In a perfect world, we’d cook everything from scratch at home. In reality, life happens. Despite recent declines, about 45 per cent of Canadians still buy at least one item from a fast-food restaurant every day! (Cue the dietitian fainting.) So I’m thrilled with the new healthier quick service restaurants popping up, including Freshii, which has finally arrived in Calgary.
Freshii started in Toronto in 2005, and is now in 75 cities in over 15 countries, from the US to such far-flung destinations as Saudi Arabia. More relevant to our community are the five stores in Calgary, as well as locations in Edmonton, Fort Mac, Red Deer, Sherwood Park and across Canada, for when you’re travelling. (Find one.)
Freshii locations in Calgary
1708 8th St SW
409 10th St NW
240-444 5th Ave SW
9737 Macleod Tr SW
15 Sunpark Plaza SE
Freshii offers healthy ingredients that are just about impossible to find on the go, including dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, spinach), whole grains (quinoa, brown rice), plant proteins (edamame, almonds, tofu, black beans), healthy fats (avocado, peanut sauce), and a boatload of veggies, from beet slaw to carrots. For the more adventurous, they now even have kimchii, a fermented Korean side dish.
I’ve been to the Freshii on 17th Avenue three times now, and while the service was always friendly, some dishes didn’t quite hit the healthy/delicious sweet spot. I think I have it figured out now, so here’s what I suggest starting with:
Freshii Best Bets
If you want a…
- Salad – Fiesta with chicken or tuna.
- Vegetarian salad – Metaboost with falafel or tofu.
- Green wrap (as in, wrapped in collard leaves instead of a tortilla) – Either of the above.
- Regular wrap (as in, wrapped in a flour tortilla) – Ninja with any protein, minus the crispy wontons.
- Bowl – Warrior with 1/2 the brown rice and chicken or tuna.
- Vegetarian bowl – Mediterranean with half the red pepper sauce and falafel or tofu (also good with chicken or tuna, if you’re not vegetarian).
Burrito – Baja without quinoa or with quinoa, but in a green wrap. Add chicken or tuna.
- More burritos – Smokehouse or Tex Mex without rice, or with rice but in a green wrap, with any protein.
- Breakfast – burritos: Ranchero Classic Grilled Breakfast Burrito (big appetite) or Spinach, Mushroom & Cheese Grilled Egg Pocket (smaller appetite).
- Breakfast – oatmeal: Apple Cinnamon or Blueberry Crumble, if you get extra protein somehow, say by asking for extra almonds or walnuts or ordering two hard-boiled eggs.
They make everything to order, so when you’re ready, customize away. Here are four ordering tips:
- “Energize your meal with protein” as they say. Most entrees start out with less than the 20 grams of protein we typically recommend for a meal, so add tofu, falafel, chicken, or tuna. The tofu has only 2 grams of protein and the falafel 5 grams, so if you want a vegetarian meal, choose an item that starts out closer to 20 grams of protein, such as the Ninja wrap (minus the crispy wontons) or the Smokehouse or Tex Mex burritos. (You can check the nutrition information here.)
- Cut back on the grains, especially the white ones. I’m all for whole grains in moderation, but Freshii goes overboard. If you like wraps and burritos, either go for the (100% whole-wheat) tortilla or have quinoa or brown rice inside a green wrap (collard leaves), but if you do both, you’ll end up with 80-100 grams of carbohydrate! Yikes. And skip the rice noodles and “crispy” (fried) wontons altogether. These ingredients seem at home in the virtuous-sounding Ninja salad/wrap and Buddha bowl, but really, you’d be better off with a slice of Wonder bread.
- Cut the dressing in half or try olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro lime dressing, or pico de gallo. The dressings are one of the biggest sources of calories and sodium, but they dial up the taste too, so I wouldn’t go without. Another option is to ask for them on the side, and then just use as much as you need. Check the nutrition information if you want to know the best and the worst.
- Stick with water to drink. The cooler is packed with healthy-sounding goodies like “Mighty Detox” and “Red Power” juices, but for most people, whole fruit and vegetables are better than juice. Smoothies are a bit better, but unfortunately, the smoothies at Freshii are 420-610 extra calories, which most of us can’t afford. (“I don’t know why I can’t lose weight, I’m eating healthy food…”)
Despite having to make a few tweaks, Freshii is one of your best bets for a quick healthy meal on the go in Calgary. Now you’re armed and ready to hit the sweet spot. If you go, let us know what you thought. Comments welcome on our Facebook page.