Many people ask me if the health check symbol really means anything. Well for most part the answer is yes – the health check symbol is a good place to start. I however have a bit of a bias and find it does not always serve you well in grocery shopping items, but in restaurants it is much more effective for the message it is wanting to give.
Restaurants are much more strict in the criteria they must follow. The items have around half fewer calories than the average item, and the total fat is significantly less. The only one you want to watch out for yet is the sodium. It is very challenging to make a super strict criteria on sodium in restaurant meals as that would mean NO MEAL would probably fit the criteria except maybe steamed vegetables.
Health Check symbols on a menu item must follow this guide:
Large Entree – must include 2 food groups or more and include vegetables and or fruit. The sodium cannot exceed 960 mg, and it must have 15 g or more of protein.
Soup - per cup soup can now not exceed 480mg (versus the old amount of 650 mg), and have at least 2 g of fiber.
Pizza - per 250 g must have 17 g or less of fat, 10 g or more of protein and no more than 960 mg of sodium.
This may not seem like much, but remember that most meals are packed and full of things you could not even imagine. An order of chicken tenders at one restaurant chain has a whopping 112 grams of fat in 1 serving! That is more than double what my daily needs are and don’t forget this type of fat is the heart clogging kind.
Here is a list of the items that have been given a health check symbol in Canada:
- Pizza: Grilled Chicken Rustico – 360 cals, 10 g fat, 680 mg sodium
- Pizza: Grilled chicken Arrabbiata – 380 cals, 10 g fat, 680 mg sodium
- Pizza: Margherita – 360 cals, 10 g fat, 640 mg sodium
- Pizza: Giardino Fresco – 400 cals, 10 g fat, 670 mg sodium
- Pasta: Mediterranean Vegetable – 430 cals, 10 g fat, 10 g fiber
- Pasta: Mediterranean con Pollo – 450 cals, 10 g fat, 11 g fiber
- Chopped Chicken Salad – 280 cals, 9 g fat, 210 mg sodium
- Pollo Pomodoro Linguini – 510 cals, 11 g fat, 820 mg sodium
- Chicken Stromboli – 660 cals, 16 g fat, 600 mg sodium
- Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza – 650 cals, 12 g fat, 860 mg sodium
- Garden Greens – 60 cals, 3 g fat, 110 mg sodium
- Lemon Baked Salmon Filet – 310 cals, 7g fat, 260 mg sodium
- Chicken on Kaiser White meat – 440 cals, 8 g fat, 560 mg sodium
- Garden Salad (no dressing) – 30 cals, 0.3 g fat, 25 mg sodium
- Mushroom, Spinach + Cheese Frittata – 270 cals, 5 g fat, 860 mg sodium
- Nat’s Veggie Sunny Start – 410 cals, 15 g fat, 710 mg sodium
- Oatmeal and mixed fruit topped with yoghurt – 400 cals, 10 g fat, 400 mg sodium
- Asian Chicken Salad – 290 cals, 7 g fat, 500 mg sodium
- Seafood Fusilli – 590 cals, 8 g fat, 900 mg sodium
- Chargrilled Chicken Burger – 500 cals, 12 g fat, 840 mg sodium
- Creamy Chicken Curry – 610 cals, 9 g fat, 890 mg sodium
Use this guide as a smarter start to your restaurant pickin’s!
Did you find a healthier menu item in your favourite restaurant you would like to share? Please share it in your comments below and help others make faster smarter choices.