Geneva Tristan lost 100 pounds, going from 230 to 130 pounds in two years, by exercising and eating healthy meals.

She now tries to help others make healthy choices by selling the same diet she used in the form of pre-made packaged meals.

Tristan, 33, owns Clean Plate meals with her husband, Paul Tristan, 33. They started the business about five months ago with the intention of selling meals to members of Elite Fitness Strength and Conditioning, where they are both coaches. But as the news of the business spread, they chose to open to the public.

“It just kind of blew up really fast,” Paul Tristan said. “We started at the gym our first couple weeks, and we couldn’t contain the word of mouth and conversations.”

The demand for cooked portion-controlled meals is strong in Victoria because of the growing health trend nationally, they said.

Dietitian Drew Hays said the growing trend has contributed to the business pop-ups that sell healthy ready-to-go meals.

The Tristans have a food truck in their gym’s parking lot, where they sell individual meals as well as weekly, biweekly and monthly plans. Customers can choose the lean, fit or bulk plan. The couple has a new menu every week, and customers can build their plans however they choose.

The meals are also portioned depending on someone’s gender. A woman’s 15-meal weeklong plan ranges from $75 to $95, and the same plan for a man ranges from $95 to $120 depending on what’s chosen off the menu.

Although they’re not professional chefs, nutritionists or dietitians, Geneva Tristan uses the knowledge she gained during her own health journey. They started the business because so many gym members were asking her how she lost the weight and kept it off.

“I have literally walked in some of these peoples’ shoes,” she said. “I have been there. I have cried and bled. I’ve sweated every ounce of what I am today.”

Hays, an Austin-based dietitian, started in the profession seven years ago. Before, she was a professional chef. She said business owners are taking the opportunity to meet a market demand by providing these meals.

“The messaging surrounding health is getting stronger from all angles,” she said.

Some millennials don’t know how to cook, and many Americans don’t have time to prepare healthy meals, Hays said. The convenience of pre-made healthy meals contributes to their popularity.

“If culinary professionals can capitalize on those opportunities and meet those needs, I think that’s excellent,” she said.

Hays said the majority of these business owners are not experts because they’re not dietitians, but that doesn’t mean they can’t know how to accurately make and portion healthy meals.

Although the on-the-go meals can be good for someone’s health, people should know they can get healthy on their own without the specialized meals, Hays said.

“It’s concerning that sometimes the messaging can be confused where people may believe or be misled to think, ‘I have to eat my meals from this business in order to be successful in my health plan or weight-loss plan,’” she said. “That’s not true.”

Jacob Gandy, 24, of Victoria, started his meal prep business about a month ago. Before, he was a chef and worked at The Sendera and Olive Garden. The demand has grown so much that customers have waited at least two days to get their orders. Gandy has about 40 repeat clients a week along with another 20 to 30 new clients a week.

“You know where you just have this feeling – It’s not what you want to do in life and you can succeed and surpass whatever point you’re at,” said Gandy, who runs his business by himself. “I went ahead and pulled back and started advertising my own food.”

Like with Clean Plate, word of his business spread quickly, he said. Four days after he started advertising, he was fully booked with clients.

“It’s been traveling by word of mouth like crazy, and someone lit a match and put it in the matchbox,” he said.

Most of Gandy’s customers order 10 meals at a time, while others order 15. His 10-meal plans range from $50 to $100 depending on the protein chosen.

Erica Briggs opened ParaVida Wellness in November, and business has been strong since. She’s seen a market for healthy options in Victoria since 2011, she said. Her health store offers meal plans that can be tailored to a customer's needs, such as if they have a certain diet because of health issues. The store has a nutritionist and two health coaches, one of whom is Briggs.

“The demand is good,” she said. “There is a trend of getting healthier, but there’s a lack of education on knowing how to get healthy, and a lot of people don’t have the time to research it.”

Paul Tristan left his petrochemical plant supervisor position about two months ago to help his wife with Clean Plate full-time. Before Geneva Tristan worked at the gym, she was a stay-at-home mom and cared for their three children.

“We literally went from living off of his job to now, and we just dedicated our lives to this,” Geneva Tristan said.

Kathryn Cargo reports on business and agriculture for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at kcargo@vicad.com or 361-580-6328. Follow her on twitter @kathryncargo.

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Reporter

Kathryn Cargo covers business and agriculture in the Crossroads. She enjoys reporting on industry trends and getting her shoes dirty out in the field.

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