We’ve all been there: you’re sitting at Robarts Library, hitting the books, and all of a sudden, all you can think about is what you’re going to eat for lunch. You’re on campus, far away from your kitchen ­— where to eat?

Even during COVID-19, sometimes all you need to keep the pep in your midterm prep is some delicious takeout after weeks of monotonous home cooking. With the wealth of restaurants and food trucks around campus, it can be hard to find the cheapest, healthiest, and yummiest places.

Well, look no further! Below are The Varsity’s superlatives for price and taste, without compromising health and sustenance. Remember, no food is ‘bad’ food. Alongside each listed takeout place is a description of the best way to optimize it according to your health and fitness goals.

Happy — and healthy — eating!

Best bang for your buck: Salad Days

Located in Yorkville, minutes away from Victoria College, Salad Days is a salad and wrap bar that makes your lunch from scratch to order. With fresh veggies each day and an emphasis on healthy options, this spot will give you no other option but to eat your greens. More importantly, though, a typical large salad is only $6.20!

Also, Salad Days emphasizes speed and efficiency, so you can  grab lunch and return to your study session in a matter of minutes.

Veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fibre, so they are an easy way to boost your antioxidants and fill you up before your next meal.

Best carbo-load: Daddyo’s Pasta & Salads 

A student classic, Daddyo’s on Spadina serves up heaping helpings of pasta to those who are hungry after hours of hitting the books. Offering a variety of options — including vegan and gluten-free accommodations — all for under $15, you can’t go wrong here.

Simple carbs like pasta and bread — staples in large quantities at this Italian eatery — are great pre-workout meals. Carbohydrate loading, also known as ‘carbo loading,’ is the practice of eating simple carbs before a workout to increase your energy stores. You can help yourself feel more energized by eating a carb-rich meal, like anything from Daddyo’s, the day before exercising.

Best antioxidant rush: The Organic Press

Take a quick trip to Kensington Market for some healthy, dessert-like breakfast from The Organic Press. Although they offer fresh juices and a plethora of houseplants for purchase, the real stars of the show are their gigantic smoothie bowls. They offer a multitude of flavours, each chock-full of fruits and vegetables, and the sheer size of them will ensure that you stay full until lunch.

Fruits and vegetables are staples of a healthy, balanced diet: full of fibre, vitamins, and minerals, they increase the antioxidants in your body. Regular consumption can also reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and some cancers. And when they taste like ice cream, like they do at The Organic Press, there really is no downside!

Best cheat day meal: The Clubhouse Sandwich Shop

Right next to the University of Toronto Bookstore, this sandwich shop offers the best subs on campus. With delectable options like a fried calamari sandwich filled with tzatziki, honey-roasted tomatoes, and arugula — or a buttermilk fried turkey club with cranberry-cilantro coleslaw and smokey mayo — there is literally no way you can go wrong.

Many diets fail, in part, because of an ‘all or nothing’ mentality that puts overly strict barriers on what someone can or cannot eat. Health and wellness goals should always include considerations of mental well-being, too.

Food is more than just a tool for fitness. It is a source of culture, comfort, and contentment, and your happiness should be as important of a determining factor in what you eat as your physical health is. So, treat yourself every once in a while to mouth-watering foods! It’s good for you.