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Love What You Eat

As we get closer and closer to Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating all things love – and this brought up an important question: do you really love what you eat?

Too often, we get swept up in consuming food that is easily accessible to us in our busy day-to-day lives (we’re looking at you, fast food…). It’s easy to get stuck in a food rut, feasting on meals that are convenient and easily prepared as opposed to meals that are nutritionally valuable, balanced, and flavorful.  As Valentine’s Day fast approaches, we at Moon Meals are challenging you all to truly eat what you – and your body – love.

An easy way to make better food choices while not sacrificing taste is to make healthy substitutions for your favorite foods. So – if you love pasta, but you find that you’re feel sluggish and bloated after your spaghetti bolognese dinner, consider swapping out your regular spaghetti for a whole-wheat pasta, or even better, a chickpea pasta option, such as this.

You don’t have to cut out all your favorite foods to live a healthy lifestyle. If you love cupcakes, eat a cupcake! As long as you strike a balance between healthy and unhealthy foods, you’re already on your way to living a healthy lifestyle that you and your body will love!

Another way to embrace a healthier lifestyle is by preparing foods that you’re excited about: sometimes, it’s as simple as that! Have a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try out? Trying to find a way to use that blender that’s been sitting in the back of your cupboard for years? Never prepared tofu before and you’re curious? All good reasons to cook a meal that is healthy, nutritious – and delicious. The more you’re excited about the food you prepare, the more fulfilled you and your body will feel!

Share your journey with us @moonmealsfood on Instagram, and stay tuned for more exciting plant-based recipes from Moon Meals Chef/CEO LaForce Baker! Share the love!

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Reading Labels: The Key to Healthy Eating

There are lots of packaged foods out there with bright, bold words proclaiming some kind of health benefit. You’ve undoubtedly seen them all – “Healthy,” “Low in Sugar,” “Fat-Free,” “Heart Healthy,” “Low in Sodium” – we could go on and on. And while it’s easy to believe the foods live up to these largely generic promises, don’t always believe what you read on those big, bold, labels.  Oftentimes, the key to true healthy eating lies in taking a closer look at those promises, and paying attention the labels to ensure the food you’re about to consume is really that good for you.

How can you better read those often mind-boggling nutrition labels? Here are a few tips from all of us at Moon Meals:

Limit bad cholesterol

Because it’s National Heart Health Month, we’re bringing special awareness to one of the main culprits of heart-related health problems: cholesterol. Labels like “Fat-Free” and “Low in Sodium” might prove to be accurate, but always ensure that the amount of cholesterol is limited – your heart will thank you!

Pay attention to portion size

No – don’t eat that entire bag of chips, trust us. Sitting and watching TV and mindlessly snacking oftentimes leads us to over-consuming. Though the nutritional facts on the label are per one serving, it’s important to take note of how many servings are in each container. Sure, 120 calories per serving isn’t that bad, but if you’re consuming the entire six-serving bag of chips in one sitting, that’s a problem.

Ensure nutrient density

Before you start going about this nutrient journey, it’s important to see your doctor to determine what your individual nutritional needs are. Any vitamin or iron deficiencies can be regulated by paying attention to labels and choosing foods that address those deficiencies. So as we enter February 2019, it’s the perfect time to go see your doctor!

We hope our tips help you out in navigating those sometimes tricky nutrition labels. Stay tuned for more healthy eating tips!

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5 Days to a New You!

Here at Moon Meals, we’ve been kicking off the new year with an exciting new meal plan, 5 Days to a New You! Featuring exclusive new plant-based recipes from Moon Meals Chef and CEO LaForce Baker, this five-day program will help kickstart your 2019 the healthy way!

Visit this page and sign up for the 5 Days to a New You meal plan. You’ll get a your very own grocery list, 5-day meal plan complete with four plant-based meals a day, and a chance to win a month’s supply of Moon Meals Fiesta Wraps!

What are you waiting for? It’s FREE! Kick off the new year the healthy way!

