Affinity CEO Chris Zayid smiling and seated alongside Clean Eats Michigan Owner Lena Dabish at West Bloomfield.

“I lost over 130 lbs naturally by working out and eating right.” | In Conversation with Lena Dabish, Clean Eats Michigan

Dive into our latest episode of ‘Connecting the Community with Chris’ featuring the remarkable Lena Dabish, the powerhouse behind Clean Eats Michigan.

As seen on FOX 2 Detroit and WXYZ Detroit Channel 7, Lena brings a world of healthy, delicious dining right to your doorstep. In this episode, she shares her inspiring journey of weight loss and how it led to her meal prep service.

Discover how Clean Eats Michigan stands out with its fresh, organic ingredients and custom meal plans, making it a game-changer for seniors and busy individuals alike. Whether you’re juggling work, looking after seniors, or just aiming for a healthier lifestyle, Lena’s insights are a treasure trove of wisdom.

Watch the full podcast or read the transcript below.

Chris: Hello! Welcome to Connecting the Community with Chris. We have an exciting podcast today with a special guest, Lena Dabish. Lena founded Clean Eats Michigan over 11 years ago and her business strives to provide healthy meals in Metro Detroit. Now, her meals as you can see that are in front of us, are created using fresh ingredients, with the highest quality, with each meal consisting of about, you said, about…

Lena: 450 calories.

Chris: 450 calories, you know, give, or take. And so, tell me Lena, what led you opening a custom meal prep service here in Michigan?

Lena: Well Chris, I have my own journey that, I lost over 130 lbs naturally by working out and eating right. And one of the things that I realized is that having the food ready was the biggest thing that helped me get my goals. Making sure, coz I was working, and it was really hard to make sure that we had all the meals. So, what I did is, I started prepping for myself, and then I had an opportunity where I was able to actually start selling the meals to people that wanted meals from me. And that’s how we started.

Chris: That’s great. Personal experience always is like what strives the purpose of any type of business you know, and so, that’s why I could tell like your heart is truly into this. And so, fresh organic ingredients are difficult to find as we know, you know, and so, how do you Source the ingredients in your meals?

Lena: So, we have a lot of local companies that we deal with that help Source our items that we have for our meals and then we definitely try to do seasonal things too, like, if we can get our organic spinach, we’ll always get organic spinach. And we really strive on making sure that everything we know where it’s coming from.

Chris: Yeah. And so, I think it’s important nowadays, you know, we’re all worried about what things are put into food you know, and so, we’re trying to find that right fit for us and our family to live long, healthy life, you know, and so, that’s why we really wanted to talk to you about this, because we, everybody really is trying to find a healthy lifestyle nowadays. So, can you tell me what differentiates Clean Eats Michigan from other meal prep companies, because you know there’s lots of competition out there nowadays, but also to is it’s a growing business.

Lena: Yes. It’s definitely grown since I’ve, you know, since I started and, what makes us different is we do a lot of customizations. So, if there’s certain things that you need like, if you need to have a low sodium diet or like a keto diet or any kind of diet that you’re having a hard time making like, you can give it to us. If you’re working with a nutritionist or a dietitian, we’ll come in and make it easy for you. So then, that way you’re making sure you’re getting the right items. There’s a lot of people that can’t have sodium because of certain health issues, will make meals without sodium for them, I mean, they’ll have natural sodium, but they won’t have no added sodium or added sugars. We really put it out there that you really know exactly what you’re eating, there’s no hidden ingredients or anything like that, and we take a lot of things in their state that they come in, like our sweet potato is just sweet potato, our broccoli, we just, we don’t put anything on it. We’ll steam it and then that way you get to actually taste the great flavors of our vegetables and different things that we carry.

Chris: Yeah, I give a testimonial to that you know, I love coming here and eating and when I eat, I feel great and energized as well too. Just a different feel than if you’re just going out to eat. And so, I know too, also working with you, is that I have a nutritionist that’s really into gut health. And Mitali, as you’ve seen in our last few podcasts that we had before as our guest, is that she likes to have healthy gut ingredients to clean the gut. And so, what’s really great is that she hands me over some meals that need to be prepared. You know, with me, I’m very busy during my days, I can’t always prepare meals, but I could hand it off to Lena and she could prepare those, and I don’t have to think twice about it and they’re already prepared for me, and this is what, the what, are based off of macros too as well, right?

Lena: Yeah, so that’s what we specialize in more, is macros, because every food has a nutrition, it has like fat, and then it has also protein and then the carbohydrates to give you the energy you need, and that’s one of the things that we strive on making sure you know, your Macros. But, if you don’t know your Macros we can help you also, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it if you don’t know your Macros, we help you also.

Chris: Yeah. Then you know, there’s the whole science behind that, and so, I as you know, I’m a big advocate for the senior community, I really, I really want to make sure our family members in the community get to have a healthy happy life at home. And so, how can these meals help seniors in our community?

