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Healthy Made Simple

(photo by Jana Graham Photography)

One man’s vision creates simple, affordable, healthy meals

by Christine Taylor

Getting a healthful dinner on the table each night is a challenge every family faces. Ideally, your kitchen is stocked with whole grains and legumes, ready-to-use vegetables, lean proteins, and delicious spice blends. And you have a mind full sensational nutritionally-balanced recipes that are ready in minutes. And you possess the culinary chops to bring it all together effortlessly. Most of us, however, do not dwell in this dinner wonderland.

Billings native and Red Lodge resident Keith Lauver founded The Healthy Pantry in June 2008, in order to bring quick, appealing, nutritious meals to people living in the real world. “The average family spends just 20 minutes making meals, down from over 2 hours in 1980,” informs Keith. “As a result, we’re often compromising both taste and nutrition with heat-n-serve or fast food options. Rather than expecting people to change their lifestyles, we’ve designed a line of products for busy people.”

Keith’s personal journey on the road to health fired his passion to establish The Healthy Pantry. His average American diet resulted in shocking results from a medical insurance exam at the age of 32. His elevated cholesterol, extremely high triglycerides, and 30 extra pounds led the insurance company to double his premium, based on the medical probability that he was twice as likely to die than the company’s average male customer of the same age.

As a new father, this frightening information propelled Keith into action. After receiving little help from a doctor from whom he sought advice, Keith spent the next several years educating himself on nutrition and cooking techniques. He discovered the positive impact that whole foods (especially high-fiber, low-sugar carbohydrates) had on his health and energy levels. After distributing the information, recipes and food to his friends, Keith decided to make a larger impact by teaming with former colleague and Culinary Institute of America graduate, chef Tony Sobiech, to found The Healthy Pantry.

The key to The Healthy Pantry’s fast but nutritionally-sound meals are their ZippyKits. Each meal kit contains a combination of spices, non-perishable whole food ingredients, and cooking instructions that allow the customer to get a healthful meal on the table with no chopping or measuring. “Our meals take less than 10 minutes of active time and most of them are on the table in 20-30 minutes,” says Keith. The Healthy Pantry considers using the ZippyKits “like having a team of top professional chefs and PhD nutritionists in your kitchen.”

Dinner kits range in price from $4.99 to $22.99, with each kit serving between 4 and 8 people. Customers can order items individually, in bulk (for a discount), or via a subscription program, through which members receive one month of meals for free annually.

Customers have to provide additional ingredients to complete most ZippyKits meals. For example, the Turkey Chili kit includes beans, spices, tomatoes, and cornbread mix. The customer must provide the lean ground turkey, a bottle of dark beer, and optional cashews. Some kits (like their best-selling Wild Salmon Patties) require just the addition of a couple of eggs, milk, oil or other kitchen staples. A few ZippyKits (such as Beans and Rice or the Pasta Mediterranean) can be considered complete, as the only ingredients not included are optional.

Even with the expense of additional ingredients, the cost compares favorably to dining out, fast food, and even to from-scratch meals. “On average, our meals cost less than $3 per serving,” Keith says. “This is less than fast food and comparable to cooking at home, especially when you consider the frequent need to purchase specialty ingredients you seldom use.”

Customers will have to exercise good judgment in purchasing high-quality supplemental ingredients, and should note that nutritional information provided is typically for the healthiest protein option available (such as skinless chicken breasts or lean ground turkey).

Each kit’s ingredients are spelled out on The Healthy Pantry web site (www.thehealthypantry.com), so customers can be aware of any potential allergens or dislikes before purchasing the meal. In addition, the web site includes full nutritional information, required additional ingredients, serving size, hands-on prep time, complete cooking time, and other customers’ reviews. Individuals with special dietary needs can view all of the available kits within a certain category, such as Vegetarian, No Dairy, or No/Low Gluten.

Healthy Pantry options are not limited to dinner; they also currently offer 6 breakfast kits and 11 snacks, such as their popular whole-grain oatmeal raisin cookies. ZippyKits can be delivered anywhere in the United States from Red Lodge, with an estimated 3-8 day delivery time. Billings residents can also purchase the kits at Good Earth Market. SFM

Christine Taylor is a freelance writer, mother of 2, and founder of 21 Months Magazine, an online resource for new parents (www.21months.com).

*You can purchase The Healty Pantry products at Good Earth Market in Billings , The Real Food Store in Helena or online at www.thehealthypantry.com.