Editor's note: In 2010, Columnist Philip Potempa competed in the Seattle Sutton Slim Down Challenge.
Months before last week's Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten Season, registered nurse-turned-sensible eating and menu planning guru Seattle Sutton was already thinking "meatless" meal options.
It was last fall, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, Sutton, founder of Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating (SSHE), provider of freshly-prepared weekly meal deliveries nationwide, launched an extension of delicious offerings to include a full-week vegetarian menu. The meatless variety now complement the traditional menus which have been in place since the company began in 1985.
"In order to expand our meal offerings and customer base, we decided to create a vegetarian menu which began as a half-week trial last March," said SSHE registered dietitian Rene Ficek. "
The meals have been in such great demand that we felt it was time to roll out a full week plan."
Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating is a proven menu mainstay for a convenient option for its well-balanced meals that include fresh fruits and vegetables. A weekly plan consists of three meals per day, 21 meals per week, boasting a variety of more than 100 unique meals which rotate every five weeks, so no meal is repeated within the five weeks. Nearly three million meals were sold last year.
Sutton said the new 1,500-calorie vegetarian menu offers a day's worth of "exciting meals that showcase plenty of variety." From Cherry Almond Oatmeal for breakfast and a Veggie Stuffed Pepper for lunch capped by a Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew for dinner, Sutton and her staff worked with Ficek to fine-tune the perfect combination of meatless offerings.
Sutton said according to a 2012 Gallup poll, five percent of American adults consider themselves to be vegetarians.
"We are always keeping an eye on food trends and try to make updates to our menus as they relate to public demand, changing tastes and of course healthfulness," said April Stevens, Director of Communications for Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating.
"We have many clients who are on our meals long-term, and we realize people enjoy variety. And, that's why our five-week menu rotation is so great because you don't repeat the same meal for five weeks, as well as numerous new additions and changes to our traditional meal plan for the 1,200 and 2,000-calories per day plans. In all, we have 64 new menu items."
She said some of the new meals include: Greek Yogurt Parfait – topped with dark chocolate and red berry crunch; Napa Cabbage Salad – served with chocolate zucchini bread for dessert; and Artichoke Spinach Flatbread Pizza – served with fresh fruit and a Pumpkin Bisque lunch, a combination of pumpkin soup, fresh fruit on the side with a spinach salad served with it.
Michael and Linda Adams, of Crown Point, are among the many diners who are avid fans of Seattle Sutton's kitchen creations.
The husband and wife are among the 10 contestants who were selected to shed pounds at the start of 2014 during a three-month contest from Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. This week marks the start of Week 8 of the contest and the official halfway mark toward the final stretch. (See chart for contestants weight-loss so far).
This is the fifth year the Chicagoland claim-to-fame healthy prepared and packaged meal franchise has sponsored a Slim Down Contest to help participants lose weight, learn about portion-control and healthy menu planning while also vying for prizes.
While the first four contests were focused on Chicago and the suburbs, this year's contest targeted 10 lucky residents in Northwest Indiana's Lake and Porter counties to lose weight and improve their health. The individual who loses the most weight will be named the grand prize winner and will be awarded a trip for two to Riviera Maya, Mexico, valued at $2,500.
"This is something we want to do not only for ourselves, but for each other," said Linda, 46, who said her family's health history includes heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Last October, interested participants looking to make a lifestyle change were invited to submit their stories and a photo of themselves at seattlesutton.com to be considered for the competition, which launched Jan. 13 at the Seattle Sutton Healthy Eating location at 620 W 81st Ave. and concludes April 28.
Each of the 10 chosen contestants are receiving 21 provided meals per week from Seattle Sutton's famed kitchens for a total of 315 meals throughout the 15-week challenge. The meals consist of freshly prepared breakfasts, lunches and dinner items, amounting to an allowance of 1,200 calories per day. Contestants are told to add two glasses of fat-free (skim) milk each day and a minimum of eight glasses of water per day.
The contestant who loses the most weight based on percentage of body weight wins the three-night trip for two to RIU Palace Riviera Maya, Mexico from Apple Vacations. The second place prize is a $1,000 cash prize from SSHE, and the third place prize is couples' spa treatments from Serendipity Province Spa, valued at $540.
