Meal-preparation plans help maintain healthy diets

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      Sure, we all want to eat nutritious, delicious food. But with busy schedules or long days that see us getting home after grocery stores or delivery services have closed, sometimes it’s hard—or even impossible—to invest the time and energy into maintaining healthy alternatives to dining out or takeout.

      Since it’s a full-time job to research, plan, and maintain a healthy diet, why not hire someone to do it?

      While most meal-prep companies offer preparation and delivery services, here are three that offer a little something more.

      Fresh Prep

      In his university days, cofounder Dhruv Sood found he wanted to eat healthy but bought too many vegetables that ended up unused. Consequently, he, his childhood friend Husein Rahemtulla, and their culinary head Becky Switzer launched their business in April 2015 to help reduce food waste.

      Unlike most food-prep companies, Fresh Prep provides the ingredients and instructions for you to cook the meal at home, thus ensuring freshly cooked meals, rather than frozen or precooked entrées.

      Fresh Prep's Claude La Hausse, Becky Switzer, Dhruv Sood, and Husein Rahemtulla
      Fresh Prep

      Sood, in an interview at the Georgia Straight office, says they focus on reducing fat and sodium content, and that their chef works with nutritionists to create gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian meal options.

      Not only is their service a way for meat-eaters to transition to plant-based diets (half of their selections are vegetarian), but it also allows customers to explore ethnic recipes (from Korean and Japanese to Italian and Greek) without having to buy rare, costly ingredients they may not use later or having to resort to substitutes.

      “If you’re at home, you’d just be using the regular stuff, but we make the effort to go buy the exact stuff, so then you get that authentic taste and you get to explore new cuisines without the investment that you would have to make otherwise,” Sood says.

      In a test run, I found that it’s like cooking school with training wheels. Each package provides two servings, and recipes are ranked according to cooking skill level: easy (such as the tasty orange ginger chicken stir-fry—a cinch to make), medium (such as skillet chilaquiles with fried eggs and avocado—involved but not overly challenging), or hard.

      Ordering can be done à la carte, and flexible subscription plans allow for holds or cancellations due to things like vacations. Meal plans are offered for two or four people for one to three meals per week, ranging from $22 to $75.

      Fresh in Your Fridge

      Fresh in Your Fridge

      Don’t like cooking? Wish you had a personal chef? Here’s one to consider.

      Erika Weissenborn, who has a UBC bachelor of science degree in food, nutrition, and health and also studied holistic nutrition, started a nutrition practice but kept getting requests to cook for her clients. What began as her side project turned into a full-blown business in 2014.

      At the Straight office, she says that her service does grocery shopping for clients, and goes to their homes about once a week to cook between 10 and 25 portions of meals and snacks to be eaten within four days. Prices range from $300 to $425.

      It’s all healthy: she says the company doesn’t use refined sugar, there’s no gluten, there’s little to no flour or dairy, and it uses wild fish and grass-fed or ethical meats.

      Fresh in Your Fridge's Erika Weissenborn
      Craig Takeuchi

      Dieting doesn’t mean deprivation, according to Weissenborn.

      “If there’s a person having trouble transitioning into a healthy diet, maybe they don’t need a kale salad with chickpeas on it,” she says. “Maybe they need some bison burgers with a good guacamole and yam fries, and something that’s still hearty but good, good quality.”

      She says she can tailor diets to address issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, colitis, celiac disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, and high cholesterol.

      “What we’re getting a lot of right now is people with specific food sensitivities who don’t know how to eat and maybe don’t have the time to cook for themselves with those types of requirements.”

      Personal trainers also refer clients to her when clients are not seeing the results they want. Weissenborn quotes a trainer she works with who made an important point: “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.”

      Vancouver Muscle Meals
      Craig Takeuchi

      Vancouver Muscle Meals

      Tasha Vickerd and Alec Abbott were both working as personal trainers and chefs, but they didn’t combine the two professions until they launched their North Vancouver–based business in June 2015.

      “We found that the biggest gap with our clients [was]…you can train them as hard as you want in the gym, but as soon as they leave the gym, you can’t control anything,” Vickerd says at the Straight office.

      The naked truth is this: “Training is 20 percent, and you need to do it to shape [your body], and diet is 80 percent,” Vickerd says. “You’ve got to eat right to make sure you maintain that shape.”

      Vancouver Muscle Meals' Alex Abbott and Tasha Vickerd
      Craig Takeuchi

      Vickerd says they have two main menus: one for business professionals, the other for athletes and bodybuilders. They use gluten-free ingredients and free-range, local, hormone-free meat to make nutritionally balanced meals. Meal packages vary from $108 to $300, and include nine to 30 meals.

      She describes the foodie menu, for professionals, as healthy comfort food.

      “They’re lower-calorie meals so that you’re not overeating in portion sizes,” she says. “It gives your body the proper time to digest the meals so you’re getting good use out of all the macronutrients that you’re actually eating.”

      She says they also make dishes with halal meat if requested, as well as vegan, vegetarian, diabetic, and gluten-free meals. Their services also attract elderly clients and film and TV professionals, and they also work with nutritionists and doctors who have clients coming off medication.

      Vickerd says the prep meals are for bodybuilders, physique competitors, or athletes with restrictive diets needing “something to be quite precise and exact”. Describing these items as “clean food”, they don’t use oils to cook with unless requested, to reduce fats, and also avoid sodium. The salmon, for instance, is lightly dressed with just enough herbs to give it flavour. All vegetables are steamed to help retain nutrients. The portions are conservative but filling enough.

      Vancouver Muscle Meals' sweet potato pizza
      Vancouver Muscle Meals

      While they are both personal trainers, they also work with other trainers across the Lower Mainland in a referral program.

      Overall, Vickerd says that they’re focused on helping people develop a sustainable lifestyle.

      “It’s just about making fitness taste good,” she says.

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