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'Fit Fresh' offers all-in-one package

'Fit Fresh' offers all-in-one package

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Each day, individuals make hundreds of choices, large and small.

Some decisions seem unimportant, like what we eat and drink on a given day, and how -- or if -- we exercise. But cumulatively, such choices can have big consequences for our health.

One local couple, Sarah Mattison and Ryan Berndt, is working to help people make good decisions about food and health. Mattison, a personal trainer and registered dietitian, owns two Fit Fresh Cuisine restaurants in Madison and Fitchburg and sells take-home, customized meal plans. Berndt is a personal trainer, too, who specializes in rehabilitation. The couple also owns Hybrid Fitness, located next door to the Fitchburg restaurant.

Some clients work out at the gym in the morning, take a shower and then pick up a bag containing all their meals for the day.

"You get the gym and the nutrition in one fell swoop," Mattison said. "We're the only ones doing that in this area."

Mattison does a free initial dietary consultation with meal plan clients, taking into account their taste preferences, whether they want to lose weight or maintain it, if they're diabetic, have high cholesterol or blood pressure or food allergies.

"You get to know (each client's) likes and dislikes and work around them," said Mattison. Between 20 and 30 people a week subscribe to the plans. Those following her meal plans range from children to the elderly. Portions are calibrated based on the person's goals.

Vegetarian and non-vegetarian meal plans are available, and customers can choose to buy one, two or three meals a day, which are picked up at the Fitchburg restaurant three times a week: on Monday and Wednesdays they pick up meals for two days, and on Friday they pick up a meal for one day. Special arrangements can be made to buy meals for Saturday and Sunday. "People are always surprised when they open their bags," she said. "I make what I feel like cooking that day, and I try to get people to try new things like quinoa and bulgur wheat." She also includes "fit bits" in the meal plan boxes so people understand the health benefits of what they're eating.

Dinner-only meal plans are $60 a week, lunch and dinner meal plans are $120 a week and a four week program, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, is $175. A free month of membership at Hybrid Fitness comes with purchase of the meal plans.

The takeout meals are different than the menus at the Fit Fresh Cuisine restaurants, and they change daily. The menus at both restaurants, which are open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., have information on calories, carbs, protein and fat in each item. Mattison works closely with REAP's "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" program to find local producers.

Mattison, 30, who previously worked as a dietitian for UW-Madison athletic teams, has had a lifelong relationship with good food. Her family owned three acres of land outside Verona with an orchard and bees, and she helped her grandparents sell honey at their stand at the Dane County Farmers' Market.

"A lot of people want to live and eat well, but they want it to be as simple as possible," she said.

As for the effectiveness of the couple's nutrition and exercise one-two punch, Mattison (who met her husband in a gym) points to their victory in Channel 15's Biggest Loser competition, where they faced off against four other local gyms. Channel 15 randomly assigned each gym five people who wanted to lose weight, and the gyms worked with them free of charge for 12 weeks. Hybrid Fitness participants lost a total of 338 pounds. "We squashed everyone else," Mattison said.

Since then, Hybrid Fitness has had regular private 12-week Biggest Loser competitions, where participants pay $1,200 to compete against each other. The person who loses the most weight in their group wins a free one-year gym membership; other prizes, like food and T-shirts, are also awarded.

Biggest Loser participant Jenny Fredenberg, 32, was the winner in her group, losing 50 pounds by working out six hours a week at Hybrid Fitness and buying Mattison's meal plan. She's now taking part in another challenge, with hopes to lose another 50 pounds.

"I'd never put the exercise and the nutrition together before," said Fredenberg, a yo-yo dieter who got up to 241 pounds after the birth of her second child. "It was the combination of trying different types of exercise and diet that finally did it for me.

"The meals I'd made for myself weren't super healthy; I used to make a lot of quick casseroles and pasta."

She said that time on Mattison's food plan made her realize that healthy cuisine "doesn't have to make you feel like you're on some awful diet. It was normal food, and it tasted good."

Fredenberg no longer subscribes to a meal plan because of the cost, but the lessons she learned stayed with her. One of her family's favorite meals these days -- quesadillas made with whole wheat tortillas and stuffed with black beans and lots of veggies and low-fat sour cream -- was something she'd first tasted on Mattison's meal plan.



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