Healthy eating can be challenging in today's hectic world. Weeknight dinners are tough enough, but in addition, unless one is supremely organized, trying to pack lunches up to five times a week can often result in substandard fare.
Grabbing takeout is expensive and, unless you choose wisely, often nutritionally deficient. Help is on the way, thanks to a number of Ottawa food purveyors who now offer scrumptious, healthy meals for busy people on the go.
78 Hinton Avenue North. 613.558.7569 or www.credible-edibles.ca
It's one of Ottawa's best sources for nutritious, delicious and environmentally conscious lunches, with an emphasis on wholesome ingredients, locally-sourced whenever possible. Owner Judi Varga-Toth, a mother of five, understands the challenges that busy families face. She describes Credible Edibles as "slow food for fast lives."
Their menus, which change monthly, include a wide variety of tasty fare including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options all made with minimally-processed foods. One day you might enjoy a hearty bowl of vegetable-laden gazpacho; the next their healthy version of the muffuletta, a favourite sandwich from New Orleans.
In addition to running a busy café and takeout shop near the Parkdale Market, Credible Edibles delivers meals that range from about $12 to $14 per person for a four-course lunch. As a "green" caterer, meals are packaged either in compostable corn-based containers or nifty Ontario-made bento style lunchboxes, which are also for sale at the café along with other eco-friendly dining accessories. The services are not limited to the workplace - they also deliver crisp, colourful kid-friendly lunches to schools and daycares.
Credible Edibles offers a lunch and learn option as well, delivering both food and food for thought to your workplace. The Power Lunch session explains how a healthy diet supports optimum physical and mental health; while the Lean and Green lunch promotes foods that are best for good health and for the environment.
"The comment we hear most often about our food is that it tastes so fresh, unusual and delicious," says Judi. "The fact that we offer vegan and gluten-free options at no extra charge is also appreciated by many of our clients."
The Red Apron
571 Gladstone Avenue. 613.321.0417 ?or www.redapron.ca
There really is no need to eat boring sandwiches or overpriced takeout, thanks to the Red Apron. For five years, co-owners and chefs Jo-Ann Laverty and Jennifer Heagle have been dishing up the gifts of time and tasty eating with their pre-made meals. "When many people cook for themselves, they tend to make things that can be prepared and served within half an hour," says Jennifer. "Our menus include a lot of dishes that take a longer time to prepare. We love slowly-braised meats, for example, because they are so flavourful."
The Red Apron is known for what Jennifer proudly describes as sophisticated comfort food. "Beyond being visually appealing and scrumptious, all of our dishes are prepared with the freshest ingredients, many of which are local and organic," she adds.
While dishes come in a variety of sizes, their Savvy Single Servings are ideally suited to lunches and are sold in packages of ten for just $85. They come in oven and microwave-safe containers, which can be picked up or delivered to a home or office. Among the perennial favourites are generous portions of Fitzroy Beef Shepherd's Pie made with hormone and antibiotic-free roast beef; Carolina-style pulled Berkshire Pork with creamy organic macaroni and cheese; a Thai-style lemon curry chicken with organic basmati rice and vegetarian options like organic pasta primavera.
"Both our single servings and larger portions offer nutritious meals that are a guilt-free alternative to fast food," notes Jennifer. "Businesses purchase them for their staff during crunch times and they are also very popular as gifts for new moms, convalescents and seniors. Customers frequently tell us they have grown to love new foods they otherwise would never have tried and that our meals make healthy eating so easy."
613.304.2191 or order at www.scratchkitchen.com
The essence of healthy eating is dishes prepared using wholesome ingredients, according to Chef Sean Murphy who is delighted to be making what he describes as, "home-style convenience foods, delivered to your door."
"We saw a real need for a nutritious alternative for those who don't have the time or inclination to cook every day," explains Sean.
"Our meals are similar to what grandma would have made, in that they are have no additives and are quickly frozen to ensure they retain their freshness and flavour."
Scratch Kitchen is also an affordable alternative to takeout, costing as little as $6 for a single serving or $16 for three portions. The menu includes side dishes, stews, pastas, shepherd's pies, braised dishes and curries. "Our Madras and Singapore curries are extremely popular but our butter chicken is our best seller by far, with the Guinness beef and mushroom ragout a close second," says Sean.
While there are several kid-friendly dishes on the menu, including pastas and panko-crumbed chicken fingers, Sean says that, given the chance, children end up enjoying foods from different cultures, just as many adults are willing to try new foods when they don't have to prepare them.
Most items come in single portions and Scratch Kitchen also offers up a special package of 13 different microwave/oven-friendly one-serving dishes for just $75. "Many of our clients are busy people who are happy to have a quick, natural meal in a reasonable sized portion with a good balance of carbs and proteins. Families also love to buy these for older relatives because they are delivered, easy to reheat and low in sodium," adds Sean, who plans to continue refreshing the Scratch Kitchen menu as he experiments with new techniques and ingredients.
The Magic Fridge
613.837.8476 or www.themagicfridge.com
Imagine opening your refrigerator and always finding a healthy, home-cooked meal just waiting to be served up or packed in a lunch bag. This deliciously simple concept is the premise behind the personal chef service that Julie Broczkowski and her team have been operating for nine years.
"Our typical clientele have lots of other things they'd rather be doing than grocery shopping and cooking," explains Julie. "Some only want a few lunches or dinners per week, so we go to their home once a month and make them eight to ten meals which are packed in reusable containers to tuck into the fridge or freezer. For those wishing more meals, we visit once every week or two to prepare a variety of wholesome, home-cooked dishes."
The Magic Fridge's talented chefs have a number of starter menus for those who aren't sure what they want. Those seeking low carbohydrate, lower-fat dishes might choose from lentil soup, spinach and sweet potato salad or beef-broccoli stir fry. Vegetarian suggestions include pineapple curry and quinoa pilaf. Kid-friendly favourites include chicken stew and lasagna.
One of the biggest elements of the Magic Fridge's appeal is that it is fully customizable, using your recipes if desired. "Nothing is mass-produced," notes Julie. "We have a free consultation with you first to plan your menu and can easily adapt recipes for food allergies or a specific eating regime, if you are working with a trainer or nutritionist." Clients simply pay for the chef's time plus the cost of groceries; most adult servings for a complete meal range from $9 - $13.