Sunday, January 21, 2018
Business

Fitlife Foods offers healthy options for time-starved shoppers at new Wesley Chapel location

WESLEY CHAPEL — David Osterweil is a husband and a dad, a CEO and a marathoner. That means he has felt like a lot of people do: too busy to prepare healthy meals.

But he has a solution: Fitlife Foods, which opened its first Pasco location this month.

The store is "for success-minded people who value their health, value their time and, most importantly, value great flavor," said Osterweil, 38, who founded Fitlife.

"My wife works full time. I work full time. We have two small children," he said. "You open up a (magazine) and you see this exotic (recipe) and think, 'Who has time to make this stuff?' "

So Osterweil decided to start a business that could make it for you. He would need a chef — somebody who could concoct dishes that taste good but are good for the body.

"We're not necessarily about tofu and sprouts," Osterweil said. "We're about enchiladas or chicken tacos or barbecue beef with mac and cheese."

He found a chef who could swing it: Andrew Ruga, who graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and served in the National Guard.

While on a tour in Iraq, where Ruga drove through fields filled with improvised explosive devices, he used his downtime to create a chicken salad recipe that he submitted to a contest sponsored by the cooking show Emeril Live. He won.

After Osterweil partnered with him, they opened the first Fitlife Foods in South Tampa in 2011. Now, the business has 11 locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, plus in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Plantation.

"When you walk into a Fitlife, you're going to see 60 different fresh, made-from-scratch, never-frozen meals," said Osterweil. "Grab one meal or get meals for the next four to six days, which is the shelf life of our food."

Each meal is intended to serve one person, and most come in small, medium and large portions. Most of them are gluten-free. Several are vegetarian or low-carb. They range in price from $5 to $13.

Customers can heat them in the store or in their own microwaves. The most popular options are the chicken enchilada and the miso salmon, which is served with quinoa, sugar snap peas, carrots and a miso glaze.

The store also sells breakfast options and snacks.

"We do original sauces, original spice blends," Osterweil said. "We're always trying to get the right amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat, to give people optimal energy."

The store also has a free program called Project U, in which participants meet one on one with a wellness coach who identifies their "baseline wellness digits," Osterweil said, such as "how many calories your body burns at rest each day" and your weight. The coach also helps customers develop a meal schedule.

The business is intended to cater to customers who are "time starved, or trying to achieve a fitness performance goal, or are just trying to get healthy," Osterweil said.

Pulling that off while you're busy is a challenge, he acknowledged.

But, he added, "we make it easy."

Fitlife Foods is at 1821 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Wesley Chapel. Hours are from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

For information, call (813) 365-3255 or visit eatfitlifefoods.com.

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