What To Eat For Health – Part 2: At Arby’s


Welcome one and all to Part 2 of our Restaurant Survival Guides! This time, we will be tackling what to eat for health at Arby’s! Now you may be wondering why Arby’s was the choice. Well, at the end of our first Survival Guide on Chipotle (Click HERE to take a look!), I asked you, the faithful readers, what restaurant you might want to see me write about, and Arby’s was suggested!

Therefore, here we are, looking at the restaurant that promises to “have the meats.” The only question remaining is, “Do they have any meats that can be eaten by someone who is trying to stay on the health train?”

I’m going to be honest here, when I first saw the suggestion for Arby’s, I said to myself, “Yeah, right. How in the world will the company that advertises mountainous sandwiches piled high with red meat, cheese, and sauces have anything that might be considered survivable?”

Well, that’s what we are here to find out. It took some playing around with their meal builder (a wonderful tool that I am beginning to see more and more on fast food websites) before getting a couple options to present, but I believe I’ve done the best that can be done. Feel free to visit their website and play around with it yourself!

As with last time, I will be structuring this article to give a little background on the company itself (some of their practices, standards, etc.), then looking at what they have to offer as far as types of food, before finally giving my own meal suggestions too.

Hopefully, by the end of all this, you will be armed with the knowledge you need to survive your next trip to Arby’s!

“FULL” Of Social Responsibility – What Arby’s Stands Behind

Credit: Arby’s Official Website

According to their website, Arby’s was founded in 1964 for the purpose of presenting a fast food alternative to burgers by making fresh roast beef sandwiches. What began as a sandwich shop in Boardman, Ohio would eventually grow into the franchise it is today.

As they stand, Arby’s claims to have set a goal of social responsibility and look to achieve it in several ways, all under the umbrella term: “PurposeFULL”. There are four pillars to this concept:

  1. YouthFULL- In their cause to empower the youth, Arby’s has:

    Credit: Arby’s Official Website

    1. Made $77 million in contributions to youth causes through their Arby’s foundation.
    2. Helped hunger relief organizations such as No Kid Hungry by contributing 460 million meals.
    3. Raising $15 million to fight childhood hunger.
    4. Holding a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.
  2. SkillFULL- Helping their workers achieve more, Arby’s has:
    1. Made it a point to help their workers develop skills and goals that will lead to success long after they leave the franchise.
    2. They hold a “Brand Champ Bootcamp” that franchises can participate in, which helps their workers develop not only develop skills and set goals, but teaches them how to do it.

      Credit: Arby’s Official Website

  3. ResourceFULL- Aiming to be more environmentally friendly Arby’s has:
    1. Worked to reduce their energy consumption.
    2. Conserved water through an irrigation pilot program.
    3. Won the Environmental Leader Project of the Year in 2015.
  4. FlavorFULL- Committed to quality, Arby’s has:
    1. Tried to work with smaller, artisanal suppliers of meat, cheese, bread, etc.
    2. Set the goal of using cage free eggs in all of their restaurants by the year 2020.

      FULL

      Credit: Arby’s Official Website

    3. Become a founding member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

Now that you know a little about where Arby’s comes from and where it stands, what kind of offerings will you find when you go there?

We Have The Meats… All Of Them!

Sorry those of the vegetarian persuasion. If you are hoping beyond hope that there is something for you here, you are not likely to find it. There is no Tofurkey sandwich on this menu.

In fact, there is a portion of the website that talks about this. When you read about their history, in 2015 they came out with savory Brown Sugar Bacon and set up a support hotline for vegetarians who may be tempted by it. I’m not sure if this is a joke, but the number is 1-855-MEAT-HLP for anyone willing to check out if it is real or not. I wasn’t brave enough!

Taking a look at the online menu, the types of meat they offer are:

  • Beef
    • Brisket
    • Roast Beef
    • Corned Beef
  • Pork
    • Ham
    • Any menu item with Black Pepper Bacon
  • Chicken
  • Turkey

These basic meats are used in a variety of sandwiches, gyros, wraps, and salads. They also offer various sides including different types of fries, onion rings, potato cakes, jalapeno bites, a side salad, drinks, and shakes. There is some overlap as some menu items include two or more (!!!) of the above meats.

Credit: Arby’s Official Website

I will let you know right now, I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend Arby’s as a place to eat if you are concerned about health. A couple of my takeaways after building numerous meals and checking out their nutritional content:

  • Some gigantic signature sandwiches will set you back nearly 1,000 calories. Those that don’t, will when a side and drink are added.
  • There is a boatload of sodium in most of the menu items.
  • Lastly, and most egregiously in my opinion, many of the signature sandwiches contain trans fats. In a world where many companies are trying to cut down on the amount of trans fat in their menus, it’s discouraging to see many sandwiches with 1-2 grams worth.

Therefore, none of the meal options I present will include a sandwich with trans fat. If you only go to Arby’s once in a while, I could be OK with saying get what you want. However, this article is more for someone who may frequent the restaurant a little more often.

With all that being said, I was determined to find a few meal options that could work for someone who really felt like it was an Arby’s night. What you will see below is the result of that effort! As with last time, I will include the meal, what is in it, and the nutritional info for each.

As with last time, nutritional information will be presented in a way that reflects the percent daily values (DV) for a 2000 and 2500 calorie diet. The first percentage listed will be for a 2000 calorie diet, while the second percentage will be for a 2500 calorie diet. For example:

Calories: 750 (37.5% / 30% DV)

Check out the results!