When Seattle Sutton launched her first Slim Down Challenge in 2010, she had a pool of more than 3,000 potential contenders who applied for the inaugural contest.
There are Seattle Sutton centers throughout Northwest Indiana, from Chesterton and Valparaiso to Highland, Merrillville and St. John, in addition to others.
To date, Seattle Sutton has helped the 39 people from the previous four contests shed 1,722 pounds. In 2010, the initial 10 contestants lost a total of 372 pounds in 14 weeks. In 2012, nine LaSalle County, Ill. residents lost a total of 510 pounds in 15 weeks. And, in the summer of 2012, 10 DuPage County, Ill. contestants lost 355 pounds in 15 weeks. Last year, 10 Peoria-Tri County residents lost a combined weight of 485 pounds in 15 weeks.
"I am so happy to help these 10 finalists begin a new, healthier lifestyle through providing them with our freshly prepared, portion and calorie-controlled meals,” said Sutton.
"Making a positive lifestyle choice, such as changing one's eating habits is an important step in achieving improved overall health. Good health is a person's greatest asset in life, without it, nothing else matters."
The family owned company based in Ottawa, Ill., is headed by the 82-year old registered nurse Sutton, who founded the company in 1985 with her late physician husband, in hopes of helping to improve people's eating habits and overall health by providing the healthiest meals possible prepared and provided to clients. Coast-to-coast, more than 80 million meals to date have been prepared and provided to clients.
Contestants are also having blood lab work completed, once at the beginning of the contest and once at the end, to measure cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting blood sugar, as well as have their blood pressure taken. Lab services are free as part of the contest, provided by IN THE FIELD Health Services. Contestants are weighed each week at their Lake and Porter Counties distributor locations when they pick up their SSHE meals.
Acapulco Taco Pie
2-1/2 pounds ground turkey or meat-substitute frozen "vegetarian crumbles"
3/4 cup chopped white onions
2-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 cup diced green chili peppers, drained
1-3/4 cups skim milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons "quick" biscuit mix
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 cup diced tomatoes
6-1/4 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
DIRECTIONS: Brown ground turkey (or meat substitute) and onions and drain. Stir in chili powder and green chili peppers. Place this meat mixture into a sprayed 9-inch by 13-inch (or a slightly smaller pan, if desired) baking pan. Beat milk with biscuit mix and egg substitute, until smooth. Pour this mixture into the casserole pan directly over meat layer. In a small bowl, mix together shredded cheese and tomatoes and scatter over top of casserole as the final layer. Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, but checking casserole after the first 30 minutes to prevent over browning. Remove from oven once an inserted knife comes out clean. Cut and serve with chips and salsa. Unused portions refrigerate well. Makes 15 servings.
(Note: a 5-ounce slice contains 184 calories, 14.9 grams protein, 14.8 grams carbs, 6.5 grams fat, 574 mgs sodium, 1.65 grams fiber and 3.95 grams sugar)
• Recipe courtesy of Seattle Sutton and "The Seattle Sutton Solution: No Gimmicks" (2004 Amicus Creative Press $29.95)
Seattle Sutton's Favorite Chocolate Zucchini Bread
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened, Dutch process
1/2 teaspoon baking powder, low sodium
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar, white granulated
1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce baking chocolate, semi -sweet, squares, melted
2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate, semisweet chips
1/2 cup nuts (walnut works well, either black or American), chopped
DIRECTIONS: Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a second bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, apple sauce, vanilla, and melted baker's chocolate in another until blended. Add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients in second bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in zucchini, chocolate chips and walnuts. Divide batter into 4 mini loaf pans. Bake loaves for 45 minutes, or until tops are golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow loaves to cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing. Slice each loaf into 7 slices. Makes 4 loaves yielding a total of 28 slices.
(Note: Nutrients Per Slice: Calories: 110 Protein: 3g Carbohydrate: 19 g Dietary Fiber, Total: 2 g Fat, Total: 3 g Cholesterol: 20 mg Saturated Fat:1 g Sodium: 130 mg Vitamin A:1% DV Vitamin C: 5% DV Calcium: 3% DV Iron: 6% DV)
• Recipe courtesy of Seattle Sutton Healthy Eating