New Year’s fitness resolutions are poised to be more achievable in 2020 as Generation Z, soon to be the largest group of consumers in the US, and Millennials, with their growing families, embrace the extensive range of better-for-you prepared “diet” foods in the marketplace. To these younger adults, healthfulness is more than losing a few pounds or hitting the gym, it’s a holistic approach that includes physical fitness, mental well-being and delicious, healthful foods and beverages. That’s what Fresh n’ Lean, Anaheim, California, is all about.
Ten years ago, at the age of 18, French-born Laureen Asseo began preparing healthy meals for friends and family out of her home after her father faced serious health concerns resulting from years of unhealthy eating. As demand rapidly grew for her meals, she founded Fresh n’ Lean as a national meal distributor that promoted nutrition education and provided access to wholesome foods.
“Fueling your body the right way shouldn’t be difficult or expensive, or optional,” Asseo says.
Her brother Thomas Asseo joined Fresh n’ Lean in 2011 as co-CEO. The operation now includes 220 employees and a US Dept. of Agriculture-certified commercial kitchen facility. Fresh n’ Lean specializes in organic dishes made without preservatives, gluten, hormones or added sugar.
In addition to home delivery, meals are now available at the company’s On the Go store in Santa Monica, California, and in grocery stores all over Southern California. The company will be launching into grocery stores nationally in 2020.
Asseo, now 28 years old, was just named one of “Forbes 30 Under 30” in the food and drink category. MEAT+POULTRY spoke to her about the company’s meat-centric entrees, including recently added keto menu offerings.
MEAT+POULTRY: What is Fresh n’ Lean’s approach to menu development?
Asseo: We are spearheading a movement towards a more wholesome meal designation and delivery. By using mother earth’s natural processes, we harvest organic, non-GMO ingredients combined with free-range, certified-humane animal proteins as the foundation of our meals. Nature knows what it is doing. It has been doing it for a long, long time. We are just the in-between people to ensure nature’s dish arrives on your doorstep undisturbed.
M+P: How does Fresh n’ Lean differentiate from others with its keto-friendly ready meals?
Asseo: Keto is a great jumpstart to help consumers achieve their weight loss goals. So many people are doing the keto diet right now – and likely so many more will as part of their New Year resolutions – and there are a million places to get keto meals, but most of these are what’s considered “dirty keto.” Dirty keto allows for unhealthy fats, high sodium and other foods that a healthy diet limits, such as processed meat and fried foods. In other words, you may lose weight, but you could definitely be hurting your health. Our “clean” keto diet has a more well-rounded approach and focuses on eating healthy fats and whole produce. We embrace the fact that it’s really important to know what you’re putting into your body and our organic meals emphasize quality and integrity in every bite. This reduces the risk of nutritional deficiencies and is much healthier. The problem, however, is that clean keto is really difficult to stick to because it requires a lot of grocery shopping, meal preparation and serious work. Fresh n’ Lean eliminates these obstacles. Our customers simply pop the refrigerated – never frozen – meal in the microwave for two to three minutes.
M+P: What are the key components of your clean keto meals?
Asseo: All fats are not created equal. Many keto staples, such as heavy cream and bacon, are packed with cholesterol and void of vitamins, minerals and good-for-you nutrients. Fresh n’ Lean chooses organic cheese, avocado oil, eggs, nuts and animal proteins that skew higher in better-for-you fatty acids, such as omega 3s and monounsaturates. We never add sugar, processed ingredients, artificial flavors or anything unhealthy to your meals. The average profile of one of our new keto meals is 450 calories, 10 grams of total carbohydrates, 35 grams of fat and 26 grams of protein.
M+P: Until now, the company was positioned as offering gluten- and dairy-free meals. Why did you bring dairy into the menu in the new keto meals?
Asseo: Some dairy products are perfect for a keto diet. Hard cheeses, such as parmesan, are extremely beneficial, and butter features a high-fat content and low carbs. Fresh n’ Lean still offers gluten- and dairy-free meals, but we felt that the right dairy ingredients would go great with our keto meals and help our customers maintain ketosis. The dairy in our keto meals is held to the same rigorous standards as our other ingredients. They are completely organic, free of hormones and additives, and sustainably sourced.
M+P: What other meat-centric meals concepts does Fresh n’ Lean offer?
Asseo: We have a protein-plus line, which relies on ingredients such as chicken, sausages, seafood, steak and turkey bacon, along with brown rice, oatmeal and pasta. The average profile of these meals is 550 calories, 68 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of fat and 39 grams of protein. There’s also a paleo line that averages 375 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of fat and 30 grams of protein per meal. These meals contain no corn, grains, legumes or soy. They are all about fruits, fish, meat, nuts, seeds and vegetables.
M+P: What are some of your newest meat-centric offerings?
Asseo: Our talented head chef, Robert Gomez, works with nutritionists to develop tempting new recipes each week that are suitable for paleo, keto, vegan and reducetarian diets. The new keto line includes beef chili with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese and Louisiana chicken sausage and shrimp with roasted cauliflower and slivered almonds. Specialties in the paleo line are chicken wings with green beans and yam, teriyaki cabbage with a turkey patty, and cilantro lime grilled grass-fed steak with squash.