The Take Out Craze
Once your holiday indulgences are over and you realize that stretchy pants can’t be worn to work, there are some local businesses ready to help you get your eating habits off to a good start in the new year with healthy prepared meals.
All provide an array of menu options with lean meats and lots of vegetables, and are most likely healthier than your holiday eating style. The meals can be used as a supplement to your weekly meal plan as a healthy alternative to most take-out or as a regimented way to keep track of the calories you take in.
Just remember that learning how to eat and live healthy takes longer than 21 days, and it’s ultimately in your hands, and not your consultant’s, to make changes and stick to them.
If you are confused at the list of healthy to-go food places inside the Loop, here is a list of five that want your business:
My Fit Foods
Owned by Mario Mendias, a Houston personal trainer and nutritionist, My Fit Foods bases its food programs on a 40-40-20 plan of low glycemic carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, respectively. There are 15 locations in the Houston area, including Katy and The Woodlands. It has expanded to Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
Customers can sign up for the 21-day challenge, where you eat any of dozens of meal options for 21 days. Each day includes three meals and two snacks that are tailored to your needs based on a personal consultation when you sign up. My Fit Foods claims that participants can lose between 8 and 15 pounds in the three-week period, and many stay on the program or continue eating My Fit Foods meals thereafter.
Pros: Many locations make it convenient to more people to swing by and get a single meal.
Cons: Special diet foods (no gluten, dairy, meat, etc.) less prominent on menu than competitors.
Makes it hard to eat out or be social if you eat the food for 21 days (one "free" meal is allowed).
Cost: $6-10 per meal depending on size; $500-$650 for 21-day program depending on gender and meal size.
Started in Austin with two locations, Snap Kitchen recently opened a Houston outpost at the corner of Kirby and Richmond. The location is eye-catching on the outside with floor-to-ceiling windows, and has a variety of foods to choose from. It is more than just a wall lined with cooler units – there is a full salad bar that rivals Central Market or Whole Foods, and tables to eat your meal without feeling like you should just pick it up and microwave it at home or at your desk at work.
Pros: Many designations for gluten-free, diabetic friendly, no dairy, vegetarian, and Paleo style. Paleolithic eating is a less popular style that is primal and high in protein with no sugars or grains. It is not common to see Paleo foods offered.
Has a registered dietitian on staff. Dietitians have graduate level degrees and completed a dietetic internship.
Cons: Check the serving sizes. I picked up a pre-wrapped cookie, and it had 180 calories per serving. The cookie was three servings. Yikes!
Only one location in Houston.
Cost: Average medium sized chicken dinner: $8.75. Cost for 21-day program: $550-$625 depending on gender and daily calorie goal.
Smart Meals differs from the others because the philosophy is not about losing weight or committing to a rigid eating program. "Gaining health" is the company motto, and it operates by educating about proactive healthy living and not about losing or taking something away. The company works with local farmers, bakers and independent chefs to serve high quality, clean food.
Pros: You don’t have to commit to a meal plan, but Smart Meals will design one for you if you want.
Their meals give Weight Watchers point values.
Meals tailored toward children are available.
Discounts are offered to customers who have jobs that help people in the community like government workers, teachers or nonprofit company employees.
Cons: Only one location, at Shepherd/Westheimer.
Weak PR. I had no idea about their discounts or how Smart Meals differed from the others until I called.
Cost: Average breakfast: $5.95, average chicken lunch/dinner entree: $9.95
To jumpstart your New Year’s plan, Tru Meals offers a discount on a “Commit to be Fit” plan, where you can get 15% off a 25-day plan of $550. The plan includes four meals per day. Daily calories for weight loss are 1,200 calories for women and 1,900 for men, according to Tru Meals. Employees can help you make meal combinations to fit your caloric counts.
Pros: Menu denotes gluten-free and dairy free items.
No commitment to a meal plan outside of the "Commit to be Fit" plan. Customers can pick up individual meals or a few at a time with no contract.
Cons: Meal combinations are based on a calorie total and not a percentage of carbs/fat/protein of quality foods.
1,200 calories per day could be argued as being too few; a person is unlikely to maintain such a small amount of calorie intake over time.
Cost: Average medium chicken dinner: $8.30, average medium breakfast: $5.50
Real Meals 365
Based on Zone Diet principles of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat, Real Meals 365 constructs its daily meal plans so you don’t have to do the math. There are three calorie-based plans of 1,200, 1,500, and 1,800 per day and you can choose to eat the meals for three or five days per week. Real Meals 365 also has a plan for “busy executives” that includes two meals per day of either 350 or 500 calories per meal for $18 and $20 per day, respectively.
Pros: The menu varies by week allowing for new items to come in frequently.
You can stop in and pick up a meal without being on a plan.
Dairy free, gluten free, kid friendly denoted on menu.
Cons: One location: Shepherd/Memorial
Calories not denoted on website for a la carte items.
Fitness or activity levels are not taken into account for daily calorie allotments.
Cost: Zone style 1,200 calorie/day with 3 meals and 2 snacks: $27/day. Average lunch: $8.50; average chicken dinner: $10.50