We rank the most readily available food you can buy from these four popular convenience stores
By Catherine Orda | Photos by Samantha Ong
To help you out the next time you find yourself hungry and in need of a quick energy boost, and with only convenience stores as your option, we tried out snacks from four popular convenience stores and ranked them based on the following criteria: taste, price, and nutritional value. Before we get into it, however, we want to make it clear that the ranking is done per store–meaning, we won’t be comparing the food from one store with another. Also, how we chose the food we bought per store is based solely on availability.
Lastly, we acknowledge that the criteria price and taste may be subjective, in which case, we thought it would be best to focus the most on nutritional value. For this, we sought out the help of sports nutritionist Timothy Jeffe Ting.
1. Classic Macaroni Salad
What it is: A simple mix of elbow macaroni and mayonnaise topped with cheese and gelatin.
Taste: Flavorful and surprisingly light despite all the mayonnaise
- This salad is low in protein and high in calories averaging around 250 kcal coming from both complex and simple carbohydrates and fat.
- Gelatin is a source of simple sugars
2. Cheesy Egg Breakfast Pandesal
What It Is: A fried egg and slices of cheddar cheese sandwiched in a pandesal.
Taste: The cheese and egg are fairly salty, but because this sandwich only has the slightest smear of mayonnaise and because of the density of the bread used, the result is a rather dry and bland sandwich.
- This one also has high calorie content averaging around 230 kcal coming from both complex carbohydrates and fat.
- As for protein content, this sandwich has about 12 grams coming from the egg and cheese
3. Packed Grapes And Pomelo
Taste: Both are very sour and not at all sweet.
Price: P55 (per pack)
- In general, fruits are calorie-dense but also very nutrient-dense averaging around 80-100 kcal per pack.
- They also contain antioxidants and phytonutrients such as resveratrol that may help protect against heart disease and cancer
- Pomelo is high in potassium, which may help regulate blood pressure and is involved in muscle contraction reactions
- Grapes are high in vitamin K, which is a fat soluble vitamin essential in blood clotting.
- Both grapes and pomelo are naturally high in vitamin C, but take note that vitamin C is not a stable nutrient and actual values may diminish via exposure to light, heat, and oxygen.
Worst: Cheesy Egg Breakfast Pandesal. Judging by taste alone, this sandwich already fails on account of how unpleasant it is to chew: dry, bland, and slightly tough, each bite would probably require an accompanying sip of water to help you swallow it. Adding to that the fact that it’s calorie-dense and high in fat (especially since the fried egg is very oily) makes it a sandwich that even a relatively cheap price can’t save.
Best: Packed Grapes and Pomelo. Though we did make this choice based on very obvious reasons (that it’s easily the healthiest, for instance), it wouldn’t be accurate to say that we didn’t have some doubts about it. For one, the price is a bit too high, especially when you consider taste and quantity. However, we thought these cons weren’t enough for us to disregard the obvious gap in nutritional value between the fruits and the macaroni salad (which was actually fairly delicious and cheap).
1. Gourmet Farms Pasta with Green Salad
What It Is: Spaghetti with a green salad topped with corn, carrots, cucumbers, chicken breast, and sesame dressing.
Taste: Salty, fairly flavorful.
- High in calories averaging around 350 kcal coming from mostly fat and complex carbohydrates
- Moderate in protein averaging about 8g per serving
- High in fiber which can help with satiation or the rate at which you feel full
2. Mexican Chicken Wraps
What It Is: Strips of chicken, bell peppers, lettuce, and cheese wrapped in flour tortilla
Taste: Delicious, a bit spicy; has a nice variety of textures.
- Moderate in calories averaging around 150 kcal per piece coming from mainly carbohydrates
- Moderate in protein averaging about 12 grams per serving, which can help with satiety (meaning, the interval of time in between meals before hunger returns)
- Contains fiber, which can help with satiation (the rate at which you feel full)
3. Glazed Fruit Cocktail
What It Is: Pineapple, peaches, and papaya in a mix of citrus juice and sugar syrup
Taste: The too-soft fruits are very sweet and slightly sour.
- High in calories averaging around 130 kcal coming from fruit and sugar
- Contains fiber, which can help with satiation
- Not very nutrient-dense as most of the nutrients have either degraded during processing
Worst: Glazed Fruit Cocktail. It’s hard to make a case for the typically high nutrition content of fruits, especially if they’ve been processed and are soaked in sugar. Also, there was something unpleasant about how soft the fruits were; it almost didn’t require any chewing. The seemingly low price also isn’t impressive once you acknowledge the reality that this fruit cup is really just one spoonful of highly processed fruit.
