Healthy diets in the Valley are hard to maintain for a number of reasons, mainly due to the endless fast food chains and unhealthy options that supply the need to feed people on the go.
The Clean Eating Kitchen in Harlingen, however, is providing a healthy alternative to local residents seeking a better meal that is cost affordable as well as delicious, because the individual who runs the restaurant cares about the food people consume. She is aware of the continuous health issues that plague the community which can be attributed to poor diet and lack of exercise.
Monica Martinez-Campos, founder and co-owner of the restaurant, along with her husband and cook, Arnold Campos, followed her passion to do not only more for herself but for her community as well.
“We started off in the beginning from home and we distributed through Footworks, a running store, so we had clients who would sign up for a month at a time, and we would deliver for them twice a week with lunch and dinner or whatever they wanted. They paid a specific price, and I created a different menu every time we delivered. That took a lot of time and hard work, but for the past five months we have been open, business has been pretty steady.”
That hard work and determination eventually landed Martinez-Campos a place to set up shop, and that is how The Clean Eating Kitchen came to fruition.
“I was cooking for up to 30 clients at one time, three meals a day, so we knew that we needed to open up a place. It was just a question of getting the backing to do it. I was careful not to jump in too quickly, but Jun Ellorimo called me and offered to help, so we brought a refrigerator through the back of his store at Footworks, and we brought everything over there. He then had customers walking into his place who would not have otherwise. It was great because it was a win-win for the both of us.”
She says that the restaurant has seen some amazing results with the healthy improvement of its customers, especially with a woman who has lost 71 lbs. since May all because of eating better and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
Everything is made from scratch, and the food items are placed in microwavable containers, which help with portion and calorie control, but some items do not need to be reheated, such as the tuna pasta salad. According to Martinez-Campos, this is crucial for people who are on the move and need to be able to prep their meals in two minutes or less.
“Customers will purchase several days worth of meals from us, so they can have them at home ready to go without any thought process on what to make, eliminating the burden of having to plan, prepare, and shop for groceries with enough variety to keep them satisfied.”
The menu itself is satisfactory with a healthy selection of items such as the popular Diablo Chicken Pasta, which is angel hair noodles with homemade marinara and fresh red peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. There is also a special feature of the week which is not on the menu.
Aside from the breakfast, lunch (which is the biggest seller), and dinner options, there are fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies available for purchase.
Arielle Fernandez, nutritional consultant and daughter of Martinez-Campos, has played a vital role in providing high quality food and drink combinations.
“Course portion control was the biggest thing, along with variety, in regards to finding the right balance. Many foods are made with complex carbohydrates in the glycemic index which contributes to diabetes, and we don’t want blood sugar level to spike or drop, so we want to keep that number low. When developing the menu, we kept that in mind for every meal.”
To add to this notion, Martinez-Campos and her daughter believe it’s important to eat every three hours as opposed to having three big meals which helps to keep the metabolism burning throughout the day. This, along with maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, will contribute to a much stronger and healthier body.
“Our customers are dropping the pounds by remaining consistent with their newfound diet and feel so much better because of it. They have so much more energy than they did before, and if they eat anything unhealthy, their bodies feel gross. Once you detoxify, you begin to notice the difference in the way you feel, even in your weight. It’s hard to go back to eating fast food.”