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CJK Foods: "Nutritionally Dense" Meal Deliveries For Foodies

 Photo: Courtesy of CJK Foods
Photo: Courtesy of CJK Foods

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Sticking to a healthy diet takes time. To save you some, we chatted with Chef Josh Katts to get the scoop on CJK Foods. The local company delivers ready-to-eat, chef crafted meals that are packed with nutrients and locally sourced ingredients, and many of the dishes follow the Paleo plan. Read on to get some clean-eating inspiration, and give the delivery service a go if you're toying with new, better-for-you diets in 2014.

What gave you the clean-eating bug?
In culinary school I experimented with vegetarianism and veganism, as one of my teachers was an advocate for the vegan lifestyle. Working as a personal chef in Chicago, I was often asked to cook healthy meals for clients, and some who needed very restrictive diets. While cooking for them, I would do my best to create dishes that I personally would enjoy eating. I was shocked that I could create delicious meals using ingredients from local farmers and organic vendors while skipping harmful, often inflammatory ingredients. The best part was that the food would help people fight disease and live healthier lives. I was hooked and fell in love with that style of cooking and eating.

What inspired you to go into the business of helping others eat more healthfully?
I was inspired by one of my first personal chef clients who took to my style of cooking, and saw results from what I was preparing for her. While working for her, I read more books about the effects of the anti-inflammatory diet and I kept getting more and more excited about what the food was actually doing for you nutritionally. She was always super encouraging to me, and she eventually spread the word to some of her friends. The thing that excited me most about cooking healthfully is that I get to use so many awesome vegetables, grains and meats. Because we source much of our meat locally, getting to know the source is easy, and we look forward to each delivery. It's tough to miss butter, cheese, and bread when you get to utilize Greg Gunthorp's Pasture-Raised Pork, and Q7 Ranch's 100% Grassfed Beef. It's awesome.

Speaking of which, tell us all about CJK Foods! What does this meal-delivery plan offer that others don't?
Currently, our menu rotates weekly. Sign up for our newsletter, and you'll receive our menu every Monday which is for meals delivered the following week! Our menu consists primarily of delicious healthy entrees, some breakfast items, some snacks, sides, smoothies, and our Paleo Granola. One of the coolest things about our program is that you can head over to our site right now and place an order for next week. Meals can be picked up from our fridges in some of Chicago's hottest gyms, like Shred415, River North Crossfit or Barre Bee Fit.

But why is truly unique about us is our clientele. Our clients care about their health, but its more than calorie counting—its a holistic care. They know that we are doing the right things: cooking with the right healthy oils, making things as nutritionally dense as possible, avoiding many common allergens, and sourcing as much local product as we can. Another cool thing about our clients is that they are foodies! Our first goal is making delicious food, so we love getting notes about what meals hit a home run from our clients— but they also let us know when we miss the mark, which keeps us on our toes! Because the business grew out of my personal chef client list, we do our best to keep that same feel. We make special trips to someone's house for a last minute delivery, help people place their order, and make a situation right if there is an error. Our clients rock, and they are why we keep striving for excellence in what we do.

What are the benefits of signing up for CJK deliveries? and how long would you recommend sticking with the plan?
Our goal is to be a healthy supplement to your healthy lifestyle. Our meals are a great way to make sure you always have a healthy option available that is ready in under five minutes. Ordering from us is a great way to enjoy delicious, healthy, gluten-free meals that can also save you tons of time. In addition to that, we have a team of individuals on board, like our nutritionist, who can help you see results from eating our meals. You'll become part of our family and we'll do whatever we can to make your life easier and more delicious.

What results do your customers see?
Our clients have written to us with amazing stories of success. Whenever I get a story I love to read it to our kitchen crew. It keeps us all motivated to keep doing what we do. We've heard stories of weight loss, healthy adjustments to cholesterol levels, and positive changes to body fat percentages. Another favorite comment is that through ordering our meals clients are able to spend more time at the gym or doing other healthy activities.

How flexible is the CJK eating plan? Can people sneak in desserts or have a drink at a party, for example?

Our plan is super flexible. In fact, we aren't a diet, nor do we ask that you prescribe to one. Our meals adhere to what we call "super standards," but what we really want is for our clients to be aware of what they are putting into their bodies all the time, not just when we are providing them meals. We give them a head start through our healthy meals and couple that with nutritional content on our blog, and even put out an e-book in the iTunes store called The Super7 Challenge. It challenges readers to incorporate more super foods into their diets. If done in moderation, most foods are okay. So we try and educate our clients on how to make the smartest choice that is available.

Do you have meals for people with dietary restrictions?
The cool thing about our meals is that we naturally meet a bunch of dietary restrictions. We don't use ingredients that contain gluten, dairy, soy or corn. We also eliminate grains and legumes—this is in line with the paleo diet—from a portion of our meals. Sticking with the personal chef feel, we allow clients to customize their meals within reason to make sure we hit any special needs someone may have.

What kinds of exercises do you personally favor, and what kind of workout regimen would you suggest for someone following the plan?
There are some cool things happening in Chicago right now in the workout world. Leading the charge in high-intensity interval training is Shred415 as well as Sweat on State. I love that style of workout because you never get bored. It's tough. You sweat and you feel it when you leave.

Finally, how do people get started with CJK? :) Where do they sign up and what are your rates?
You can sign up here for an account.This will get our weekly menu sent to your inbox every Monday, and also set you up to order meals. While signing up you can fill us in on any specifics to dietary restrictions, likes or dislikes.

Our clients usually order around five meals, and we have two sizes, large $15 and medium $12, a smoothie or two ($6-$8), some of our Paleo Granola ($7.50 and $15), and a breakfast item! This is all delivered to your home in Chicago (for a $10 fee) or the suburbs (for a $20 fee), or to your favorite gym (for a $3 fee, list here).
· CJK Foods [Official Site]
· Shred415 [Official Site]
· Sweat on State [Official Site]