Work It

At Snap Kitchen, a Crash Course in Eating Right

Can a dining editor survive on health food alone?

By Katharine Shilcutt January 4, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Green chile chicken enchiladas from Snap Kitchen

The offer seemed almost too good to be true: an e-mail from Snap Kitchen detailing how, in a media push, the company wanted to provide me with all my sustenance for three weeks—five nutrient-dense meals a day for a total of 1,200 calories, guaranteed to cleanse my poor, battered body of the McDonald’s jalapeño doubles and foie gras I’d been lately abusing it with. All I’d need to do is pick up my food from Snap Kitchen and stick to the meal plan provided by their nutritionist, the perky Claire Siegel.

Having fallen into some lazy habits—at the end of a long day, eating out was always going to be easier than cooking at home, no matter how miserable I felt afterward or how much my bank account resented me—I took on the Snap Kitchen challenge, sitting down with Siegel one sunny afternoon to describe my weird relationship with food. Though I’m only 5’1”, I was consuming easily 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day, depending on how much wine I had with dinner. The prospect of reducing that to 1,200 was intimidating; I was sure I’d be starving, miserable, and unable to concentrate at work (as with past diets), or worse: I’d break and cheat. No wine? I thought to myself. No beer? No burgers? This won’t be like me at all. I worried my way through my “last meal” of stinky soft cheese, charcuterie, and prosecco.

The next day, I picked up my first round of food: three days’ worth of meals, each packaged in individual, reusable plastic tubs. The giant bag of food felt surprisingly heavy, and my trepidation lessened slightly. A few days in, I was shocked to find that I hadn’t yet been hungry. In fact, I struggled to eat all the food Snap Kitchen prepared for me: huge portions of chili and egg whites for breakfast, Malaysian vegetable curry for lunch, crispy Scottish salmon for dinner, a chai cashew “milkshake” for a morning snack, quinoa “mac ‘n’ cheese” for an afternoon snack. And all of it was good: well-seasoned, making excellent use of fresh herbs and spices and vinegars and, most importantly, salt—all things that added no calories, but added flavor. 

The food was also full of vitamins, protein, fiber, good fats, and good carbs that take a while to digest—hence the lack of hunger. Sure, chewing my way through a tub of raw kale wasn’t always fun, but I could stick to this diet, I thought to myself. The three weeks were up before I knew it. I’d lost seven pounds, and my friends had noticed a difference. More importantly, I felt better, and I was inspired.

The weekend after my three weeks were up, I made a visit to The Hay Merchant, where the Cease and Desist Burger was calling my name. Two patties, plenty of cheese, with a pile of hot fresh fries on the side. But when I looked at the menu, something else caught my eye: grilled salmon over a cold soba noodle salad with vegetables. I ordered it, ate half, saved the rest for lunch the next day, and spent the rest of the evening trying to imagine how I could keep this whole healthy thing going—the combo of healthy cooking, Snap meals, and ordering right and practicing portion control on evenings out, which I know I’ll never give up entirely. 

Is this the new me? I wondered. Not bad.

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