Meal Option #1 – Roast Turkey And Swiss Sandwich

Credit: Arby’s Official Website

While still not a total winner as far as the sodium goes, this at least has the chance of being a somewhat viable option. There are some modifications you would need to make however. While it comes with both a spicy brown honey mustard sauce and mayonnaise, it’s actually a better option to hold the mustard. Therefore, the sandwich would include:

  • Roast Turkey
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Red Onion
  • Tomato
  • Mayo
  • Honey Wheat Bread

Nutritional Calculation for the Roasted Turkey and Swiss Sandwich:

  • Calories: 680 (34% / 27.2% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 220
  • Total Fat: 25g (38.5% / 31.3% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 7g (35% / 28% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 60mg (20% / 20% DV)
  • Sodium: 1790g (74.6% / 74.6% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 77g (25.7% / 20.5% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 5g (20% / 16.7% DV)
    • Sugar: 14 g
  • Protein: 38g

As you can see, this particular sandwich doesn’t look too bad until you come across the sodium number! It has a decent calorie count, it’s lower on the cholesterol side, along with not a bad amount of fiber, and great protein content. It’s just a salt bomb that knocks out nearly 3/4 of your day’s amount. It’s actually recommended having LESS than the daily value!

If you are really craving turkey though, there is a more sensible option in:

Meal Option #2 – Roast Turkey And Swiss Wrap

Credit: Arby’s Official Website

As with the sandwich, we are omitting the spicy brown honey mustard to save on some sodium and calories. Let’s take a look at how this might fare a little better. It includes the exact same ingredients, the only difference being the honey wheat bread is substituted out and replaced with a hearty grain wrap.

Nutritional Calculation for the Roasted Turkey and Swiss Wrap:

  • Calories: 480 (24% / 19.2% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 210
  • Total Fat: 24g (36.9% / 30% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 8g (40% / 32% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 60mg (20% / 20% DV)
  • Sodium: 1500g (62.5% / 62.5% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 37g (12.3% / 9.7% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 4g (16% / 13.3% DV)
    • Sugar: 4 g
  • Protein: 30g

Well that looks a bit better than the sandwich, doesn’t it? A bit…but not much. At least we shaved over 10 percentage points from the daily value of sodium. We lost some fiber and protein, but also 10 grams of sugar without the bread, which is also a great thing!

Now what happens if you are really craving the beef? Well, there is an option for you, though I’m sorry to say it might not be what you are most hoping for.

Meal Option #3 – Roast Beef And Cheese Sliders With Side Salad

Credit: Arby’s Official Website

I get it. What is the point of an Arby’s run if you can’t have the meat that started it all? The thing is, all the roast beef sandwiches, except for the sliders, have trans fat in them. I was astounded at this revelation! How is it the sliders don’t, and yet the exact same combination of meat and bread for the signature sandwich does? I’m not sure, but it’s the truth.

That’s why I went with the sliders. This particular meal (and the nutrition facts to follow) consists of one slider and a side salad with no cheddar cheese (as THAT for some reason contributed trans fat!). Let’s take a look and what you are getting:

Roast Beef and Cheese Slider:

  • Roast Beef
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Mini Slider Bun

Side Chopped Salad (note that dressing is not listed, so go with something like a balsamic or light Italian):

Credit: Arby’s Official Website

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Tomatoes

Nutritional Calculation for the Roast Beef and Cheese Slider and Side Salad:

  • Calories: 250 12.5% / 10 % DV)
  • Calories from fat: 100
  • Total Fat: 11g (16.9% / 13.8% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 4.5g (22.5% / 18% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 30mg (10% / 10% DV)
  • Sodium: 680g (28.3% / 28.3% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 24g (8% / 6.4% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 2g (8% / 6.7% DV)
    • Sugar: 3 g
  • Protein: 15g

Option #3 doesn’t seem like it is so bad. The numbers on any one item don’t seem incredibly high except for the saturated fat. The main problem becomes, at 250 calories, will you either still be hungry after you eat it? It might be a better lunch option than if you were to go there for dinner.

Option #4 – Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad

Credit: Arby’s Official Website

Let’s see if the salad can save the day! With the Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad (chosen with a light Italian dressing), you are getting:

  • Roast Turkey
  • Pepper Bacon
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Shredded Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
  • Chopped Tomatoes

Nutritional Calculation for the Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad With Light Italian Dressing:

  • Calories: 260 (13% / 10.4% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 130
  • Total Fat:14 (21.5% / 17.5% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 7g (35% / 28% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 55mg (18.3% / 18.3% DV)
  • Sodium: 1660g (69.2% / 69.2% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 11g (3.7% / 2.9% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 3g (12% / 10% DV)
    • Sugar: 7g
  • Protein: 24g

Yikes. Even the salad can’t avoid the salt shaker! Again you may run into a fullness problem at 260 calories, though for some that number works. There is at least a good amount of protein, but for me, the fiber is lacking for a salad and the amount of saturated fat is nearing unacceptable heights. Your mileage may vary.

Which Option Is For You?

Credit: All rights belong to the Seinfeld show

Wow. I was skeptical going into this restaurant survival guide and after doing my very best to find some options for the Arby’s fan, I still count myself as skeptical. I was extremely disappointed in the use of trans fat in many of the options (including some in the salads) as well as the sheer amount of sodium used!

I realize that you are naturally going to have more salt when you go out to eat, but is the amount seen here really necessary? As far as recommending what to eat for health, I am having trouble getting behind Arby’s as a viable option for anyone looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For me, out of the four options presented, there isn’t really a clear-cut winner.

Now, it’s your turn. What do you think about Arby’s? Is it something you might still frequent? Would you go there once in a while and just order what you want? Does this article having you running for the hills? I want to know your opinion so let me hear your questions and comments down below!

As with last time, if there is a particular restaurant that you want me to take a look at, please let me know in the comments section and check back next time to see if I picked your suggestion!

See you next time!