Welcome to the second in my series about healthier ways to outsource your cooking in Calgary. As I said in the first review, about Our Daily Brett, it’s not that I’m encouraging it, but I’d like to share better options for when cooking just isn’t going to happen. Is Fit Kitchen one of them? Maybe, if:
- you’re feeding just yourself or one more person
- you don’t and won’t cook much of the time
- your health is a top priority and
- you can afford to pay a little extra.
You also might want to consider this if you feel you need help with portion control and weight loss. More on that below. Fit Kitchen might not be for you if you’re feeding a family, you’re on a budget, or you just eat out occasionally.
What Makes Fit Kitchen Different?
Fit Kitchen offers portion-controlled grab-and-go food, so healthy that they’re willing to put nutrition labels on everything. They started in McKenzie Town Centre in January 2015, and they’ve just opened a second location at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. It’s an offshoot of The Main Dish, which offers a “Gourmet Take Away” or dine-in alternative to cooking, in Bridgeland and the Calgary Farmers’ Market.
Main Dish food is beautiful, with loads of veggies, as well as whole grains, legumes, lean meat and fish. Fit Kitchen adds portion control and comes labelled with nutrition information, which is unheard of for freshly made real food.
The entrees are categorized as either Performance or Lean and as Small or Large. The system can be a bit confusing, but it can help you get a general idea of how much food you’ll get, and whether it’s a little lighter or heavier on the carbs.
“planned with men in mind”
“planned with women in mind”
“for those who lead an active lifestyle” with “a protein, complex carb, and veg”
|400-720 calories||270-550 calories|
“for those looking to lose weight” with “medium protein, high veg, lower carb”
|270-690 calories||150-460 calories|
Each category includes quite a range of actual calorie levels, so just use them as a general guide.
Is The Food Healthy?
Yes! First, I can’t overstate the significance of excessive portions in restaurant and takeout food. Eat it often enough, and you’re almost guaranteed to gain weight. Consider a few examples:
- The Chicken Enchiladas at Moxie’s are 920 calories, compared to 360 for the small “Killer Turkey Enchiladas” at Fit Kitchen.
- The Portobello Mushroom Chicken from Milestones is 1490 calories, dwarfing even the large, 590-calorie Ninja Chicken Stir Fry at Fit Kitchen.
- Even a nutritional home-run like the Metaboost Wrap at Freshii (field greens and spinach, kale, mangos, carrots, edamame, almonds, goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette) can be more calories than you bargain for (850). The largest wrap at Fit Kitchen is 720 calories, and you’d know if you were getting that much, because it’s labelled.
Keep in mind that some Fit Kitchen meals, on their own, might not provide enough calories for you, leaving you more likely to overeat later. Aim for about 400-600 calories at each meal.** If you choose a smaller entree than that, pair it with an orange or a carton of milk (but pass on the fancy juices).
**(Want a better estimate of how many calories you need? Try the Mayo Clinic’s Calorie Calculator. Subtract about 500 if you’re trying to lose weight, but don’t go below 1200. Aim to divide your calories about evenly over the course of the day, between meals and snacks.)
Aside from portion size, I’m always pleasantly surprised to see wholesome ingredients on menus: Copious vegetables (or fruit in the steel-cut oats), whole grains (such as quinoa, whole-wheat tortillas, or black rice), fresh vs. processed meats, and even legumes, such as black and garbanzo beans. The ingredient lists are short and sweet.
I was concerned about sodium, but I could only find one item over 700mg (Hypertension Canada recommends no more than 2000mg a day). The tasty “Healthy Spag & Balls,” for example, with 680 calories (for the large), contains only 340mg. Compare that to The Olive Garden‘s spaghetti with marinara sauce and meatballs, with 1200 calories and 1760mg of sodium! That’s about 90% of what you should have in an entire day! (Typical of restaurant food.) I did find one wrap with over 1300mg, so as always, read the label.
One concern I have is the dearth of vegetarian options, but they promise that’s coming. Meanwhile, The Main Dish offers many vegetarian choices, some of which are stocked at the McKenzie Towne Fit Kitchen.
Also, although they say 95% of the items are gluten-free, they won’t rule out the risk of cross-contamination, which would be a concern for those diagnosed with celiac disease.
Nonetheless, overall, you’d be hard-pressed to find healthier grab-and-go food.
But Does It Taste Good?
I would really, really like to give Fit Kitchen a higher rating here, but unfortunately, my experience was hit and miss. We tasted:
- Oats of Steel (steel cut oats, hemp and flax seeds, coconut, almonds, whey protein, blueberries): Thumbs up. Of course, I love oats.
- Healthy Spag & Balls (gluten free pasta with turkey beef meatballs and “our clean” tomato sauce): Also fantastic. Both the sauce and the balls had a rich flavour, although I’m not a fan of the short little spaghetti pieces.
- Power Prawn Curry (prawns, coconut curry sauce, kale, broccoli, carrots, peppers, and forbidden rice): Curry flavour was much too strong for me.
- Ninja Chicken Stir Fry (sliced chicken breast, kale, broccoli, peppers, carrots, and forbidden rice, in stir-fry sauce): We found the sauce way too thick and salty.
- Cowboy White Chili (ground turkey, garbanzo beans, salsa verde, peppers, corn, and celery): Sadly, we didn’t like this much either, and we’re usually chili lovers.
I think in taking out the salt, they’ve cranked up the spices, which should work, but it was too much, at least for us. I stumbled on a review by fellow dietitian Andrea Hardy, and she loved the food, so it might be worth a try to see what you think.
For most people, the barrier with Fit Kitchen will be the price of the food. For each small, portion-controlled meal, you’ll pay $10 to $15. Dinner for my family of four was $48, including two kids’ meals. Unfortunately, locally-sourced, freshly-made real food is not cheap. Like Our Daily Brett, it’s comparable to the price of a restaurant meal, except that here you’re getting so much less food. However, when you consider the impact on your health, maybe that bargain super-sized food isn’t such a great deal anyhow.
You might be intrigued by Fit Kitchen’s offer to provide all of your food (three meals and two snacks) for 6 or 18 days. They promise a lot: “increase energy, maximize workout results, lose inches/pounds, improve metabolism, gain muscle mass, and save time.”
The meal plans were developed with the assistance of a dietitian, and cost $38-$50/day, or $1140-$1500/month, depending on which plan you go with. Think of it as a gourmet, fresh-food Jenny Craig.
Of all of the proposed benefits, aside from obviously saving time, you’re most likely to experience weight loss, at least in the short run. Studies show that meal replacement programs like this are as or more effective than other dietary approaches, but most don’t follow participants out longer than 6-12 months. (Here’s an example.)
Six or 18-day plans might look like a great way to jump-start weight loss and healthier eating, but be warned: Whatever you do to lose weight, you have to keep doing to maintain your new weight. Will you eat only Fit Kitchen forever? No. And when you stop, unless you find another way to maintain that reduced calorie level, you’ll regain the weight. In the long run, the most effective weight management approach is one you can sustain, for life.
If you do want to try the meal plans, consider working with a dietitian to ensure you’re aiming for the right calorie level, and to help you learn to eat well when you eventually transition off of them.
The Bottom Line
If you need a quick bite in a pinch, both Fit Kitchen and The Main Dish are healthy choices, with Fit Kitchen offering the additional advantage of portion control and nutrition information. If you outsource the cooking often enough, this can make a real difference to your long-term health. Whether you can afford it, or will like it, that’s up to you.
Have you tried Fit Kitchen? If so, let me know! I’d love to hear what you think. And if you’d like me to review another option for outsourcing your cooking in Calgary, let me know! Comments here.