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LaForce Baker’s Entrepreneurial Advice

To ring in the new year, Moon Meals CEO and Chef LaForce Baker shared his very best entrepreneurial advice in an interview with the Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, Yitzi Weiner.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always say that I never choose to be an entrepreneur, but being an entrepreneur choose me. I grew up poor and fat on Chicago’s far Southside, so nothing was ever given to me. This pushed me to fight to forge a different path than those around me, so that I could make it easier for someone coming up behind me. I wanted to lose weight, so I self-taught myself how to use vegetables from my grandmother’s garden in a healthy way, that tasted good, to drop the pounds.

Fast forward to my corporate career, I ended up helping large food companies, like Kraft-Heinz, ConAgra and Nestle launch new products. However, I became frustrated that these companies were slow to push adoption of products of healthier fresh options that tasted good. While working late at night, at my office, I had the epiphany that I could deliver people healthy meals that tastes good when they are working late as an alternative to pizza. I pulled together my best recipes that I used to train for marathons; moved back home and saved half of every paycheck and liquidated my 401K to get the company off the ground. We started doing late night catering to individuals, then pivoted to catering to companies and then started wholesaling top sellers like the “Fiesta Wrap” to major retailers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When we first started the company I was 23-years-old. I had no family members that were executives at major corporations. Therefore, in a lot of early meetings with major retailers, I had to prove my worth, since I had no family in the business or a broker to bring me into deals. I represented myself. In one of my first meetings, a senior retail executive said “your not exactly who I expected”. I said, “that’s funny because you are exactly who I expected.” We then proceeded to have a successful meeting even though the executive was baffled how I could start a company so young and with no family in the business coming from the background that I did. The executive was so moved by the product and my story, that we got a “yes” and the product went into stores.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A big lesson I learned is that just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come. What I mean is that you really have to build a product and a service while listening to the customer that will buy your product. In the first version of Moon Meals, we didn’t have enough resources to reach the end consumer and get the word out about this late night healthy meal delivery service. So, on the first night we launched, I spent thousands of dollars on rent, inventory and staff only to get 2 customers. One of the things I had learned is that we need to partner with larger institutions to access the end consumer instead of us trying to target them directly. So then we made the shift from delivering to just individuals that worked late night, to corporations; then opened up to daytime delivery for company events and lastly we started supplying major retailers via wholesale grab & go versions of our products.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

I think what makes our company stand out the most is that while there are a lot of companies that make sub components of a plant-based meal (bread, meat, cheese). We make and combine them all into a tasty grab & go option, like our Fiesta Wrap, to save consumers time and money. I met a customer in one of our stores that said she was considering going vegan, but she felt it was too time consuming. She then tasted the Fiesta Wrap and instantly feel in love. She said “wow, you don’t have to cook it?” I enthusiastically said “no and that the bread, meat, cheese, veggies and sauces were all prepped and combined, so you can just eat it out the pack.” She asked” how long does it take to make vegan meat?” I said “6 hours total” She said “I will take 5 and I am going to try going vegan this week.” This story took place in a mainstream grocery store, so it demonstrated to me that we are the first company to make it possible for the average person to enjoy a full plant-based meal on the go at least once a week while enjoying the taste.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Right now we are working on trying to spread the impact of the Fiesta Wrap, by getting it into more mainstream grocery store delis across the country. We have the infrastructure setup for national distribution, but we just need other retailers to give us a shot, so we can go from hundreds to thousands of locations. This will give the average consumer access to a healthier version of one of the most popular entrees in the country — the burrito.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees thrive?

I think the number one piece of advice I would give to other CEOs is to make sure you deliver information in multiple formats to employees, since everyone learns differently. One day, I discovered that one of my employees became twice as productive when I started to give assignments verbally, because that is how they process information the best. My taking a little extra time to present my ideas in multiple ways I have doubled my companies revenue potential and you can too.

What advice would you give to other CEOs about the best way to manage a large team?

