There are lots of things to love about being a single millennial adult, but cooking for one is not among them.
I enjoy cooking, but I don't enjoy eating the same thing many days in a row. After months of being part of the Sad Desk Lunch Club, not to mention the Where Did My Money Go support group, I had to find food that was taste- and cost-effective. That's where Fitlife Foods comes in.
Fitlife Foods, a local chain that began in Tampa in 2011, now has 11 locations, including Miami and Orlando. Fitlife carries about 60 different fresh, colorful, heat-and-eat meals. Packed with familiar ingredients and labeled with nutrition facts, each tray, priced from $6 to $12, is perfect for a quick meal. They're now my go-to desk lunches on days I can't bear to eat leftovers or frozen bricks of sadness.
Every Sunday afternoon, I walk into Fitlife Foods on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg — yes, the one where you have to walk past a Yogurtology — and stock up for the week. The brightly colored place is filled with inspirational quotes and a delightful staff clad in the trendiest ath-leisure outfits and pleasant attitudes. I want to live this life.
I have become a regular walk-in who picks up five meals a week because I'm a busy, working millennial who values a reasonably priced balanced diet.
I'm not there to lose weight, but the meals provide an easy way to track calories. Fitlife Foods has a free nutrition program where you can meal-plan and track weight loss with a coach. And each dish is easily found on meal-tracking apps like Lose It! and MyFitnessPal, so you can clock them in. Lots of options are low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian.
You can order online, but I like to scan the well-stocked fridges in person for my staples. Each week, they feature a new menu item to try. I absolutely loved the Chicken Tikka Masala last month. After two months of regular visits, I've got about 10 or 15 trays I rotate on a weekly menu. Here's a sampling of my favorites:
They say you can't forget your first love: The Shrimp Tortilla Salad was my first bite into this "fit life." The shrimp is fresh and pairs well with the deliciously tangy yogurt ranch avocado dressing. (This Midwestern girl loves her ranch.) It comes in one size for $9.95 and is 350 calories.
I love Fitlife's Mexican options, and my favorite is the Chicken Enchilada Bake, which reminds me of Mom's homemade casseroles. Corn tortillas are stuffed with chicken, corn, peppers and onions and topped with a spicy enchilada sauce and so much gooey cheese. It all sits on top of a bed of greens, so Mom would be proud. You can get this loaded meal in three different sizes, but I'm good with the 380-calorie medium tray for $8.95.
I can't go a week without pasta, so the Turkey Bolognese is always in my Vera Bradley lunch box. The meat sauce is jazzed up with Gardein veggie crumbles, ground flaxseed, tomatoes and spices and completely covers a fiber-rich spaghetti. I was pleasantly surprised to see it's also sprinkled with a satisfying amount of Parmesan. Get the large size for $8.95; it's quite the deal for 40 grams of protein and 600 calories.
For fewer calories and the same generous amount of protein, I also love the medium-sized Andy's Campfire Chili ($8.95). It's packed with flavorful meat that's cooked with coffee and lentils and comes with quinoa and veggies.
I pair each lunch with fresh fruit and lots of water. The best part is I'm no longer starving by 4 p.m., frantically in search of snacks around the office. Now I'm spending my time and money wisely by limiting my processed food habits in favor of fresh prepackaged meals.