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Indulge without guilt

Thursday, January 16, 2014
Fast-food restaurants opt for healthy choices...
Some fast-food restaurants already have added lower-fat and calorie salads, sandwiches and desserts that are tasty and nutritious.

The “two-piece-and-fries” culture is alive and well and evident in the number of new fast-food restaurants, big and small, which have opened in T&T over the past decade.


But with so much fast food around, what about our health? Fast foods, when consumed often—especially those that are deep-fried and/or high in sodium and sugars, not to mention the many additives to get the right taste—contribute significantly to high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and other non-communicable diseases. 


So while fast foods may not go away and we may not stop eating them, what should fast-food industries do to make their meals a bit healthier?


Well, for starters, some fast food restaurants already have added lower-fat and calorie salads, sandwiches, and desserts that are tasty and nutritious.


One such restaurant is McDonald’s. Operating in over 125 countries, the restaurant, known for its signature burger the Big Mac, tried introducing a healthier menu in the early 90s with a McLean burger, but it didn’t quite make the impact management expected. McDonald’s first opened in T&T in 1997 but closed its doors in 2003 because of low sales. It was re-opened in 2011.


Now Arcos Dorados, the company responsible for McDonald’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, says it’s committed to healthy lifestyles and has announced a series of innovations on the quick-service restaurants’ menus. 


Jameela Mohammed-Ali, country manager for Arcos Dorados T&T, said the revamped menus would offer healthy and nutritional meals to adults and children.


Mohammed-Ali said as a leader in the quick service restaurant industry, it wants to be part of the effort to educate consumers so they can lead a balanced lifestyle with proper diet and physical activity.


“In our ongoing evolution in the nutrition field, McDonald’s began providing customers in Latin America and the Caribbean with calorie information for each product on menu boards. 


“This innovation enables McDonald’s customers to know the exact calorie content of each item as they place their orders,” Mohammed-Ali said.


She said the company was proud to bring such an innovation to the quick-service restaurant business in T&T. The menu boards, which were launched last June, are at all three McDonald’s locations: West Mall, Grand Bazaar and Cipriani Boulevard. 


Mohammed-Ali said the menu boards were in line with the brand’s international standards of transparency.


Customers have also been offered the Happy Meal, which includes a reduced portion of fries, a fresh side of fruit, and a ten per cent reduction in sodium in the McNuggets, bread, ketchup, hamburger buns and cheese. 


“In total, the Happy Meal has less than 600 calories, one-third of the daily energy requirements recommended for children by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” said Mohammed-Ali.


Additionally all McDonald’s McCombos offer a side salad as an alternative to the fries. The salad is 20 calories without dressing. 


The menus created by the restaurant’s certified nutritionist also cater to people with diabetes.


Mohammed-Ali said the initiatives demonstrate the high level of commitment the company has for the well-being of its customers who trust in the brands.


“We are indeed excited about these initiatives and are encouraged that they will help our customers make more informed decisions about their nutrition,” Mohammed-Ali said.



More fast food restaurants 





Wendy’s T&T, part of the international fast food chain restaurant existing since 1969 in the US, boasts of having 23 items on its menu that are less than 400 calories, excluding beverages. 


Procurement officer Jason Ramjohn said Wendy’s has always tried to include healthy meals on its menus, and has a wide range of salads that are well-loved by customers. They include the spicy chicken salad, BLT cobb salad, apple pecan salad and the baja salad. 


Its beef chilli made of 100 per cent ground beef and vegetables, has actually been endorsed and recommended by the American Heart Association, Ramjohn said. 


The kids are not left out. They can indulge in an all-white-meat grilled chicken wrap and at the same time get their daily fruit intake with fresh apple slices. 




Royal Castle

Royal Castle, the first local fast food restaurant with both dine-in and take-out facilities, was incorporated in 1968. 


Besides its fried chicken combos, the restaurant offers its customers fish and vegetable burgers, a fresh salad as one of its side orders and its famous rotisserie chicken. It also serves a grilled chicken sandwich at its Piarco location.

Church’s Chicken


A representative from the chain said corn on the cob and mashed potatoes were the only two considerably healthy side orders that the restaurant offered its customers. 


However, she said the company was looking at ways to reduce the quantity of oil used to cook meals. For the upcoming Lenten season, the restaurant was working on a special vegetable patty sandwich, she said.




Burger King


The home of the “Big Whopper” Burger King (BK) is not only serving meat on a bun. 


Customers can choose from any of its three salads: a garden side salad, tender crisp chicken salad and the tender grill chicken salad. 


On its Web site,, the company says as part of its “BK positive steps” programme, it is working on implementing initiatives to help customers make more informed decisions about nutrition. 


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