New Year’s resolutions take many forms, but a good number have to do with eating better and getting more exercise. Both goals can be pursued at health clubs with on-site cafes that serve food geared to fitness-conscious patrons.
At the sprawling, two-year-old Life Time Athletic club in Berkeley Heights, which includes a spa... a rock-climbing wall and an outdoor water park, “everything we put out meets our ‘healthy way of life’ standard,” said Brian Wilkes, 25, the department head of the Life Cafe, the restaurant at the front of the club... A dietitian at Life Time Fitness, the national chain, based in Minnesota, that owns the club, helped develop the menu for the cafe...The wood-and-earth-toned space has about a dozen granite-topped tables. Customers order at the counter, where the menu includes a hummus wrap with avocado, spinach and romaine lettuce on a whole-wheat tortilla ($6.59) and a tossed salad topped with grilled salmon drizzled with a rémoulade sauce ($8.29), for example, as well as quesadillas and pizzas.
All meals are “smart-sized,” Mr. Wilkes said, meaning they fall roughly in the 400- to 600-calorie range, and everything is available to go; there are also sandwiches and salads packaged for take-out. The menu also lists the carbohydrate, fat and fiber content of dishes, which are prepared in the open kitchen.
In Scotch Plains, the Muscle Maker Grill in the RWJ Rahway Fitness and Wellness Center turns out salads and snacks like edamame ($3.79), as well as more substantial fare like whole-wheat penne with reduced-fat vodka sauce and chicken ($9.99), turkey burger wraps ($7.99) and protein shakes and bars. Meals can be eaten at one of several tables in the cafe, which is tucked inside the entrance to the center and decorated in the chain’s signature red-and-black style; there are more than three dozen Muscle Maker Grill locations in the state. A pamphlet available at the counter lists information like which entrees are vegetarian, gluten-free or low in carbohydrates.
The 55,000-square-foot fitness club, affiliated with the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Rahway, has abundant cardio machines and an aquatic center; there are also rehabilitation services, including physical therapy.
“You get a lot of opportunity to introduce people to healthy eating,” said Patrick Nardone, 50, who opened this branch of the Muscle Maker Grill in 2009. “Most people come here to work out, but if you diet and eat properly, it helps with your goal, whatever that is.”
At the Café at the Atlantic Club in Manasquan, the menu is not entirely geared to the post-workout set.
“We went at one point to a very healthy menu, but we got some pushback from people who wanted their French fries,” said Jan Vasys, 52, the controller and head of the food and beverage department at the club.
Still, alongside the burgers and fries there are options like vegan hummus flatbread ($5.95) and seared tuna steak ($10.95), along with salads and freshly squeezed juices.
When the club, which sits on 48 acres and offers facilities including 18 all-weather tennis courts and a spa, opened in the late 1970s, the cafe was more like a snack bar, Ms. Vasys said. Now it is a full-service restaurant with modern décor next to the airy atrium on the ground level of the club and seating up to 120 people. It also serves beer and wine.
At the Healthy Choice Cafe at Can Do Fitness in Princeton, which opened for dining in late October, the owners, Michael Naidrich and Chris and Amy Woods, “wanted to strike a middle ground,” Mr. Naidrich said. Members of the club with no previous restaurant experience, they didn’t want to run a place that was “too fancy,” he said, and they didn’t want to focus on supplements and shakes, as some gym cafes do. Previous restaurants in the fitness center have included a high-end place and a Muscle Maker Grill location.
“Here’s what we stress: high quality and healthy,” Mr. Naidrich said on a recent day at the casual counter-service spot, which is near the club’s main desk, drawing a lot of foot traffic. Food can be taken to go (packaged options are available) or eaten at one of the tables and booths, which seat a total of 40; televisions overhead and WiFi provide entertainment.
The menu has options like spinach salad with turkey bacon and light honey mustard dressing ($8.50) and the cafe’s version of a sloppy Joe with turkey, low-fat Swiss cheese, coleslaw and homemade light Thousand Island dressing ($8), as well as breakfast sandwiches, soups, muffins and the like.
Mr. Naidrich said the owners were working with a nutritionist to make the menu compatible with the Weight Watchers system for calorie-conscious customers. They also hope to offer seminars on health-related topics.
“We’re trying to educate in a lifestyle we promote,” Mr. Naidrich said.
Article taken from The New York Times