To get our finished products to consumers, we have to manage a complex supply chain of different companies with thousands of employees. One thing that I think is important to making sure that the end consumer gets a great experience is creating win-win experiences for all employees and partners. For instance, some of the employees don’t’ have time nor the finances to regularly get a healthy meal, so we provide free healthy snacks and meals to decrease time out the office which helps our bottom line while making sure they stay healthy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

Darryl Abernathy, who is a long time restauranteur in the Chicago land area, was a critical sounding board when I first decided to work with major retailers. During my first negotiations with a major retailer, Darryl encouraged me to fight for what would benefit not only the retailer, but my company. At the time, the traditional payment terms that the retailer wanted would have put us out of business. My intuition told me to establish a new payment system to ensure a win-win scenario in retail for Moon Meals. Darryl encouraged me to follow my intuition. With that system we were able to go from three to over twenty locations in a short period of time. So now at almost 200 locations, I still remember to follow my intuition and create win-win situations for both Moon Meals and its partners.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

When I was growing up on the southside of Chicago, I did not see a lot of people encouraged to be a chef. Therefore, as the Executive Chef of Moon Meals, I illustrate that someone from a community like my own can be successful at pursuing culinary arts. In fact, we recently hosted a cook-off where local community members could have their dishes highlighted on a public platform instead of just their Thanksgiving table. The winner of the competition seemed to be encouraged that she could now start her own culinary business based on the competition we sponsored. I feel that most people will pursue their highest potential if they feel they are being heard. Through the success of our business, we want to continue to provide platforms to everyday people to highlight healthy, tasty alternatives that we can all enjoy.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO,” and why?

  1. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something. There has been a lot of times over the past few years of me being a CEO where I did not have enough information to make an informed decision. I’ve discovered that being patient and gathering the information saves our company a lot of resources because we don’t have to backtrack. As an entrepreneur that can be hard because you’re constantly focused on moving the company forward. One question that I ask myself now is would I regret my decision tomorrow? I’m reminded of a situation where I acted but regretted the decision shortly thereafter. When we first started I was quoted an astronomical price for insurance. Instead of shopping around, I bought the insurance because I felt time was of the essence. When it was time to renew the insurance, I shopped around and secured coverage for 1/10th of what I previously paid. In that instance I realized never to make a decision when you don’t know what’s going on, just to save face. Had I admitted that I didn’t know, I could have saved us a lot of time and money.
  2. You have to constantly reaffirm your value proposition. I’ve learned that partners, investors employees, press, and customers constantly need to be reminded why what we do is valuable. As a CEO, it is your responsibility to set the vision. No one else can see the finished vision but you. So every day, you have to convince those that support you to see the world from your point of view. For example, we have to constantly reiterate to our partners and investors why it’s worth doing things differently than our competitors. They can already see what has been successful from others, so its easier to follow that path. However, to go where we are going we can’t completely follow those paths because we bring different strengths to the table. Ultimately to be successful as a CEO you can’t be afraid to fight for your vision.
  3. Take time for yourself. When you become a CEO, time becomes very scarce and everyone wants access to it. However, you only get one body. And if you’re not operating in peak health, then you won’t be able to efficiently lead. That means setting boundaries between work and leisure time. For example, sometimes I will take a day away from the office to complete personal tasks. In doing so, I found that it makes me a better resource for my employees and partners because I am fully engaged in the work instead of worrying about what is going on at home. For personal relationships I’ve had to add more structure when hanging out with friends and family, so I maximize my time spent with them. That has meant saying “No” when other friends and family might have been able to say “yes” to an event. However, when I do hang out with people, the quality of our time spent together is more valuable now because of this.
  4. I’ve learned not to create tasks, but to create systems. One conundrum facing the CEO of a growing company is to make a big impact with not a lot of resources. To do so, I’ve learned to create systems for critical parts of my business and teach others around me how to use them so should something happen to me, the show still goes on. In the past I used to carry out a task, but I quickly learned if I wanted a team to have more impact, we all had to understand why we were doing what we were doing, and there had to be systematic ways of getting things done so that people didn’t get burned out from tasks. For example one of my tasks use to be to make our Fiesta Wrap. Instead of just telling my team to create a Fiesta Wrap, I created an assembly line system that produced a consistent finished product without being heavily reliant on one individual.
  5. The only person who truly know when it’s “your time” is you. One of the things I’ve learned as a CEO is that individuals and institutions will try to put their limitations on you. However, the only person who is truly going to put in the work is you. Furthermore, the only person who will win or lose is you. So, if you feel you have the resources, passion, and talent to carry out your vision today, then you should try it! Because everyone can work, but no one can work like you do. For example, there were those that felt we would not be able to launch our product without more financial backing or institutional support. But I felt that we had what it took to have a successful launch. And we did just that. In the majority of our stores we not only surprised, but delighted the customer and had a higher “sell through” rate than brands that had been around for decades. I was able to maximize what we had to get the results that everyone wanted. That reaffirmed to me that the only person that truly knows when it’s time to take a chance is you.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

