Barre3’s Autumn Panzanella Salad includes pomegranate seeds, Swiss chard and kale. Image source: The Washington Post
Aliza Norcross has found a great recipe for Moroccan lentil soup, but it didn’t come from a foodie website. Her go-to source for dinner ideas these days is Barre3, the studio where she takes ballet-inspired exercise classes.
The fitness chain is building an online library of healthy recipes from certified nutritionists, chefs and food bloggers. Members have access to the full index of meal plans, though some recipes are available to everyone on the company’s blog.
“The tips and recipes are accessible and not too daunting,” said Norcross, who takes classes at Barre3’s new location on 14th Street in Washington. “It’s not about counting calories, but finding balance.”
Fitness studios are taking a holistic approach to health with greater emphasis on nutrition. Some are compiling recipes to keep members from derailing their fitness goals with poor eating habits. Others are creating package deals that combine workout routines and custom diet plans designed by certified nutritionists.
But as more fitness centers dole out nutrition advice, registered dietitians and nutritionists recommend consumers check out their qualifications before taking heed.
“Nutrition can be a dangerous game,” said Jim White, a registered dietitian and owner of an eponymous chain of fitness studios in Virginia. “People have diabetes or heart conditions, and if we don’t promote the right foods, it could affect their health. It’s important that they work with professionals.”
Nutrition consultation is a standard feature of every gym membership at Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios, where members can take part in nutrition boot camps, workshops and 90-day challenges.
White has even struck a partnership with 50 restaurants in the Hampton area to point out menu items that are healthy enough to be “Jim White-approved.” The list of restaurants includes local eateries and national chains, such as Firehouse Subs and Moe’s Southwest Grill.
“Eating healthy is not the easiest thing, so we want to take away all of the barriers people have,” White said.
Clients who want more help can sign up for one of three dietary plans offered at White’s studios. Packages range from $299 to $529 a month and are covered by some health insurance plans, White said. The dietitians on staff provide a full assessment, checking for such things as food allergies, and then create a plan.
“Our biggest hurdle is educating clients about detoxes, Paleo diets or the latest trend and if it’s good for them or not,” White said. “There are great aspects of every diet out there, but with some modification, it could be a great approach for some people.”
If you are willing to spend the money, a dietitian from the studio will give your kitchen a makeover, ridding your pantry of junk and restocking it with healthier foods you select together on a trip to the supermarket. Staff members follow up with periodic visits.
The team of nutritionists at Unite Fitness, a chain based out of Philadelphia, also treats clients to ongoing coaching.
“We know that sometimes it’s not so simple as to just tell somebody what to eat,” said Juliet Burgh, the studio’s nutrition director. “There are many reasons why somebody might be struggling with food, whether it be emotional attachments or body image disorders.”
Burgh and her team of nutritionists guide clients through a three-step process to tailor a program for their specific needs. After taking body measurements and discussing eating habits, the team creates individualized meal plans and provides initial coaching. That process takes six to eight weeks; periodic coaching continues afterward.
You don’t have to belong to Unite to take advantage of the service, though members receive a $50 discount that brings the cost down to $250, Burgh said. She said her team typically sees five clients a week.
“Ninety percent of results, as far as weight loss, fat loss, is going to come from nutrition,” she said. “You really are what you eat, so if you are eating the right foods that are fueling you, you’re going to have better cognitive function, feel energized and be more productive.”
Over at Barre3 on 14th Street, franchise owner Alicia Sokol said the company, based in Portland, Ore., encourages members to incorporate some form of fat, fiber and protein in every meal to stay satiated. There are a series of videos on the site teaching viewers how to prepare and cook food. Sokol also contributes some of her own recipes from her blog, Weekly Greens (weeklygreens.com).
“Our nutrition philosophy is pretty straightforward: Just eat whole foods – close-to-the-ground foods, foods in their natural states,” Sokol said. “It’s really about balance and trying to eat foods that are nourishing and give people energy.”