out, cutting back on them might be a good idea. If you’re going for a combo, swap out the soda for water. Juice is also deceptive in calories, so you really are safer with water. And, of course, skip the fries or onion rings and grab a salad, or just ask for a smaller portion if you must have your deep-fried treat! It’s all about moderation.
Lastly, Harvey’s® and A&W® are known for “ditching the bun” if you want them to, throwing the meat and all toppings into a poutine dish. A&W is also now using 100% Canadian beef that is raised without added hormones, if that’s something of interest to you!

Our Favourite: Great Canadian Angus Burger from Harvey’s, ditch the bun, all veggies toppings, mustard and hot sauce. And maybe bacon…maybe.

Check out nutritional information for all three restaurants by clicking on their name above.

Huge Burrito

Mucho Burrito® and/or Chipotle®

Woah, doesn’t that look phenomenal? There’s also barely any veggies in there, so taking a look at all the cheese and sauce, you know it’s a healthy-meal destroyer. That’s okay though, there are ways to satisfy your hankering for Mexican/Tex Mex. Both of the listed restaurants above offer “burrito bowls”, which in essence are the fillings of a burrito without the calorie-rich tortilla shell. Like with burgers and sandwiches before it, skip the high sauces or cut back if you’re watching calories. Cut back on the tortilla chips or avoid them all together. Watch the amount of cheese they put on, too. Load up on filling, fibrous veggies. The great thing about Tex Mex flavourings? Super tasty but very low in calories. Hot sauces are a great addition to your meal. Bet you’re starting to notice a trend by now!

Our Favourite: Carne Asada Bare Bowl from Mucho Burrito® with light cheese, half the rice, black beans and grilled veggies. Protein for days!

We’ve got more where this comes from! Check back next week for Part II where we’ll cover chicken wings, sushi, Greek & Thai food!

Enjoyed this post? You might also want to read:

Ditch The Raman

Food Box Programs To Eat On The Cheap

Meal Ideas for $5 Or Less

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