If there were any movement could inspire, it would be to expect more out of your food. I believe that food should nourish you, taste good, and provide an opportunity to bring people together. In the world we live in today, food is an afterthought. We mostly focus on getting the tastiest option at the cheapest price. I would like there to be a shift where people take time to think about whether the food they are consuming is good for them, taste good, and its bringing together people around them. Food fundamentally is fuel for your body, therefore your food should nourish you. I try very hard to discourage people from mindlessly eating food with lack of nutritional value but just tastes good. However, I’m not encouraging people to eat food that doesn’t taste good. As a chef, I can make the healthiest dish taste good, and I want to encourage others to find or make healthy meals that taste good. Because I’ve learned that if the food doesn’t taste good, you won’t regularly eat it. So to be sustainable, you need to find options that taste good and are good for you. Lastly, food is best enjoyed with others. So, I believe it’s important to try to share meals with those close to where you live and work — It makes for a more prosperous and happier community.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

One of my favorite life lesson quotes was from the longtime owner of a popular restaurant here in Chicago in the vegan food space. He said that he always watched his mom bake with a pot that was too small for the loaf she was cooking, so she had to cut the butts off to enable it to fit. He never thought that made sense. One day he asked her why she did that. She said that she did it because her mom taught her to do it that way, but she would go ask her why. After being asked by his mom, his grandmother explained that she always used a smaller pot because she could not afford a bigger one. The lesson was that you should never blindly follow what everyone around you are doing if you don’t think it make sense because you can be wasting valuable resources when you don’t have too.

This has been so relevant in my life because there have been so many times when I did not think traditional systems worked and I came up with a better system. If I had follow everybody else, I would have never created my company that now creates and markets products in a new way that sells better than traditional products.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I would love to have lunch with Beyonce. I love that she is a supporter of vegan meals and innovation in general. She has taken her industry to the next level and that’s what I am aiming to do in mine. I feel that I could learn a lot from her about how to create systems and hire people to expand that impact of my work. I also think I could make her the greatest burrito she has ever had.

For the original article, click here.

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FOX 32 Chicago Features LaForce Baker

Moon Meals Founder LaForce Baker was on FOX 32 Chicago yesterday morning, giving his tips for making your Thanksgiving a little more plant-based. In his segment on “veganizing” your holiday cooking with plant-based meals, LaForce demoed his Creamy Vegan Mac & Cheese recipe for audiences around the Chicagoland area!

In case you missed it, check out the full segment here.

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Veganize Your Thanksgiving

While it certainly is the time to give thanks and celebrate with friends and family, we’d be lying if we said that Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food, too. And trust us, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be about the turkey. If you’re looking for ways to veganize your Thanksgiving this year, you’re in luck! Check out our top tips on how to incorporate vegan dishes in your festive feast:

Use Easy Vegan-Friendly Substitutions

Did you know how easy it is to make your favorite holiday recipes vegan-friendly and delicious? All it takes, in most cases, is a little bit of vegetable broth. And while there are even entirely plant-based substitutes for the traditional roast turkey, there are tons of other easy vegan substitutions that you can easily whip up just in time for your Thanksgiving feast!