Lena: Well, seniors right now, it it’s very hard to always get like healthy food delivered to them or gotten to them, and we have so many different things that are really nutritionally dense. So, we can make soups and we have salads and we have a lot of gluten-free options and a lot of things that if a sensitive stomach or anything like that we can help you with your gut health, because a lot of the meals that we provide are meals to help you feel better and most people that eat with us do feel better and start eating better and never want to eat something else besides eating nutritionally dense food.

Chris: Yeah, that’s great. I think it’s a lifestyle change you’re trying to create. You know, with seniors they’re kind of stuck in their own ways, they like certain foods but that’s okay too, right? So, if they tell you what they like you can customize it for them. And that’s kind of what we want to do is, I noticed in the senior community is that they have malnutrition, they do not, actually they eat less, which is not good you know. So that’s what we’re try to, try to do. We’re going to try to change that in the community with us by actually preparing, family members making sure they get the meals that they need.

So, like, what are the advantages to purchasing a meal plan for an older person? Can you walk us through that?

Lena: Well, you won’t have to do any grocery shopping, you won’t have to do any cooking or cleaning. All you really have to do is take your meal and warm it up. You can warm it up in the oven, you can warm it up on a stove or you can also warm it up in the microwave. So, there’s many different ways to warm up your food and it can be prepared for you, and it leaves the stress out, because you’ll know what you’re eating. When you plan on what you’re eating your mind is already set that you’re going to eat that item, instead of you snacking or eating things that you don’t want to be eating. Those are the reasons why meal prepping is so; it helps people be successful and you feel better. At the end of the day, when you feel good, especially being a senior, you’re a little bit more tired, you’re older so you definitely want to have that feeling of energy and that’s what we’re all striving for is energy.

Chris: And time too, right? Time is a factor. We want to spend time with our family, maybe they still want to work and be active, but also too is maybe, preparing meals it just takes up too much of their time, so this actually helps them to be with their grandchildren a little bit longer and their kids, and go to work if they like to, not worry about spending more time with their spouse. So, it’s actually, helps more than just being healthy and happy, but time.

Lena: Time coz, no one wants to clean.

Chris: Yeah.

Lena: No.

Chris: And they throw it away, and they, if they like to or they can reuse.

Lena: Yes, you can recycle them or reuse them, and we also have soups too. Our soups are really high, highly nutritious too.

Chris: So, how many different meals do you offer here?

Lena: So, the menu is quite large. The menu is about 35 items that all can be customized. So, let’s say you don’t like sweet potato and you would like brown rice instead or Jasmine rice, you can put in something where we would swap that out for you. So, we do a lot of customizations, that’s what really keeps us different than everybody else, is the fact that we customize the meals that we already have.

Chris: And can these meals be stored as well?

Lena: They’re stored in the refrigerator. Some people do freeze them. We would like to recommend that you can keep them in the fridge for 5 to 7 Days. Everything comes with dates on it, so you would know when you need to eat it by.

Chris: They can be frozen; you can put them in and then…

Lena: You can.

Chris: And then take them out and warm it up.

Lena: Yes.

Chris: Okay great. And then, so now, the menu, I know that you mentioned to me before, you have a rotating, you change the menu frequently. Can you explain a little bit about that? Is it seasonally?

Lena: Yeah. So, every season, we’ll add, like right now, we would add some spaghetti squash and we would, we would do a lot more root vegetables because this is the time of year. So, we really try to have meals that we’ll put into the mix, that will taste the best at their time. So, right now like I said, we have a lot of spaghetti squash meals, a lot of different sweet potatoes and things like that, because this is the season for them.

Chris: Yeah, that’s great. And so, we kind of switch it up, it’s no one wants to have like the same meals every single time you know. And so, that’s what’s also great about working with a nutritionist too, is that she can customize it based on you know, your Macros, so you don’t always have to eat the same thing. It’s how much you eat of it too.

Lena: Yes. I’ve always been a healthy eater and that’s one thing that one day my trainer said to me – it’s not what you eat, it’s how much you eat, and that is really true, because if you eat you know, two cups of sweet potato and 8 ounces of protein, and you’re not really supposed to eat that much, you’re going to notice a difference on your waistline.

Chris: And now, you do offer the service to be delivered to homes? Can you explain that to us?

Lena: We deliver throughout the Metro Detroit area. We’re located in West Bloomfield, but we deliver about 25 miles around West Bloomfield.

Chris: Great. So, door to door you’ll drop off the meal to their home.

Lena: Yes.

Chris: Great, that’s wonderful. And so, that’s obviously great for in the adult and Senior Community as well you know. It’s more, I guess I would say, saves more time for them as well too.

Lena, can I gift a meal specifically, say an adult children purchasing a meal from you, and they want to send it over to their parents when they return home, say for example, you know, for more related to home care, because you know, we’re a Home Care Agency, is that someone has a surgery and they want a meal for their parents or after a hospital stay, how would you tie in meal preparation to that?

