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Adam Hegsted’s Vital Fit Meals offers convenient, low-calorie, chef-driven dishes

September 18, 2018

Adam Hegsted is hoping healthful eating never tasted so good.

He and his team of Vital Fit chefs have been perfecting recipes for a year, selling pre-made meals at Presizion Nutrition in North Spokane while fine-tuning ingredients and amounts. They worked backward, starting with “delicious food” and figuring out how to maintain or enhance flavor while keeping calorie and fat counts down.

“Instead of making healthy food, we looked at a way to make delicious food healthy,” Hegsted said. His aim is to deliver the same kind of restaurant-quality fare he serves in his local eateries – items such as breakfast taco bowls, barbecue meatballs, beef kalbi skewers, shrimp ceviche, Thai lettuce wraps, Thai peanut chicken and Thai beef salad.

“It’s is for people who work in an office or don’t have time to make food,” Hegsted said. “You just grab it and microwave it.”

Hegsted’s Vital Fit Meals are now available for online ordering and pick up or delivery within the greater Spokane area. The goal is to grow the scratch-made meal service to include additional pick-up sites, including in surrounding cities and towns. The mission is to offer healthful and convenient meals at approachable price points without sacrificing freshness or flavor.

And the idea started with Presizion Nutrition.

“They wanted something to sell in their store,” Hegsted said. “They wanted something to sell with their supplements. And it was sort of in the back of my mind that we could do this. I really liked the idea of it. I really liked the idea of doing healthy food.”

Hegsted, who has a catering company as well as eight restaurants throughout the area, said he was in a good position to add a meal service to his repertoire.

“It was easy for us,” he said. “We’re doing the same thing that we do in our restaurants, but putting it into a different format.”

Hegsted owns or is a partner in IncrediBurger and Eggs, Wandering Table, Yards Bruncheon and Gilded Unicorn in Spokane; Farmhouse Kitchen and Silo Bar in Ponderay; Eat Good Cafe in Liberty Lake; Republic Kitchen and Taphouse in Post Falls; and Honey Eatery and Social Club in Coeur d’Alene.

Vital Fit Meals isn’t a meal kit service. Meals cost from $4.99 to $11.99 and come fully prepared. Some just need to be heated up. No chopping nor assembly is required. Calorie counts run from about 200 calories to just over 500 calories. And most dishes can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for later use.

But, Hegsted noted, options are fairly limited to start. So far, there are four breakfast items, seven lunch and dinner entrees, six lunch and dinner sides, and four salads.

“The more orders we have the more diverse we can make the menu,” said Hegsted, who already wants to expand the menu, adding items such as paleo doughnuts, more gluten-free items, additional sides and entrees, and – eventually – protein bars, gelato and ice cream.

Meantime, look for a breakfast frittata, egg sandwich, fruit parfait, a chimichurri steak bowl, coconut curry shrimp bowl, Buffalo grilled chicken with blue cheese, fried cauliflower rice, barbecue pork, a Greek plate, a meat-and-cheese plate and salads such as strawberry-cucumber, power kale and power quinoa.

“A lot of our stuff is geared toward people who go to the gym, who are trying to lose weight and gain muscle,” Hegsted said, noting that the trouble with some health foods is they “are a little plain. We wanted to create something that is – first off – delicious. We ask, ‘How do we make it delicious, No. 1?’ And then we go back and re-engineer. We want to make the food quality as good as you can get in the restaurants. We’re not going to do it unless we can do it well.”

It took about a year to develop the menu. “There was no reason to rush it,” Hegsted said. “We wanted to work out the food and make sure it was good quality.”

He and his team of chefs sampled dishes from other ready-made meal services during the research-and-development phase.

“We tried three of them. It was a lot of R and D,” Hegsted said. “We wanted to make something that was a little different and a little better.”

He’s personally tried all of his Vital Fit meals. Not only that, but he’s tried them at different stages – just made, microwaved, reheated a day or two or week later.

“It’s got to be good,” he said, adding the recipes are “always getting tested.”

In fact, he said, he eats Vital Fit meals about two or three times per week when he’s working at Eat Good. He particularly likes the strawberry-cucumber salad, which sells for $6.50 and features mint, olive oil and lime along with the main ingredients. It has 231 calories, 15 grams of fat and zero cholesterol.

“If you want to live on 1,500 calories, which is what you try to live on when you’re trying to lose weight, (Vital Fit) is a pretty good option,” Hegsted said. “And it’s pretty tasty.”

The fried rice is $6 per serving and includes not only brown rice but quinoa and cauliflower. It’s 181 calories and just 1 gram of fat.

“But it tastes just like it would at a Chinese restaurant,” Hegsted said, noting Vital Fit is also “doing meatballs. They’re generally not good for you. It’s a ball of meat.”

He and his team added walnuts and quinoa to the ground beef mixture, using less red meat. At 519 calories, the barbecue meatballs are one of Vital Fit’s highest-calorie offerings.

Vital Fit egg dishes – such as the $9.99 frittata with kale, onions, peppers, roasted pork and 534 calories – mostly use egg whites. The ratio for the egg mixture, Hegsted said, is one egg to 10 whites.

Sour cream is nonfat. Salsa is made from scratch. Attention is paid to plating.

“It’s very similar to something you get in a restaurant, and it looks nice,” Hegsted said. “We actually plate them to make them look nice.”

Aaron Fish, chef de cuisine of Hegsted’s Eat Good Group of restaurants, helps oversee recipe development. Chef Shaun McDowell was recently hired to help with prep.

“We have trained chefs creating these foods,” Hegsted said. “It’s not just slapped together. We’re making all the food from scratch using as many local ingredients as possible. The quality of the food is good.”

Most of the ingredients come from Spokane’s LINC Foods, which sells locally grown grains, veggies, fruits, legumes, meat and eggs. Prep takes place in the kitchen at Hegsted’s Eat Good Cafe, where Vital Fit ready-made meals are available as a grab-and-go option.

At first, Hegsted said, customers were buying about 20 Vital Fit meals per week out of the grab-and-go case Presizion Nutrition. That was with little to no advertising.

Now that the website is up and running, he’s seeing about 150 orders per week. Orders are picking up as word of the service spreads. And about half of the orders are online orders, he said.

“We’ve been doing this for about a year now, but have been quiet about it until we got the kinks worked out and the food was delicious,” said Hegsted, who’s also working on other locations for his Incrediburger restaurant concept as well as a downtown kitchen and retail space for Doughlicious, his new bakery business.

“As we get more orders we’ll add more pick-up locations,” he said, and maybe even look into the possibility of making Vital Fit meals available in local grocery stores. Meantime, “we’ll see what sells.”

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