Gravy:  Lucky for you, it’s just as easy to make a plant-based gravy that competes with the tastiness of the traditional turkey gravy? Just saute some mushrooms, onions, garlic and olive oil, sprinkle a bit of flour over the top, and slowly whisk in vegetable broth.

Mashed Potatoes:  Swap out the milk and butter in your mashed potatoes for non-dairy milk and vegetable broth for an easy vegan-friendly substitution for this classic Thanksgiving side dish. Easy peasy!

Try New Vegan Recipes

Are you going full-on vegan for your Thanksgiving feast? We commend you. Luckily, there are a ton of vegan recipes out there that are super tasty and easy to make.  Whip up our very own Creamy Vegan Mac & Cheese for a cheesy addition to your holiday feast and stay tuned for more Moon Meals recipes.

More of a sweets person? Fear not. You don’t have to swap out the sweets to make your Thanksgiving a little healthier.  You can even just take your favorite recipes and make easy vegan switches – just swap out the milk for dairy-free milk and the butter for vegan butter! Check out this easy peasy cheat sheet for vegan baking.

Hosting Vegans: 101

Thanksgiving can be a stressful endeavor, especially if you’re cooking and preparing the meal for a number of different people with a number of different personal preferences, dietary needs, restrictions, and lifestyle choices. Whether you’re hosting vegans, vegetarians, or anyone else with certain dietary needs, it’s best to rely upon various versatile dishes that anyone and everyone can eat: steamed or roasted vegetables are always a safe bet.

If all else fails, consider hosting a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. This way guests can bring along their favorite dishes that already fit into their lifestyles, so less worrying (and less cooking) for you!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Moon Meals to you!

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Happy World Vegan Month!

Celebrated throughout the world, World Vegan Month is a time to recognize all the wonderful things that make living a vegan lifestyle so great!

So, in honor of World Vegan Month, we at Moon Meals are dishing out some of the most popular vegan FAQs – and our answers, of course, because we’re here to help you navigate through the often overwhelming sea of information and misinformation out there.

Vegan Life FAQs:

What can vegans eat?

The more relevant question is what can’t vegans eat – and the answer to that is anything that contains dairy, eggs, meat, or any other products of animal origin. The most well-known foods vegans do not consume include any meat, chicken, fish, and honey. For more information on what veganism really is at its core, visit this page!

Isn’t being vegan super expensive?

While it’s true that the vegan lifestyle isn’t the cheapest, there are some ways you can combat the strain on your wallet. For example, swap out fresh vegetables for frozen vegetables and buy grains, such as rice and pasta, in bulk. For more tips like this, check out our Meal Prep Tips blog post for LaForce Baker’s advice on economical grocery shopping!

Where do vegans get their protein?

Protein doesn’t have to be relegated to solely chicken and beef: protein is actually a lot more accessible for non-meat-eaters than you think! Some of the most common sources of protein include: tofu, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds. Sprinkle some seeds and nuts onto your next salad for that additional protein boost!

Does vegan food taste good?

You bet! With plenty of accessible options and many more companies creating delicious vegan snacks readily available in grocery stores across the world, we like to think that vegan food is more delicious now than ever before. Afraid to give up your chicken wings? Fear not – there are plenty of vegan substitutes for your favorite non-vegan meals – just check out all our delicious recipes for a taste!

How easy is it to eat vegan at restaurants?

It’s Friday night and your friends all want to go to the hip new barbeque joint in town. What do you do? What can you order? Luckily, there are usually a few vegan-friendly options on most menus: think salads, pastas, roast vegetables, etc. Your best bet is sticking to the vegetarian side of the menu, and omitting any ingredients that don’t fit into the vegan lifestlye. And when in doubt, choose a local vegetarian or vegan restaurant instead!

