Sara Ben-Ami’s prescription for eating well? A diet low in sodium and fat, rich in lean protein and complex carbohydrates and a healthy dose of common sense.
Ben-Ami opened Fit2Eat in December 2010 to give Madison a place for healthy take-out. The menu changes weekly and features seasonal flavors—think warmly spiced Indonesian peanut chicken, salmon with vinegary lentils or savory mushroom barley soup.
Essentially, Ben-Ami preps cuisine that’s great for a light lunch or a convenient quick stop to pick up a family dinner—simply call ahead and she’ll pack it in compostable containers and have it ready when you arrive. An entree, vegetable and whole grain side is the same price as a giant burrito with all the fixin’s—but whereas the burrito clocks in at more than 1,200 calories, Ben-Ami’s meals are around 500 calories.
Ben-Ami launched Fit2Eat after seeking her own healthy path. A desire to shed unwanted weight led her to a boot camp fitness class. Starting an exercise program is challenging enough, but she discovered eating right is “beyond difficult for most people, and this is what slows most people down.”
Ask Ben-Ami about current dieting trends, like Paleo eating, and she’ll give you a quiet eye roll. She knows there is “no quick and easy fix—the best strategy is a diet that is balanced and sensible.” Especially when feeding children. “When it comes to kids and food, the future is now,” she says. Their daily diet informs how their bones, brains and muscles develop.
What does she say about the latest research that saturated fats aren’t killing us? “Just because butter isn’t going to kill you doesn’t mean you should slather it on everything,” says Ben-Ami. Nothing should be eaten in excess, whether it is bacon or kale.“People tend to go overboard.”
In keeping with her philosophy of moderation, Fit2Eat does offer dessert. Treats are jam-packed with whole grain and are appropriately portioned—you won’t find muffins the size of a pro wrestler’s fist. And when dessert is the right size, so is the price—muffins are only 85 cents! Despite the whole grain profile, the brownies are fudgy and the cookies sweet.
In addition to the restaurant’s modest—but satisfying—dessert options, Ben-Ami bakes challah every Friday. A bakery formerly housed in Ben-Ami’s building made loaves for area residents, and, with the bread oven still at the ready, Ben-Ami happily continues the tradition.
This golden braid of egg-rich bread is enjoyed as part of the Jewish Sabbath meal. While the recipe doesn’t fit in with the low-sodium, whole-grain profile of Ben-Ami’s other offerings, she says items like this can be enjoyed as part of an overall healthy diet. Says Ben-Ami, “It’s all about balance.”
– Anna Thomas Bates