Monday, April 22, 2013

HealthFare Restaurant Review

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Last week I was invited in as a 'food blogger' to do a tour and menu tasting of a new local healthy fast food restaurant, HealthFare.

HealthFare Burnaby
I arrived not knowing what to expect...would they be nice?  What if they noticed that I didn't have a fancy food blogger camera, business cards for my blog, and an extensive knowledge of...well, food?  What if I didn't like the food or the restaurant - would I have to fake it?  Would they be able to tell right away that I've never done this type of thing before?

I needn't have worried, because the mother-son owner team of Jenni and Shaun Saini were completely welcoming, the restaurant was beautiful, my point and shoot camera did the trick, and most importantly...the food was fan-freaking-tastic!

The mother-son owner team of Jenni and Shaun Saini
It's guilt-free eating at its best, and here's why...

HealthFare offers you four things that your regular fast food restaurant never tends to:

1) It's Healthy!  

Yes, I know, that was kind of an obvious one since the word Health is actually in the name of the restaurant, and the slogan is 'making healthy delicious.'  But it is rare to find an entirely healthy menu at a fast food restaurant, so I found this feature to be incredibly impressive.  Everything is pre-portioned out so that there is precisely (and I do mean precisely) the exact same amount of ingredients going into each and every menu item each and every time.  The reason that they are so strict on this is because the menu is created by a team of Registered Dieticians, and they never want to stray from having all of the nutritional facts be completely and 100% accurate with every serving.  The calories are listed right on the menu, and all of the additional nutritional information is readily available.

You know a place is healthy when they don't even offer any Pepsi or Coke products in-store.  There is actually no pop available at all, and instead they stock beverages like BLK fulvic-enhanced mineral water, coconut water, and Steaz iced tea.  There's no super-sizing at a place like this, unless you count this gigantic lemon water pitcher.  



Ok, and guys?  They have these green smoothies there that have spinach in them, and I drank one, and and I liked it.  I'm a total first-timer in the green smoothie department, and like seriously, I don't understand how that can even be good, but it was better than good.  It was delicious in fact, all blended up with tropical fruit other awesome healthy things.

A miniature version of my Go Green Smoothie
I seriously think I drank it in like 28 seconds and didn't pay attention to anything or anyone else while it was happening, because that green smoothie became my world for half a minute.  Somehow I know that if I tried to make this at home it would be completely awful, but HealthFare made a green smoothie into something that I have been craving since my visit.

2) It's Fresh!

I was taken on a little tour of the restaurant and got to see the back of the house.  While I was there, one of the cooks was slicing up fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast for later use in a rice bowl.

I did it.  I posted a picture of raw chicken.
When was the last time that a fast food restaurant chain used fresh chicken breast in their menu?  Probably never.  But this place does.  In fact, nothing is brought in pre-made.  Everything, right down to their delicious sauces and salad dressings, is made in-house so that it's as fresh as can be and without any unnecessary preservatives, additional sodium, or other nasty chemicals.



All of the baked goods are made fresh daily too.  All meals are made to order while you are there, with the average wait time at under five minutes from the time you order to the time that you're chowing down.  It gives the term 'eat fresh' a whole new fast food meaning.

3) It's Earth-Conscious!

HealthFare is a bright, beautiful, inviting, 'eco-chic' restaurant.  Even the furniture is designed with sustainability and environmental responsibility top of mind.  The chairs are made from BMW-designed recycled materials, the flooring is made from natural and renewable supplies, and the ceiling is made from recycled Japanese kirei board.

They use biodegradable to-go containers rather than styrofoam so that your take-out packaging doesn't end up in a landfill.



They even pour Kicking Horse Coffee (reason alone for a few people that I know to become regular patrons), who just like HealthFare are also focussed on environmental sustainability and community.

4) It's suitable for vegans, vegetarians, glutards...and kids!  