Is it better to make the transition gradually or all at once?

If you’re interested in going vegan, you certainly don’t need to go totally vegan all at once. Take your time and do your research and see if it’s something that fits your lifestyle. While it’s different for everyone, if you’re just starting out, we suggest switching a few of your normal meals a week with vegan meals: that’s how the Make the Switch Tour was born, after all!

To celebrate World Vegan Month, stop by your nearest Jewel-Osco and pick up a Fiesta Wrap in the grab-and-go section for a quick and easy vegan meal!

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Moon Meals Appoints New General Counsel

Moon Meals is excited to have added Scharf Banks Marmor’s counsel Rhonda Coleman to the legal team.  Formerly a corporate transaction attorney from: Aon, Caterpillar, and Votorantim Cimentos; Coleman has been a key asset in helping expand Moon Meals’ connection to the food industry network in Chicago and the US to help cultivate its growth.  Coleman provides timely legal services in support of Moon Meals’ expansion. Many of the company’s deals are time sensitive. Being readily available to the company is a priority for her.

Coleman states, “I bring genuine belief and strong support of Moon Meals’ mission to provide people with healthy, tasty food options. I also admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the CEO and how he has used it for the company to this point. I am happy to be a part of the company’s efforts.”

LaForce Baker, CEO and Founder of Moon Meals says, “Rhonda has excelled in drawing up crucial non-disclosure and operating agreements, reviewing contracts, and laying out negotiation terms for key partnerships we have made this year.  She provides amazing customer service by applying the law in a way that helps protect and grow our business. We are lucky to have Rhonda on the Moon Meals team!”

Lastly Coleman exclaims, “I look forward to continuing to negotiate deals on behalf of the company that will protect Moon Meals from liability and reduce its exposure to risk, while still maintaining the flexibility that it needs to grow and succeed.”

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Halloween: The Vegan Way

Halloween season is upon us, and those economy-sized bags of candy are slowly making their way into our grocery stores and into our homes. How can you navigate through the sea of processed sugar and stick to a healthy (bonus: vegan) lifestyle during Halloween? How do you do Halloween – the vegan way? Check out our top tips on having a healthy, vegan-friendly Halloween.

 

  • Know your vegan-friendly candies:  Throwing a Halloween party? Hosting vegans? Make sure you stock up on candies and sweets that are vegan-friendly. Luckily for you, there is no shortage of vegan candy options out in the world – and we’re not talking fruit leather or raisins (though those work well, too). Refer to this  comprehensive list of vegan candies that are perfect for your party or for passing out to trick-or-treaters.

 

  • Explore vegan halloween recipes:  Find yourself having some extra time in the kitchen? Try your hand at some family-friendly vegan Halloween recipes – we’re talking vampire-inspired cupcakes, rice crispy treats, and apple/kiwi bites. Don’t have a sweet tooth? Fear not – who says Halloween has to be sweet anyways? For a savory spin on Halloween, try some Halloween-inspired spaghetti, pizza, or ramen. Here are some ideas to help you get cookin’.

 

  • Give out other healthy options:  Ok, we know – growing up, no one liked the old lady who gave out pennies and apples instead of our coveted candy bars, but if you’re really hoping to encourage healthy lifestyle choices in your neighborhood, the apples truly are something to consider. Other suggestions for vegan-friendly Halloween treats for trick-or-treaters include fruits, vegan candies (see above), pretzels, or some homemade vegan baked goods (granted you’ve got the time on your hands.)

 

  • Donate your leftovers:  Wondering what to do with that huge stash of not-vegan-friendly candy that your little trick-or-treater brought home? What you don’t (or can’t) eat, donate! Do a little research and find a local organization that will accept candy donations – Treats for Troops is a great one. At the very least, bring those leftovers to work or school and share the sugar!

Have a happy, healthy Halloween!