When you ask people to imagine a healthy meal, there's probably one picture that pops into their heads: salad. You know the one we mean, the bowl filled with fresh greens, topped by some cucumber and tomato with an oil-based dressing for "flavour."
But according to Matthew Corrin, owner of Freshii, the fast food franchise company that puts an emphasis on healthy foods, saying "salad" is merely a way to explain a meal with vegetables.
"Our fundamental brand is a salad, but served in a different way," he explains. "So it’s a salad served in a soup broth, it’s salad served on a bed of quinoa, it’s salad that’s blended up into a juice. It can be a vegan chili with a quinoa base, it can be a quinoa-based rice bowl with lots of vegetables that can go in a salad, but now they’re warm instead of cold."
In short, it's time to stop relying on romaine to feel like you've eaten a healthy lunch.
Quinoa, which has two times the amount of protein of rice or barley, according to BBC Good Food, is beloved for how it fills you up with its dietary fibre, as well as the calcium and vitamin nutrients it provides.
And though salad (even one with grains in it) can often feel like it doesn't fill you up enough, Corrin says it could be because you're just thinking of having three meals a day. He notes that dietary fibre in salads helps you digest faster, so eating a snack a couple of hours later is actually a healthier way to eat.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to make your salad less than healthy. As health and wellness expert and cookbook author Rose Reisman pointed out in a HuffPost blog, adding anything from too much dressing (yes, even olive oil) to fried tortilla strips can turn your meal from nutritious to something that basically equates to a burrito in calories.
"Certain salads can come in with over 900 calories and 60 grams of fat," Reisman says. "Be selective in what your salad comes with and always ask for the dressing on the side. Try to add no more than three tablespoons and always ask if there is a light version."
Corrin says that for both dressings and grains, they're getting a lot of inspiration from the other countries in which they're setting up shop.
According to Andie Shapira, Freshii's in-house nutritionist, some supergrains the chain is looking to offer soon include freekeh and farro, both of which have been touted as "trendy" over the past couple of years — though if quinoa is any indication, once chains like Freshii have it on offer, that's when the real takeover will happen.
Corrin also notes the importance of staying on top of what's popular in the health world, especially when it comes to how people eat. "When we went into Sweden, they’ve been doing quinoa way longer than us. At that time they were doing bulgur — it's what gave us the inspiration here," he says.
And of course, that's not just restricted to what goes into the salads.
"What’s becoming more interesting is less about ingredients specifically and more about types of diets," he says. "We have lots of people coming in and saying, 'I’m paleo, I’m gluten-free.'" So much so that the company is building an app to offer menus that cater to these diets, including everything from low sodium to gluten-free, and even situational orders, like a "pre-workout" meal.
"At the end of the day, vegetables are just vegetables until you add a flavour to it."
So what are people actually eating at Freshii? Take a look at their top 10 ingredients being added to meals (we included their nutritional information as well):