I have to tell you that since going gluten-free in July 2012, I haven't been eating much fast food.  It's not that I was ever really one to frequent McDonalds or Taco Bell, but it was nice to have options if I ever was on the road and needed something quickly.  But since the big diet change in July, I haven't been able to find a fast food restaurant that I can go to with confidence and know that what I am eating is gluten free.  With HealthFare, a lot of the menu is gluten free, without the requirement for me to have to make modifications to my order.  They have symbols beside each menu item to indicate if it is vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free, so that you're able to easily identify what items are appropriate for whatever special dietary requirements that you may have.  I actually had options to choose from on the menu at HealthFare, which is unusual for someone on a gluten free diet.  It was kind of like a gluten free Disneyland, especially because as I mentioned I got to do a menu tasting, and boy did I ever tuck it back.  But everything was better than the thing I had just tried, and I just had to keep eating and eating.  From the savoury rice bowls, to the wholesome salads, to the artisan sandwiches, to the healthy soups, and finally to the frozen yogurt, this place has something for everyone.

My personal favourite is something called The Bakker Bowl, named after HealthFare's creator, Mark Bakker.  The Bakker is sort of a cross between a rice bowl and a salad, served cold and overflowing with roasted marinated chicken breast, whole-grain brown rice, cherry tomatoes, feta, and ranch dressing.

The Bakker is the one on the right

They even offer a kids menu, with healthy choices under 500 calories like Multigrain Grilled Cheese or Polka Dot Pizza.

I was turned on to something new while I was there, which is the Vega line of vegan protein products.  Healthfare offers this brand at the suggested market price, rather than marking it up in a crazy way like some retailers do.



HealthFare is totally responsive to the changing needs of their customers as well as new trends.  For instance, they noticed that customers were coming in and requesting almond milk, but it wasn't something they carried.  The next week they started stocking it in their fridge.  They were also noticing that people who eat tofu prefer for it to be certified organic tofu, which the brand that they were carrying was not.  Shortly thereafter, they made the switch to an organic tofu to please their customers.  This is a restaurant that is not afraid to try new things and to break the mould to please the ever-changing needs of their more health-conscious customers.



The restaurant concept began in Alberta, where there are currently two locations.  The new B.C. location that I visited is at 7366 Market Crossing, in Burnaby, which is in the new-ish Market Crossing shopping centre at Byrne Road and Marine Way.  From the Healthfare Facebook page I've learned that  there are currently franchise opportunities in Port Coquitlam, downtown Vancouver, and Surrey.  There are also new stores popping up soon in the lower mainland, with locations being announced imminently.

Hopefully restaurants like Healthfare are the way of the future, as they bridge between food being convenient and quick, while still allowing you to make healthy lifestyle choices.  I wish them all of the success in their quest to serve healthy, delicious food fast and in a sustainable way, and look forward to seeing more Healthfare locations sprout up in the lower mainland soon.


One word of warning...do not start yourself on eating the house-made seasoned almonds that they sell by the small container-ful, unless you never ever want to stop thinking about them again.  They are highly addictive in the way that salty-sweet things always are to me.  I now think about them often and with much fondness.

"The Almonds"

Thank you for the invitation HealthFare!

Health Fare Restaurant on Urbanspoon
You can visit HealthFare online at www.healthfare.ca.
Check out HealthFare's Facebook page by searching HealthFare - Making Healthy Delicious
Follow HealthFare on Twitter at @HealthFareMrn

3 comments:

  1. I work near the HealthFare location in Burnaby and I think one of the owners already recognizes me because I always get their Quinoa and Classic Tuna sandwich. I will be trying other options as well. The Quinoa is SOOO good!! I am glad there's a healthier option compared to McDonalds or even Tim Hortons. Love how everything is freshly cut and made. Service is fast yet the food is delish! I love Health Fare!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's too funny! I agree - great restaurant. It's about time they came out with something like this!

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  2. Congratulations for posting such a useful blog. Your blog isn’t only informative but also extremely artistic too. There usually are extremely couple of individuals who can write not so easy articles that creatively. Keep up the good writing !!

    ReplyDelete

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Megan

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