Looking to grab a quick and somewhat healthy meal while you’re running errands, chauffeuring the kids or road-tripping for the weekend? There’s a good chance you’ll find a Tim Hortons close by. That’s because there are over 3,500 Tim’s across Canada (that’s more than the number of McDonald’s, KFC and A&W combined).
It’s not always easy to source fast food that’s filled with vegetables and protein (as opposed to sugar and sodium). Ordering wisely takes some know-how, and I’ve discovered that the secret to making better-for-you meals at Tim’s is customization. Since everything is made fresh, it’s entirely within your power to skip bacon, add extra tomato or swap processed cheese for cheddar to make meals more nutritious. Here’s how to navigate the menu to make your own healthy-ish options.
Egg and cheddar on an English muffin
By default, breakfast sandwiches are made with processed cheese, which has almost triple the sodium content of real cheddar. Luckily Tim’s carries both types of cheese. Customize your sandwich by pairing real cheddar with egg, lettuce and tomato. Choose an English muffin (143 calories) over a bagel (330 calories), and omit the sausage to eliminate 16 grams of fat and 176 mg of sodium.
Nutrition facts: 281 calories, 11 g fat, 29 g carb, 15 g protein, 443 mg sodium
Garden salad with grilled chicken strips
Tim’s garden salad comes with an option to “add chicken,” which lets you top your lettuce, tomato and cucumber with 15 grams of good quality (albeit salty) protein. And don’t skip the balsamic vinaigrette! The oil will help your body absorb the good-for-you antioxidants from the vegetables; they also provides some vitamin C and a small amount of fibre (2 grams).
Nutrition facts: 229 calories, 14 g fat, 13 g carb, 17 g protein, 772 mg sodium
This mix of beef and kidney beans contains 20 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre, which will help keep you feeling full for a few hours. The recipe is loaded with tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and celery, and boasts a nice meaty texture and piquant sauce. It’s also one of the few menu items at Tim’s that is gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease (check with your local restaurant to be sure). One caveat: it’s a bit of a sodium bomb. Your body requires just 1,500 mg per day, so this is half your daily intake.
Nutrition facts: 310 calories, 17 g fat, 23 g carb, 20 g protein, 850 mg sodium
Real talk: it’s impossible to make a low-sodium sandwich at Tim’s, but customizing can help. Instead of turkey AND bacon on your club sandwich, opt for just turkey to save 250 mg sodium. Double up on lettuce and tomato, and try the honey mustard sauce. It has just 22 calories and 37 mg sodium, and adds a nice zip.
Nutrition facts: 378 calories, 6 g fat, 60 g carb, 22 g protein, 1000 mg sodium
The bad news: this parfait is packed with sugar (25 grams, which is six teaspoons). The good news: it also contains 15 grams of protein, and is a source of calcium and iron. The granola is made from whole grain oats and the fruit is just fresh berries—no syrup. If you’re craving something sweet, this is more nutritious than a muffin or donut.
Nutrition facts: 270 calories, 5 g fat, 40 g carb, 15 g protein, 90 mg sodium
Cara Rosenbloom is a Toronto-based dietitian, writer, recipe developer and food trends expert at www.WordsToEatBy.ca.