There’s always an excuse for choosing unhealthy meals over healthy ones. What’s yours?
Is it because you don’t have time to cook or because it’s too much work or simply because it’s much easier to hit the drive-thru or stroll through the prepackaged frozen food aisle in the grocery store?
With family, work, school and social life, grocery shopping and cooking for a day or days ahead doesn’t always fit in a 24-hour day. It’s easy to blame everything around you as the reason why your meals are rather on the unhealthy side.
Not to mention, there aren’t many, if any at all, healthy options on campus for students to choose from. However, there is a growing alternative: home-delivered, pre-packaged meals that help you eat healthy meals all day long for days and weeks out.
Dayana Espaillat, the co-owner of The Lean Box in North Fort Myers, said she’s noticed that people in Southwest Florida are starting to care more about their health and want to live a healthier lifestyle.
“I believe that people are becoming more health conscious, simply because they are becoming more educated,” Espaillat said. “There is an epidemic with obesity leading to diabetes, heart disease, and proper nutrition is key in avoiding many health issues.”
Both in Lee and Collier County, people are starting to pay attention to a healthy option that won’t require them to reach deep in their pockets, yet they’ll have a nutritious, freshly prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner without having to deal with a messy kitchen.
Healthy food delivery companies take the weight off of their clients’ shoulders and do the shopping, cooking and food prepping for them — whether clients are everyday people who want to make healthy choices or athletes or diabetics who need to stick to a strict diet.
Each meal is freshly made and measured out — protein, fat and carbohydrates are calculated carefully — then delivered to clients’ front doors or to designated pick-up locations.
Florida SouthWestern College, for example, is one of The Lean Box locations, which provides students some healthier options to choose from.
Christopher DeLuca, the owner of Dish Delivery, started his business in Naples three years ago. He said it was by accident when his friend asked him to prepare his meals for him due to the lack of time he had.
“It quickly caught on,” DeLuca said. “I think people are interested in both eating healthier, and there’s the time and convenience factor. If I can save people both time and money and provide a healthy, delicious product, I believe it is a win-win.”
The Lean Box in North Fort Myers began the trend six years ago. Then, three years later, Dish Delivery and Fresh Fit Naples joined the list of healthy food delivery businesses. Each has seen significant growth in business, especially in the past couple years.
“We have grown over 300 percent since our inception three years ago,” said Chad O’Connor, the owner of Fresh Fit Naples. “Managing our rapid growth has been one of the biggest challenges that we have dealt with.”
We all know how much it takes to cook for even one day; grocery shopping, preparing, measuring out ingredients and actually cooking can take up to two to three hours all together. Now, imagine these companies are cooking for close to a hundred people and not for one day but for four to five days at a time.
Leo Espaillat, the co-owner and chef at The Lean Box, said they cook about three times a week when they get fresh produce, and each cooking day is about 10 to 12 hours of non-stop cooking, stirring and flipping the meat.
Leo Espaillat has been in the health industry for the majority of his life, starting with bodybuilding then maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He said The Lean Box switches up meals on a regular basis, every three to four weeks, in order for customers not to get bored of the meals. There is a large variety of items on the menu from chicken, beef, fish and pork to wraps and vegan options. And, they offer personalized meals as well.
Customers can order meals for days and weeks ahead, which is convenient but requires them to plan ahead; for some folks, that might not be too easy. Many people don’t know what they’ll be doing days and weeks in advance, so they would have to make smart calculations to make sure the meals they order don’t end up going to waste sitting in the fridge.
Because all meals are freshly prepared and not frozen, their shelf life is about four to five days, depending on whether it’s chicken, beef, vegetables, rice or anything else.
Dayana Espaillat said that planning is one of the biggest challenges she’s seen with clients they deliver to. She said the average client would stay on about 60 to 90 days. Then, they fall out. However, she also has clients on for two to three years because they get used to the convenience of healthy food delivery. Over the course of the past six years, since The Lean Box opened, she has seen a growing trend with people relying on their delivery.
As for how far each company delivers to: The Lean Box delivers as far north as Punta Gorda and as far south as Naples; Dish Delivery targets Lee and Collier County; and Fresh Fit Naples only delivers in Naples. Also, each has several pick up locations throughout the two county areas.
The reason why it is so hard for us to make healthy choices ranges across the board, and owners of all three companies point out an important factor.
O’Connor said it’s the marketing by large conglomerate food companies that’s probably the biggest culprit.
“They spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince people that they need their products and, in many cases, succeed,” O’Connor said.
Dayana Espaillat said it’s a combination of things, such as “hectic schedules, very little to no time to prep and cook meals, financial and fad diets.”
DeLuca said it’s 50 percent willpower and 50 percent time management.
“People are busy with jobs, families, etcetera,” DeLuca said.