Will out dietician Daniel Magoon spreads the gospel of healthy eating? In a Snap
Health food store: The words alone can trigger sense-memories of dry rice cakes, bitter green drinks and flavorless chicken. But for Daniel Magoon, a registered dietician, “health food” conjures something completely different: fluffy crepes, spicy deviled eggs and creamy cheesecake.
“I have the best job in the world,” Magoon smiles. “I get to talk about food all day long.”
Magoon works for Snap Kitchen, a five-year-old concept out of Austin that, in the past six months, has made inroads into Dallas. Part grocery store, part restaurant, Snap serves pre-packaged meals for the health conscious … whatever one’s own dietary considerations might be. Best of all? Everything tastes good.
“How many times have you had ‘healthy food’ that tasted just awful?” Magoon says. “Well, our food really speaks for itself once you try it.” He credits the company’s executive chef for elevating the flavors to a new level with risky recipes that find creative ways to provide a quality food experience.
Take, for instance, the humble deviled egg mentioned above: Usually the egg is hard-boiled with the protein-rich albumen sliced in half and the cholesterol-filled yolk combined with the likes of mayonnaise and slathered back into the divot. At Snap, they discard the yolk and replace it with hummus. There’s still a generous dusting of paprika garlic and even jalapeno for a spicy-but-calorie-aware snack. (One of the ‘grab-n-go” packs contains only about 100 calories, and only about one-third from fat.)
Healthy living has been a passion of Magoon’s for years. He first started working for Snap Kitchen in 2011 while studying nutrition at the University of Texas. After he obtained his dietician certification, corporate asked him if he’d like to move to Dallas to help spread the gospel of Snap. He quickly jumped at the chance, moving here last August just as the first stores were opening.
“It’s interesting to talk to people who are really centered in their lifestyles — paleo with its meats and fats, vegans which are all plant-based — and see how we can help. None of them are wrong,” but Snap Kitchen specializes in a middle-ground approach, Magoon explains: Each item is clearly marked as paleo (“like going back to what our ancestors ate — as natural as possible,” Magoon explains), gluten free (“we’re already 99 percent there”), low-sodium, low-fat, low-carb, non-dairy, vegetarian. And there’s not a trace of white flour or butter within 50 feet of the cash register.
“It’s realistic eating,” he explains. “Paleo, for instance, has a lot of rules, which some people really need.” But Snap Kitchen makes it easy to break the rules a little and still eat well.
Although loath to choose personal favorites, Magoon will list off a few delights on the menu when pressed. “My favorite is probably the turkey chili — it’s one of those thunderstorm-night meals when you crave a bowl of it and it gives you a big food hug,” he says. He’s also amazed by the chicken green chile enchiladas — where you can find those fluffy crepes. The ‘tortillas’ are made of coconut flour and eggs, which make them light, while cashews and almond milk satisfy the fattiness that cheese would convey, and the poblano [salsa] keeps it in your mouth longer so you can savor the flavors longer.” (He’s not lying — the enchiladas are delicious … and surprisingly filling and only 430 calories, about one-third from fat.)
“I follow primarily a pescaterian diet, because I really love cheese and scallops,” Magoon grins. “But I have red meat every so often so that I don’t get sick when I do eat it.”
Among the items available through Snap he enjoys? Bison quinoa hash (“I think we’d have to close our stores if we ever took that off the menu — it has such a following,” he says), beef burgundy and a bison burger with a fried egg on top.
If a fried egg doesn’t sound nutritious, you haven’t had it the way Snap prepares it. The menu focuses on portion control as well as a balance of calories, fats, proteins and carbs.
“Our lunch items have more carbs, because you need energy throughout the day,” Magoon says. “For dinner, there’s more of an emphasis on protein, because you want to rebuild your muscle [as you sleep].”
The items are all even color-coded for easy use: orange for small sizes, green for medium or lunch portions and black, which are typically large or dinner-sized. Snap Kitchen can even prepare a 21-day program for you consisting of breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks — a.m. and p.m., in 1,200-, 1,500- or 1,800-calorie options.
“A lot of people start out at 1,500 because they think they can’t survive on fewer calories, then they move down when they realize how filling the meals are,” he says.
Magoon also can help design a specific program for customers who want to eat better.
Sometimes, though, healthy eating is just about common sense.
“Sometime people will tell me, ‘I really craved sweets so I had some,’” he says. “I will say, ‘Well, what could your body be telling you about that? If you were craving Starbursts, maybe your body wanted vitamin C, and you should eat an orange instead.’”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 13, 2015.