On the Menu at Your Gym

Don’t sweat dinner while working out

October 18, 2011

A Paleo plate of meat and veggies.

When Andrew Foote makes the time to go to Trident CrossFit in Alexandria for workouts, he doesn’t have any time to make dinner. So he gets takeout — from Trident.

The 35-year-old relies on Catalyst Meals, a program that lets exercisers pick up ready-made dishes at gyms across the region. “I haven’t had a meal I didn’t like,” says Foote, who’s lost 15 pounds in the four months he’s used the service. Recognizing that nutrition is just as critical to a weight-loss plan as running and lifting weights, several local fitness centers are offering similar meal plans. Here’s a look at three.

Catalyst Meals

Pricing: 3 days/week: Lunch $35, Dinner $49, Both $79; 5 days/week: Lunch $55, Dinner $69, Both $119

Meal Deal: Catalyst specializes in the Paleolithic diet — “Paleo” for short — a regimen that approximates what our first ancestors ate. Advocates say the human body hasn’t evolved to digest most modern foods, so they shun grains, sugar, dairy, legumes and salt in favor of meals consisting of a large serving of meat or fish with a side of vegetables.

The diet is “very nontraditional,” admits Patrick Smith, who had wanted to hire a personal chef to prepare him meals and then realized it could be a bigger business targeting CrossFit gyms because of the growing interest in this style of eating among the CrossFit community. He was right. The meals can be picked up at 15 CrossFit gyms in the D.C. and Baltimore areas on Mondays and Thursdays.

Who’s It For: Given the substantial restrictions of the Paleo diet, Catalyst is best suited to those who already practice — or are interested in — the diet. Catalyst surveys reveal that 80 percent to 90 percent of their customers follow a strict Paleo diet.

Taste Test: No butter. No salt. But not bad! Carrot chips made with just olive oil taste surprisingly sweet. A mustard tartar sauce dresses up a fillet of white fish. Catalyst has developed an astounding 200 menu options, including lemon chicken with roasted beet salad, and fajita beef sofrito with sautéed onions and peppers.

Fuel

Pricing: Set meal: 3 meals/day (1,200 calories) $21; 3 meals/day (1,500 calories) $26; Customized: 2 meals/day $26; 3 meals/day $33


Egg whites and fruit can Fuel your morning.

Meal Deal: Personal trainer Ken Stewart, who works at the Regency Sport & Health Club in McLean, Va., is a competitive bodybuilder, so he has to be extremely strict with his diet. The expert in calorie counting decided to make the math easier for his clients by starting up Fuel, a service that delivers dishes right to their doorsteps each day.

The set menu provides for a daily allowance of 1,200 calories for women and 1,500 for men, starting with a large breakfast and tapering to a small dinner. (That’s because people take part in less physical activity at night, Stewart says.) Is your stomach still grumbling? Stewart also offers a customized plan so clients can tailor their own menu by dish, calories or nutrients.

Who’s It For: Fuel’s for both athletes and regular folks who want breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the added convenience of home delivery. Fuel primarily serves NoVa, but D.C. residents can get delivery for a fee. (Or you can order the same dishes at the Regency Sport & Health Club cafe.)

Taste Test: For breakfast, the Spartan egg-white omelet with spinach, feta cheese and olives is filling but not heavy. A lite dressing on the Caesar salmon wrap upped the flavor (without the calories). And the tilapia, mango salsa, asparagus and bok choy dinner finished off a perfectly satisfying day.

Meals on the Run

Pricing: 3 meals/week $85, 4 meals/week $110, 5 meals/week $135; One-time container fee $25

Meal Deal: Watching clients struggle with their menu-planning convinced the owners of Fitness on the Run, a boutique exercise studio in Alexandria, that they needed to expand into the food business. So they partnered with a chef to figure out exactly what to design for clients. “It has to be easy, it has to be convenient, and it has to be nutritious — those are the three criteria we have,” says co-owner Adrien Cotton.

And it’s a breeze for anyone to pre-order and then grab these meals. The reusable, microwave-safe containers each hold one protein and one vegetable (carbs and snacks can be purchased a la carte for $12 to $15) and come with easy reheating instructions.

Who’s It For: Customers range from 13 to 90 years old, but the majority are professional women looking for a quick dinner to eat at home.

Taste Test: Loads of garlic and herbs mean there’s no sacrificing flavor in these dishes, whether it’s filet mignon, grilled chicken or spicy lentils. One surprise hit on the menu: mashed cauliflower. It has the same texture as mashed potatoes — and might taste even better.

By Express contributor Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

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Dr. Andrea Bonior · October 18, 2011