Good news for the would-be hunter-gatherers out there: Paleo-prepared meals are now ripe for the picking at select H-E-B grocery stores. The ready-to-go entrées, salads, and snacks are provided by Naked Coconut Eats, a company started by Heather and Jason Schweitzman (pictured above). The couple began making Paleo meals several years ago, and built up their business delivering to clients and CrossFit gyms around San Antonio.
The concept of the Paleo diet is simple enough: only eating food that would have been available to cavemen; nuts, seeds, berries, vegetables, and meats.
The final, necessary ingredient to get their products into H-E-B stores was a USDA-approved kitchen, which cost the Schweitzmans upwards of $450,000.
“I’d choose going to a proctologist twice a week before going through that again,” Jason said. “There was not one thing in our kitchen, other than our equipment, that we could keep.” The good news is, “the last time we checked, we are the only USDA Paleo food company in the state of Texas and possibly one of the only in the country that I know of.”
Eating Paleo can be difficult when the only low-hanging fruit, so to speak, on the way to work comes out of a drive-through window. And no matter what you order out of that window, it’s bound to have sugar, loaded with carbohydrates, processed, or contain synthetic ingredients. The way our food system is structured, if you want to eat whole, organic foods, this usually means you have to cook at home, which can also be a challenge.
“All I have at home in my refrigerator is bacon, eggs, dog food, and wine,” lamented one CrossFit exerciser who works fulltime. “And I’m not even drinking right now.”
Why eat Paleo? It rules out every single ingredient of my personal favorite, the bean and cheese taco: no grains, no legumes, no dairy. But for many people, this lifestyle of eating real, organic, and often local food, has been a last resort after dealing with allergies, digestive problems or other ailments, and their success with the program has kept them on it. Proponents of Paleo urge the word “diet” away from the term.
“We don’t call it a diet because diets set you up for failure,” Jason said, who has personally lost 185 pounds eating Paleo. “People go on a diet and then they have to have a cheat day or a cheat weekend. What we’re doing is a lifestyle; you set yourself up for the way you want to eat, whether it’s 60/40 Paleo or 80/20. There’s no cyclical failure, which is what happens in diets.”
The gluten-free craze publicized celiac disease and the other health problems some people have with grains. In addition, some people’s systems don’t tolerate dairy foods.
“Humans are the only mammals that will drink the milk of another mammal,” Heather said. “It’s not very healthy.”
Think back to Anthropology 101. Humans originated as primates, hunting and gathering. When we went agrarian, we started baking bread, raising animals, and, ultimately, got very sedentary – yet another health hazard to modern life. Not surprisingly, many Paleo eaters remedy this with exercise, specifically, CrossFit, a high intensity form of exercising with an emphasis on intervals, function, and variation.
The story of Naked Coconut Eats goes back to when Heather and Jason lived in Uvalde. She and Jason moved from upstate New York nine years ago when Jason started working for Sierra Industries. Heather was a stay-at-home mom, raising and home-schooling their three children. She began doing CrossFit and eating Paleo and eventually got certified and bought Gemini CrossFit in Uvalde. Meanwhile, Jason’s aviation brokerage work was paying off and after earning a big commission, he decided to buy a food truck to follow his lifelong passion for cooking. He grew up in a family surrounded by chefs and butchers who worked in restaurants and hotel kitchens. On the food truck, they served 2.5-pound hot dogs that were up to 4.5 pounds by the time they had added all of their homemade toppings.
“Heather got angry,” Jason said. “She saw that we were getting people healthy in the gym but then we serving them chicken parmesan and Italian meatballs on the truck, and she said we can’t, in good conscience, go one way and then the other.”
They decided to put some Paleo dishes on the menu, such as a bun-less burger with guacamole on top, and a fried egg in a pepper on a bed of lettuce. The items were such a huge success, that Schweitzmans decided to make a go of it. With the help of an investor, they moved to San Antonio, found a commercial kitchen, and started Naked Coconut Eats (NCE).
The “surreal moment” for the Schweitzmans was when H-E-B’s Business Development Manager for Healthy Living, Bulk Foods, and Bars Yvan Cournoyer stopped by to taste their sauces. A client had told the Schweitzmans about an H-E-B sauce contest and they wanted to enter it, but Cournoyer had already heard of NCE.
“We went all out, we prepared all sorts of our foods to go with the sauces, Heather prepared a Paleo lemon sorbet to cleanse his palette in between tastings,” Jason said.
At the end of the meeting, when Jason asked him if their sauces might be a good fit for the store, Cournoyer said no, and they were so disappointed.
“We were kicking each other under the table,” said Jason. “And my wife wears her emotions on her face, she had such a sad, befuddled look.” Then Cournoyer said, “Oh, you misunderstood. I don’t think just your sauces would be a fit, I think your whole line would be a good fit.”
One of NCE’s first clients, Jessica Emmons, and her husband, John-Austin, own Bedlam Crossfit near the Rim. Emmons, who has a full-time job and a 2-year-old son, appreciates the time-saving factor of prepared meals and the healthiness. They began eating Paleo because of her husband’s migraines, GI issues, and heartburn. NCE delivered to their gym.
“We knew there were Paleo delivery services in other big cities, but in San Antonio, we thought we’d never get that,” Emmons said. “It has changed our life for the better, and opened our eyes to what we’ve been eating for years.”
Emmons, like many others, was confused about food nutrition. “We thought we were eating healthy, eating whole grains and low-fat fish,” she added. “But I feel like we’ve been lied to or tricked on what is healthy. With whole wheat, whole grains, and GMO foods, your body doesn’t know what to do with it.
“We feel like the price point is on target,” Emmons continued. “You pay for what you get, and you get what you pay for. We think you pay now for your food or you pay later in any type of medical costs or any type of other health issue that might happen.”
At least now we have the choice to reach for items that serve long-term benefits over short-term perks. When I went with my daughter to the Alon Market H-E-B, it wasn’t so difficult to pass by their massive, elaborate chocolate truffle case, knowing that the NCE’s chocolate coconut truffles were just a few steps away. They’re sweetened with honey.
Naked Coconut Eats is being offered at two H-E-B locations: the H-E-B Plus! at Hwy 1604 and Blanco Road and the H-E-B at Alon Market (Wurzbach Parkway and N.W. Military). Plans to expand into additional H-E-B stores in San Antonio are also underway.
*Featured/top image: Heather and Jason Schweitzman, wife-and-husband team and owners of Naked Coconut Eats. Courtesy photo.