I like my packed lunches (and, if necessary, dinners), as I discussed in “Eating good food? It’s in the bag” back in November. But it’s clear that for the majority, buying food on campus is still easiest. However, there’s no need to sacrifice your new year’s intentions to eat well as a result. In fact, according to our campus dietitian, Kimberly Green, UTM has more “good for you” options than ever. She jokes, though, that you might need to look beyond the pizza to find them.
“I’m very excited about several changes food services [Chartwells] has brought to campus. The new Vegilicious and Deli Station options at TFC, as well as the Greenery salad bar at the North Side Bistro in Deerfield Hall, are great additions,” she says. “And as of January, the On the Go fresh salad and sandwich offerings have printed nutrition information so you know exactly what you’re getting.”
Green explains that “healthy” doesn’t just mean anything low in calories and fat. She advises picking food that’s high in overall nutrition; for example, complex carbohydrates, fibre, protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals (besides being filling and tasting good). In fact, we may be thinking too much about calories and fat and not taking into consideration those other nutritional values.
“Many students consume too much sugar and salt, and too few vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, iron, folate, and B vitamins, so these are important considerations as well,” says Green.
So how do we maintain these healthy eating practices when confronted with the beasts that are our on-campus franchises? Green has created a shortlist of what she refers to as her “Best Bets on Campus”, in which she gives her dietitian seal of approval on certain menu items at Subway, Tim Hortons, and Booster Juice.
Subway certainly has a fairly health-conscious image. Remember the Subway Guy Jared Folger and his pair of jeans? Jared attributed his weight loss to eating subs. Nevertheless, not all their menu items are equally good for you.
How would Green build the ideal sub? She suggests the six grams of fat or less sandwich options. “These include ham, chicken, beef, turkey, and veggie six-inch subs, which also happen to be significantly lower in sodium than other varieties. Choose whole wheat bread for more fibre, and skip the cheese,” she says. “Instead of pop, order milk or even chocolate milk to get a filling calcium- and vitamin D-filled beverage.”
She similarly recommends the made-to-order sandwiches offered in the TFC and OPH as well as the On the Go line.
What she particularly likes about these options is that you can add in lots of veggie toppings, and they use smaller servings of bread in contrast to the Subway subs, which equal roughly four to six Canada’s Food Guide servings of grain products.
If you’re pressed for time and desperate to actually start eating breakfast regularly (think of those good old days of eating a bowl of Fruit Loops while watching morning cartoons), Tim Hortons is the most obvious choice on campus. That said, like Subway, Green warns that some menu items are better than others. Here’s a surprise (for me at least) from Green: “Muffins and donuts make a good sweet treat or dessert once in a while, but muffins are not a healthy breakfast.” Apparently, even those haunting bran and whole grain muffins (come on, who would ever choose them first in an assorted box?) aren’t as healthy as your grandmother makes them out to be.
“Tim’s bran and whole grain muffins have the benefit of at least four grams of fibre per muffin, but still have anywhere from 11 to 15 grams of fat per serving, at least 370 milligrams of sodium (nearly a quarter of the recommended intake for the day), and are low in protein, so [they] will not sustain your energy level for long,” says Green.
In fact, for breakfast, Green actually recommends either a toasted English muffin breakfast sandwich with egg white and cheese (avoid the sausage or bacon) or mixed berries or maple oatmeal. If you’re like me and ordering a bagel from Tim Hortons is engrained in your genetics, Green says to opt for the fibre-rich wheat and honey or 12-grain bagel with peanut butter rather than the other low-to-no-protein spreads such as butter, jam, or cream cheese.
“It should keep you full for quite a while. […] The 12-grain bagel has the most fat (nine grams) of all the varieties, but this is from the added seeds, which provide more protein, fibre, and iron due to the nutritional benefits of sesame and sunflower seeds, so it is actually a better choice,” she says. “Cream cheese can add 140 calories and 14 grams of fat to your bagel. Keep in mind that since most Tim Hortons bagels weigh about 113 grams, they are equivalent to three Canada’s Food Guide servings of grain products.”
Green suggests that if you’re looking to switch up your regular Timmies order, try their chicken ranch or chipotle chicken snack wrappers. She notes that, surprisingly, two snack wrappers (with the exception of the chicken salad version, which has a higher fat content) have fewer calories (380) than a bagel, less fat (9 to 12 grams), and the same amount of fibre (6 grams).
Green also gives the go-ahead to their yoghurt and berry parfait, even with its 20–25 grams of sugar. “A good part of the sugar comes from natural sugar (lactose) in yoghurt and natural fructose in fruit. The yoghurt and berries provide filling protein and fibre, as well as nutrients like vitamin C and calcium,” she says.
Green ends her round-up of healthy choices on campus with “a big ‘caution’ […] for students who want to limit their sugar intake” about Booster Juice, despite the squeaky clean image of fruit and veggie smoothies. “Booster Juice’s classic smoothies have between 65 and 96 grams of sugar per serving,” she points out.
“Choose the smallest serving and read the nutrition information provided to know what you are consuming, or even better, eat a piece of whole fruit (or two) and some yoghurt.”