Best: Mexican Chicken Wraps. Delicious, satisfying, nutritious, and with a moderate calorie content, the chicken wraps were bound to be touted as the best snack among the three choices. When it comes to decent convenience store food, you can only hope for something like these chicken wraps as they’re a near-perfect example of a quick, healthy, and filling snack you can get at a fair price.
1. Banana Walnut Bread
Taste: Moderately sweet, balanced, and has a nice variety of textures provided by the nuts and the chunks of banana dispersed throughout the slice.
- High in calories averaging around 300 kcal per 100 grams (a thick slice) coming mostly from fat and carbs
- Low protein content
2. Chicken Clubhouse Sandwich
What It Is: Scrambled eggs, a few slices of cheese, and chicken spread (chicken bits, onions, mayonnaise) sandwiched in white bread.
Taste: A bit bland and dry. This would taste good if you tripled the amount of filling.
- High in calories averaging around 370 kcal coming from carbohydrates and fat
- Egg and cheese give moderate protein (about 10 grams)
- High saturated fat content that needs to be balanced out by other sources of fat like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in fish oils and olive oil to prevent increasing risk for cardiovascular diseases
3. Chilled Taho
Taste: Sweet; has a slight molasses flavor.
- Moderate calories averaging around 120 kcal
- High in simple sugar
- Moderate in protein about 8 grams per serving
4. Crema de Fruta
What It Is: Layers of crushed graham crackers, cream, and fruit cocktail.
Taste: The cream and fruits are overly sweet; the graham crackers provide a nice texture to an otherwise mushy dessert.
- Very high in calories averaging around 400-450 kcal coming from fats and simple sugars
(to give perspective, a cup of rice is 200 kcal)
- Not very nutrient-dense when compared to the calorie content
Worst: Crema de Fruta. Each snack considered here possesses some degree of healthiness cancelled out by over processing and high sugar content. This couldn’t be more true about the crema de fruta. The supposedly nutrient-dense fruits have been processed and are sitting on a bed of cream, which make for an unhealthy, overly sweet (and very tiny) snack that is simply not worth P62.
Chilled taho. The stuff we buy on the streets is certainly more delicious (though we concede that some would probably say otherwise), satisfying, and not to mention, a lot cheaper. But among all the four snacks, this chilled version wins as it’s a great-tasting and refreshing snack perfect for a quick boost of protein.
From left: Caesar, Cobb, and Kani Salads
1. Cobb Salad
What It Is: A salad of romaine lettuce, ground hard-boiled eggs, roasted chicken breast, cheese, and ranch dressing. While cobb salads don’t normally include carrots, this one does.
Taste: The dressing and the eggs make it a pretty rich and savory salad; it also has a strong garlic favor.
- High in calories for a salad averaging around 220 kcal coming mostly from the dressing and inherent fats from protein
- Contains higher protein than most salads averaging at around 10-12 grams per serving
- Contains fiber and protein, which can help with satiation
2. Kani Salad
What It Is: A salad of romaine lettuce, crab sticks, mangoes, and sesame dressing.
Taste: Has a slightly nutty flavor because of the dressing. It’s also a bit sweet and acidic, with the crab sticks providing a bit of saltiness.
- High in calories averaging around 160 kcal coming mostly from the dressing
- Contains fiber which can help with satiation
3. Classic Caesar Salad
What It Is: A salad of romaine lettuce, bacon bits, chicken, parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing (olive oil, egg yolks, cheese), and croutons.
Taste: Delicious; salty and has a strong garlic flavor
- High in calories averaging around 130 kcal coming mostly from fat in the dressing and cheese
- Contains moderate protein about 8 to 10 grams per serving
- Contains fiber and protein, which can help with satiation
Worst: Cobb Salad. It’s one of those dishes that’s thought to be healthy solely by virtue of its being a salad. But as you can tell from its calorie and fat content, it’s actually not healthy as it seems. There’s no question that they taste good (even this version, which, oddly enough, contains carrots) and that it has a rather high protein content. But with 220 kcal, you might just want to look for nutrients in other salads.
Best: Caesar Salad. Unlike in the three previous stores, the selections in this were extremely similar in terms of the three criteria, which made choosing the best and worst salad quite a difficult task. In the end, it came down to taste and calorie and fat content. And so we chose the Caesar salad because we found it to be the best-tasting, and the one with the lowest calorie content. It also has a fair amount of protein and fiber, which make it a very filling meal.