Eating healthy, the fast food way
For six years Jenny Saini hosted a half-hour program about healthy eating on Vision TV. Now she's putting action behind her words by opening the first HealthFare restaurant in British Columbia. Two doors down from a McDonald's.
HealthFare is a nascent franchise that is growing from its founding locations in Calgary, one of them in a recreation complex.
Saini says the concept of providing fresh, healthy food quickly appealed to her, especially after enduring some of the challenges keeping her sons on the dietary rails as they were busy with studies at university.
For too long healthy fast food has been an oxymoron concedes Darryl Chandra, HealthFare's area developer. "A lot of quick service restaurants think fresh equals healthy, but that's not necessarily true."
Especially if a salad is laced with preservatives or washed down with a sugary soda.
There are no soft drinks on tap at HealthFare. And the salad ingredients aren't precut and preserved in bags for days. The vegetables and fruit are sourced from local markets, the bread for sandwiches from a nearby bakery.
For Saini that means shopping expeditions every other day, more often if a particular menu item proves especially popular.
For Chandra, that necessitates implementing systems that ensure a standard of procedures and quality through seasonal variations in the supply of some vegetables and fruits.
"It's a longer learning curve," says Chandra, who brought in a special cooker that can prepare the restaurant's signature rice bowls in under two minutes and a computerized oven that is programmed to roast and bake items like chicken breast and sweet potato wedges to the exact required time with just the push of a button.
In addition to the rice bowls, HealthFare's menu is comprised of sandwiches like classic tuna and charred Mediterranean vegetables, salads like roasted salmon and charred chicken, as well as breakfast bars, muffins, fruit, quinoa and asparagus salads and a variety of colourful fruit smoothies.
Each menu item has been vetted by a registered dietician and full nutritional information, including a breakdown of fats, sodium, cholesterol, protein and carbohydrates, as well as calories, is provided. The process means it can take 45 days for a new menu item to progress from the development kitchen to the restaurant.
"It holds us accountable," says Chandra. "People's palettes are becoming more sophisticated. They're getting better educated about healthy food."
So Saini's not surprised by customers who were headed to the McDonald's two doors away suddenly do an about face to check out her fare instead.
"They like to find something healthy here," she says, smiling.
HealthFare is located at 7366 Market Crossing, along Marine Way. For more information, including full nutritional information about menu items go to www.healthfare.ca.