Houston has spent decades and lifetimes earning its title as one of America's fattest cities. Turns out, just like our mothers told us, all those loaded burritos, bacon double cheeseburgers, and sides of beef really do stick to our ribs. The title is a backhanded distinction, though -- one we are not proud of. A substantial subset of Houstonians might joke about it outwardly, but we know they're crying inside.
In light of this label, several healthy take-away places have popped up like mushrooms to help you tackle the calorie beast. They offer pre-portioned meals and snacks, and everything comes with a side of encouragement. They're a nice-to-have offering for anyone who lacks the time to cook, or who struggles with the desire to add extra butter, salt, and cheese. There are nearly a dozen of these healthy take-away joints out there, but our two favorites are nearly side-by-side on Shepherd at West Alabama: Smart Meals and My Fit Foods. But which should you choose?
Smart Meals has graced the Houston food scene for a shocking 16 years at its Fountain View headquarters, but recently it added a second (more prominent) location on Shepherd. This company is committed to healthy convenience along with total body health and wellness, as opposed to just weight loss. Smart Meals doesn't use chemicals of any kind; the foods are gloriously free of preservatives -- and the building, too, is chemical free. The bright, airy space was designed by an LEED-certified architect, and the staff maintains it with entirely chemical-free cleaners. All this means that the Smart Meals experience is wellness driven. It's pure, wholesome food for a pure, wholesome lifestyle. The outgoing staff is always ready with meal suggestions, wellness tips, and answers to all your questions.
We love the breakfast tacos, one the storefront's most popular offerings. They often sell out as morning commuters stop in on the way to work. We also enjoy the garlic-shrimp linguine and several of the lunch wraps. We kindly suggest you avoid the Chicken Parmesan; it may lack fat and preservatives, but it also lacks flavor. Pass on the waffle, too. Smart Meals dishes usually range from $5-$12, with a few jumping a bit higher.
My Fit Foods
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In contrast, My Fit Foods is more of a fitness or weight-loss program. It doesn't have to be, of course -- you're more than welcome to just purchase a take-away meal or two -- but they market their wares as a lifestyle. You'll get a discount if you order three full weeks of meals, plus fitness tips or even a customized program to meet your needs. That's right, there's a trainer on staff who can recommend exercise programs in addition to meals. With eight locations in Houston, My Fit Foods is the largest local player in healthy take-away.
The small storefront is packed with meals for the taking, labeled for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. There are men's and women's portion sizes. While the labeling system is more complex than necessary, the outgoing staff is incredibly helpful. We love the company's most popular dish, Lean Lemon Turkey: steamed rice topped with freshly ground turkey and two stalks of asparagus. We also enjoy the breakfast tacos, spicy migas, and green-chili-and-chicken quinoa. Another plus: My Fit Foods carries the Pat Greer raw and gluten-free meals, like the delicious Portobello pizza. Meals and snacks at My Fit Foods are pretty inexpensive, usually ranging from $3.50 to $9.00 (certain dishes, like salmon, are pricier).
Smart Meals and My Fit Foods both offer healthy alternatives in a town fanatical for Tex-Mex. Neither place will have you swearing off burgers, but the meals at My Fit Foods are hearty, reasonably priced, and generally tasty. We love the energetic staffers, who are a real testament to what these meals can do, and every time we go in, we're encouraged to make a complete lifestyle change. That feeling usually passes when we drive by Beck's Prime on the way home, so one of these days we'll ask about a side of willpower.