Dining healthy in Scarborough is hard, but possible

With so many health-focused restaurants in Toronto’s downtown core, Scarborough residents may have trouble knowing where to find healthy restaurants closer to home.

Restaurants like Fresh, which has three locations in Toronto, are vowing to serve the public more healthy meals made from natural ingredients without animal by-products. Fresh is primarily a vegan restaurant that prides itself on being a healthier choice for those eating out, but has yet to open a location in the Scarborough area.

Judi Wilkie, a registered dietitian with Toronto Public Health, says there are ways to eat healthy without going to a restaurant that explicitly advertises itself as such.

“I would certainly be looking for restaurants where there is more choice,” she says. “For instance, I could ask for a dressing on the side or a lower-fat dressing, and I could ask for foods prepared in a certain way so they are lower in fat, calories, and sodium.”

Wilkie says it depends on what you choose to order, not necessarily on where you order it.

“I would look for those [restaurants] that could actually provide their nutritional information so that I could make a choice … and would have more information to choose from,” she says.

Restaurants specializing in organic and vegan options may have more nutritious food, but they can be hard to find. It is important to stick to basic nutrition concepts like the food groups when ordering your meal.

Vince Chan, who co-owns the Natural Food Depot on Lawrence Avenue in Scarborough, says he is often asked where there are healthy restaurants in the area.

“Whoever has an expensive menu is often healthy nowadays,” he says. “All the high-end restaurants can be that way, with [options like] gluten-free and extra virgin olive oil. I mean, the idea of eating healthy is not really a fad anymore.”

Because his competitors include big chains like Walmart and Metro, which now offer organic and whole foods, Chan says many companies in the food service industry have caught on to the consumer’s desire for healthier options.

Most chain restaurants like Jack Astor’s and Casey’s offer changeable menu options like grilled chicken instead of breaded, whole wheat pasta instead of white, and salad dressing on the side.

Subway and Pita Pit serve meals that cover all food groups, include fresh vegetables, and have their nutritional information available in-restaurant or online.

All of these restaurants have Scarborough locations.

The Scarborough Town Centre has also upgraded its food court to include healthier fast food alternatives like Cultures restaurant, which specializes in salad, soup, sandwiches, and smoothies.

So, although Scarborough may not have any specialty health food restaurants, it is certainly possible for residents to access healthy options while dining out.