WASHINGTON — After years battling body image issues and struggling to strike a balance between demanding professional lives, busy social lives and their health, childhood friends Danielle DuBoise and Whitney Tingle decided to ditch the extreme diets they’d relied on in the past and instead set out to find a more sustainable approach to food and all-around wellness.
“We were trying to search for health, and in that we found something that was not healthy. You can’t live in extremes,” DuBoise says.
Over the course of a year, they consulted with nutritionists, doctors and yogis — anyone they could find — until they discovered the answer.
“Eat whole foods; eat organic. Fill your body with nutrient-dense foods … lots of hydrating foods … also healthy fats — and focus on making sure you actually eat enough,” Tingle says.
With that resolution, DuBoise and Tingle made it their mission to eat “clean” — but they quickly realized that was easier said than done.
The New York twenty-somethings routinely trekked to and from Whole Foods with heavy bags of fresh fruits and vegetables. They lugged their groceries up six flights in their Brooklyn walkup to “a tiny kitchen the size of a shoe box,” where they spent hours prepping and cooking food.
“We realized it was a serious pain in the [butt], and that this approach also wasn’t sustainable,” Tingle says.
“We thought, if we’re having this problem, there must be thousands and thousands and thousands of other people having this problem,” DuBoise adds.
Tingle, a biochemist and nutritionist, and DuBoise, who formerly worked on Wall Street, saw an opportunity to help others who wanted to eat healthy but had trouble finding the time. They also saw a business opportunity.
With $700 — money they raised from throwing a dinner party — the two bought a domain name, built a website and launched their organic meal delivery business, Sakara Life, in 2011. Soon after, they had their first clients.
“We would make their food in my kitchen in SoHo and we’d get on our bicycles and deliver it ourselves,” DuBoise says.
Sakara Life has since grown to a team of 15 office employees, 10 chefs who cook out of a commercial kitchen and 10 employees who help out with deliveries — all to serve around 6,000 clients, some of whom are models and celebrities. Bobby Flay sits on the company’s advisory board, as does the creative director for New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel.
And the clientele is about to get bigger too. In November, DuBoise and Tingle expanded their delivery services to D.C. and Philadelphia, in addition to their Boston, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York delivery zones.
“[In D.C.], there are so many people, similar to New York, that are working really crazy hours and are having a hard time balancing and taking the time to take care of themselves,” Tingle says. “And there are a lot of very well-educated people in D.C. that know they need to eat healthy and know … that what they put in their bodies has a direct effect on how they feel, their energy levels, how they look, their happiness, but might be having a hard time finding the time to take care of themselves.”
Food ordered from Sakara Life is made fresh in New York and is delivered to specific zip codes in D.C., Bethesda and Arlington on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in three delivery time windows. The meals are dropped off in insulated Sakara cooler bags, and delivery options include a one-day trial ($99), a five-day organic meal delivery (from $130), a 20-day organic meal delivery (from $990) or a three-month delivery option ($2,750).
DuBoise and Tingle develop the health-focused meal concepts. Breakfast may be anything from chia protein pumpkin bread with cacao crème to spiced apple and almond butter lovecakes; spiced carrot soup with rosemary seed bread, sprouted quinoa collard wraps with winter slaw, or a perfect protein salad with creamy lemon dressing could be for lunch. And dinner’s delivery might consist of butternut squash lasagna; coconut and jicama ceviche with raw pepitas, or an acorn squash bowl with mushroom and herb filling.
All of the food is vegan, gluten-free and sourced from area farmers whenever possible.
“Every meal is packed with as many nutrients as possible,” Tingle says. “We’re really into optimizing your mealtime. It’s hard enough to even find time to eat, so when you do, you want to make sure that you’re getting as many nutrients in as possible.”