Healthy Options, One Dish at a Time

Clean eating may have been the most buzz-worthy phrase for 2016 in foodie circles. Most thought the phrase’s meaning to be a fad or a diet that can only really be practiced by health nuts who zealously post pictures on social media of their perfectly garnished meals. But maybe it’s really not such an intimidating state of being. Ideally, it’s something anyone can practice without special skills (or Instagram-worthy photos), only with a little knowledge.

Clean eating is basically just eating well, eating more of the healthiest options in each food group and less of the not-so-healthy ones. Cleaning up a diet with nourishing, whole foods will boost one’s health, resulting in more energy and a higher resistance to disease. And in Chattanooga, clean eating doesn’t even require grocery shopping. Here are a few options that make clean eating more convenient to the public than any fast food drive-thru.

The Weekly Fig: For those who enjoy cooking
The Weekly Fig [ℹ️ City Guide] began with a few friends who went from grower to grower, visited farmers markets and investigated each not-so-convenient step to gather the community’s best foods for their own pantry. They were successful, but the process was never easy, until they created The Weekly Fig.

“It’s our desire to feed our families with healthy, whole foods, and with so many resources here in Chattanooga, we just wanted to find a way to share that with the community,” says Michele Reneau, The Weekly Fig Co-Founder.

img_6411So, they created The Weekly Fig. Partnering with local Chattanooga area farmers, the company provides its members with delicious, nutrient-dense foods, delivered right to their doorstep. During the local growing season each week, members receive a veggie bag filled with a seasonal variety of produce picked at peak ripeness, plus other foods—meats, dairy and breads which can also be added via The Weekly Fig’s online market.

“The first hurdle for folks is trying to understand what eating clean means and where to get it,” Reneau says. “So we created The Weekly Fig in an attempt to source the foods ourselves—we do all of the vetting. The second reason we created The Weekly Fig is to reduce the hurdle of inconvenience, and so we provide home delivery.”

Clean eating does not necessarily have to be organic, but for The Weekly Fig members, all produce delivered is organic—no chemicals, unnatural environments for the animals and little to no processing. These are factors that will certainly enhance clean eating efforts.

“We believe that organic or clean eating will really help eliminate epidemic health issues,” Reneau says. “When taking into account the cost of eating organic, the savings on future health issues should be considered as well. If we can spend the money up front now, and learn some minor skills to cook healthy foods at home and eat them in the most natural form, the long term benefits will be realized.”

Energizing the local agriculture economy to boot, The Weekly Fig purchases between 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of produce each week. During the first three quarters of 2016, local farmers were paid over $120,000 for their goods. According to an earlier study conducted by local non-profit Gaining Ground, if everyone in Chattanooga spent five percent of their food budget on local food, the local economy would increase by $100 million.

dsc04986Members of The Weekly Fig can add fresh baked breads, savory meats or crisp, ripe fruits and vegetables to their order. To get started, customers pay a $35 membership fee, choose the size of their weekly box (typically based on the number of people in a household), and then explore the market from the comfort of their own home.

Vibrant Meals: For those who prefer someone else to do the cooking.
When Romana De Angelis was competing as an All-American track hurdler in Southern California, she began to realize that nutrition truly had an impact on her performance. She leaped into clean eating wholeheartedly and began pinpointing meals that truly gave her an edge on the track. She then went on to body building, dropping her body fat down to eight percent, all while continuing to master her nutrition. Several UFC (Ultimate Fighters Championship) fighters, who trained in the same gym as Romana, noticed her body composition success and connected that, not only to her gym efforts, but to her Instagram posting which showed off her delectable meals. They asked her for help with their own nutrition plan. De Angelis then realized she could not only help herself and her gym mates, but an entire community.

“I decided to take a risk and provide my meal prep recipes that helped me through my journey of fitness and health. I made the move to Chattanooga, where I knew it wasn’t saturated like California,” De Angelis says. “It’s been an exciting journey, and I continue to work on making Vibrant Meals delicious, effortless and easy for the Chattanooga community.”

For those who have the desire to eat healthy, but not the time or interest to research, shop and cook, Vibrant Meals [ℹ️ City Guide] may be a solution. There are two options for ordering: Meals-To-Go gives customers an opportunity to pick and choose single meals to have delivered during the week. These take 48 hours to process and prepare. So, if a customer is craving the crowd favorite, spaghetti squash marinara, they can place an order on Monday to have it delivered to their work on Wednesday for lunch. The more popular option, however, is Vibrant Meal’s weekly meal plans.

“We have an option of five meals, (most often a customer gets lunches for the whole week), 10 meals for lunch and dinner (Monday through Friday), and lastly our 14-meal lunch and dinner plan for Monday through Sunday,” De Angelis says. “We deliver twice a week for the meal plans to keep the food fresh.”

sprout-boxMeals include gourmet options like chicken pesto with cherry tomatoes and barley, beef and kale stir-fry with cauliflower rice and Chinese chicken salad. De Angelis tops each dish with “a touch of love” so that the meal is not only delectable, but also presentable. All meals are portioned in accordance with the customer’s goals, body type and lifestyle.

Although De Angelis doesn’t currently offer breakfast and snack options, she suggests filling the gaps with items like fruit, nuts, carrots and hummus, peanut butter, cucumbers soaked in water (aids appetite control), tea and water.

“People should understand what our food products contain, including the chemicals that we’re putting in our body from processed foods,” De Angelis says. “It’s a balance that will benefit not only your physical shape, but the mind as well! Look to the next day, and say ‘I have the choice.’ Nourishing the body is how we must think. Eat to live instead of live to eat; it’s a balance of both enjoyment and nutrition.”

Story by Sarah Turner
Photography courtesy of Vibrant Meals

This story was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of the Chattanooga Magazine

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