Lena: Well, they can contact us, we do have gift cards and we do have different ways for you to purchase gifts or you know, if you needed like a specific diet or something you can contact me, and we can also provide the information that you need to be able to gift them, you can give and we’ll deliver them, we’ll get it all taken care of for you, and then also, if they have specific dietary needs we’ll also be able to take care of that.

Chris: So, a caregiver can be taking care of someone at their home, and they could freeze a meal and have 10 of them ready to go and warm it up and give it to someone.

Lena: Yes. A lot of our meals taste great frozen, it tastes great after freezing them.

Chris: But you could do that, and we have like different type of packaging, like this packaging right here, and then the one over here, on the side over here.

Lena: Actually, this is from our grab and go, it’s our New Concept, it’s where you can walk into our West Bloomfield location and purchase meals that are ready to go. It’s a self-served kiosk where you can just come in, we’re open from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and you can choose from a variety of different meals, different salads, and soups, and you just go to our counter and scan yourself and leave.

Chris: But I’ve noticed though they’re packaged differently. So, I’m assuming this can be frozen and that cannot.

Lena: Yes, this can’t be frozen, this is more for a grab and go, and then this is for more our meal prep side of the business where you can pre-order them and get them all packaged like that so you can warm them up.

Chris: That’s Delicious.

Lena: So, you can warm them up at the time that you need them.

Chris: That’s great. So, it’s always good to understand. So, we were saying if someone has a surgery or their parents or they cannot leave their bed and they need to have a meal and you could order 10 at a time and freeze them and then warm them back, warm them up, and say if you have a caregiver or family member, they can go ahead and bring that to them.

Lena: Yes

Chris: That’s the value of actually having meals prepared and saves a lot of time for a lot of family members too. And also, if you have a caregiver, she doesn’t have to cook a meal, she already has a fresh one ready to go.

Lena: Yeah.

Chris: And so, are you available to consult with seniors about the best meals for their specific health conditions, for example you know, someone has heart condition versus diabetes.

Lena: Definitely. We do a lot of that, we help people from diabetes to kidney to stomach issues, all different kinds of things. We’ve been doing this for so long that we really can help people with any kind of health condition and obviously you’d have to talk to your doctor, and you can always have us connect with your doctor or you can give us the information that your doctor has told you that you want, and we’ll do our best to make sure we do that for you.

Chris: Do you actually go to their home and talk to them and the family?

Lena: We could do that, yes, it just depends on where they’re at. But, I mean, definitely, we could do calls, we can do Zoom calls and we can do phone calls or emails.

Chris: Or come here if they like to.

Lena: We’re a local business, so, when you’re usually calling in, you’re usually talking to me and we’re always there to answer your questions and if we don’t know your question, we’ll find out.

Chris: And so, is there anything else you want our viewers to know about Clean Eats?

Lena: Well, it just makes life so much easier. We are actually customers of ourselves, like we live, we have a family of four, and my husband and I really, we would, we need Clean Eats every week. We use it for lunches for our kids, we use it for our lunches, our dinners. We live a very busy lifestyle, so we really don’t have time to cook and clean all the time. Once you try it, you’ll realize how much pressure it takes off of your plate and the food tastes really good for being healthy. We make sure all of our meals are colorful and really appetizing looking, because nobody wants to eat anything boring. So, we do add a lot of color and flavor to make you realize that healthy food doesn’t always have to be boring.

Chris: Yeah, that’s great. And so, we’re trying to not only just save lives but also have a long lifestyle and happy and safe at the same time, but also you know I think, none of us can actually do, what we really want to do unless we actually create this type of habit, and so I really see that, that’s what you’re trying to do, is make it easier to be able to eat right, but also to make better decisions as well too.

Lena: Yes. When you have healthy food in front of you you’re just going to make a better decision and you’re going to feel better about it and after you eat it you feel good about yourself you know, and then you’ll always be able to like you know, how they say it’s a 80/20, I mean obviously you’ll be able to go and eat you know, on the weekends, you can go have a meal that you want, whatever you want, but during the week or anything like that, it really helps to be on track with these kinds of meals.

Chris: Well, thank you so much for having you know, your insight and your expertise about this. I think it’s so important and we wish you much success in the future.

Lena: Thank you, Chris! It was really nice. Thank you for having me. I was really happy to be able to do this with you and we’re so excited about what we can do for everybody else.

Chris: And stay tuned, we’re going to be creating a health program and Lena is going to be part of that. It’s going to Encompass our adults and also seniors in the community to make sure that they receive the right meals and a full circle with the nutritionists. And after meeting with a nutritionist, you can meet with Lena to make sure we get the right meals. I know different family members they have different type of expectations of what they want, so we want to meet those expectations, but also back it up with a nutritionist as well too.

And so, if you have your parents say for example, they live in a different state you know, you live in a different state and your parents live here in Michigan, we will make sure that they get the meals that they actually do need, because I know a lot of the clients that I serve, they do not eat enough. So, we want to try to serve that population, make sure they get the right meals and it’s healthy too at the same time.

Lena: Yes.

Chris: So, thank you so much and stay tuned for the next podcast.