January 2007 Edition
Healthy Eating

Guide to Making Heart Smart Menu Decisions

By Michelle Ponto

As consumers are becoming more aware of how food and nutrition affects their bodies, they are looking for healthier options. And they aren’t the only ones.  The food industry is also playing a role in creating a “heart smart” tomorrow.

A fast food chain made a major announcement in October 2006 stating they are switching the oils they use to trans-fat free varieties and other restaurants are quickly following their lead.


Changing Oils is Only the Beginning

Changing oils is one way to add healthier food items to your menu. Sysco Fry-On ZTF is a unique canola-corn blend oil, contains zero grams trans fat per serving and low in saturated fat. Ask your Sysco Marketing Associate about how Fry-On ZTF can help you offer healthier choices to your customers.

There are other ways to change your menu and these include:

-           Adding a grilled chicken sandwich to your burger options

-           Switching to whole wheat rolls

-           Using fruit as a garnish instead of coleslaw

-           Serving salad with the dressing on the side

-           Adding wraps or pita bread sandwiches to the menu

-           Using whole wheat pastas with tomato or light oil sauces over cream-   based ones

-           Serving salsa as a condiment instead of a creamy “special sauce”

-           Serving baked nachos instead of fries as a side dish

The “Heart Smart” Heart-Breakers

Condiments and side orders are the worst offenders on the menu when it comes to being heart smart.  In addition to butter and mayonnaise, cheese sauce, tarter sauce and gravy are some of most unhealthy items we consume, but they can easily be replaced with healthier alternatives.  For example, instead of serving butter with your rolls, offer olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Another “healthy” suggestion is to switch nacho cheese and other fattening dipping sauces to tomato-based pizza sauce.

In addition to condiments, other menu opportunities include chicken nuggets, croissant sandwiches, fried chicken, fries and onion rings. The bad news is these items tend to be the ones most ordered.  The good news is that an easy way to transform a potentially unhealthy food into a healthier variety is to bake them rather than throwing them in the deep fryer. 

Chicken nuggets, egg rolls and fries are examples of foods that taste just

as good oven-baked as they do fried.  Baking also provides you with the opportunity to get a little creative in the kitchen.  Instead of using traditional potatoes, offer sweet potatoes or brush regular potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with spices such as Cajun blend to promote a Texas or Mexican style fry.  Also, when baking, you can leave the skin on for extra colour and fibre.

If you do want to fry your potatoes, keep in mind that straight potatoes absorb less oil than crinkle cut varieties. They also absorb less fat if fried at a high temperature. Other healthier cooking techniques include pan-searing, poaching, broiling and grilling.  These options work well with proteins such as fish, chicken and beef.

Turning Heart Smart Choices into Healthy Profits

Once you’ve decided to go heart smart on your menu, let your customers know.


One way is to promote your heart smart alternatives on your menu by marking them with a “healthy” symbol.  To be on the safe side, be careful not to use an actual “heart”.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has strict restrictions in the Food Labeling in Advertising Act that prohibits the use of “heart” symbols and “heart health” statements. 

In addition to making your “healthier” options visible on your menu, you can try to get a mention in your local newspaper or on community television by sending out press releases.   Arranging a “heart smart” menu launch and inviting the media to a menu tasting can also help spread the word.  With trans fats and good health a hot topic, now is the time to show yourself as a leader in the community when it comes to being heart smart.

Heart Smart Alternatives:

Broth-based soups

Whole grain breads

Fruit as a side or garnish

Peel-and-eat shrimp

Blackened chicken sandwich

Veggie burger

Baked potato

Tossed salad

Baked beans


Fry-On ZTF