By Katie Crenshaw
Ahh, the New Year… That lovely time of year where most of us unitedly make lofty goals of kicking our bad habits, getting into shape, losing weight and eating healthier food. While research shows that most people will fail at keeping their resolutions… my Fayetteville friends, this year can be different! Why can this year be different? Because we have Erica Chard to help us achieve these goals!
Originally from Michigan, her military husband, Mike, brought her to the Fayetteville area. She has a long history of passion for competitive sports and recently retired from a women’s domestic pro cycling team in 2013. Desiring a competitive outlet to continue her fitness goals, her husband introduced her to CrossFit. Although at first intimidated by the challenging fitness structure, she admired the strength and physique of the CrossFit women and became inspired. She fell in love with the program, became a coach herself, and opened her own gym called CrossFit Raeford.
This is where I met Erica for the first time. As I entered Cross Fit Raeford, I was greeted by a group of ladies that had just finished a grueling workout. They appeared sweaty, proud and accomplished. One greeted me at the entrance and said, “Are you here to interview Erica? She is so inspiring. She has whipped my booty into shape and now I am working on a six pack.” I was introduced to the very petite, incredibly in-shape fitness and food guru, the founder of Fit Grub Food.
Because of her personal struggles of health challenges, allergies and digestive issues, she used her education to develop solutions to her problems by creating amazingly delicious snack food products that are wholesome and free of dairy, grains, gluten, soy and GMOs. Experimenting in the kitchen, she fell in love with her own concoctions and had to share. She began bringing her tasty creations to her CrossFit friends who then began encouraging her to sell them. From there, her experiments in the kitchen evolved to food production and progressed into her Fit Grub Food company.
At her online Fit Grub Food Store, you will find items such as Coconut Cashew Cookie Butter, Fudgey Almond Spread, Organic Coconut Butter, Buttery Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Roasted Cashew Butter, Garlic Chipotle Almond Cashew Blend and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Almond Butter. Occasionally you can find her Fit Grub Food at The Butcher and the Baker at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. Recently, Erica offered a special seasonal selection of baked goodies at The Butcher and the Baker that included: Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies, Chunky Monkey Protein Cookie, The Best Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pumpkin Pecan “Cheese Cake,” Chocolate Coconut Egg Candy and Dark Chocolate Chip Cashew Spread. Don’t these sound yummy?
When asked what she loved best about her own Fit Grub Food she explained, “I love that I know where it came from. Everything is homemade or I know the source. All of my nuts and peas I buy raw, and I roast them myself, so I know that no inflammatory oils have been added. I know that everything is as fresh as I can possibly get it. I know that I am nourishing my husband and myself in the best way that I can. It is satisfying, rewarding and it tastes good. At the end of the day we have to love our food. Like, who isn’t a foodie? We are all foodies. If it doesn’t taste good, we probably are not going to choose to eat it day in and day out. But if it tastes good, it is easy to eat, right?”
Her best selling product is the Coconut Cashew Cookie Butter and people go crazy over the Chunky Monkey Protein Cookies. Her most common response to her Fit Grub Food products is the fact that her consumers can’t believe the food is actually healthy. Erica explains about her cookies, “They are still dessert at the end of the day, so you can’t get crazy and eat 12 cookies. But they don’t have the stuff in them that would be in a conventional cookie. You are not going to have inflammatory oils, processed sugar and artificial flavoring. It is still a cookie, but it doesn’t have the junk.”
On Erica’s Fit Grub website, I saw that she had a blog featuring some great looking recipes. I asked her what her favorite recipe was on her blog. She surprisingly responded, “I should probably tell you that I hate recipes and following recipes. It has been the biggest challenge with Fit Grub because before I had to mass-produce things, I would throw stuff together and something amazing would come out. But I couldn’t replicate it. I also couldn’t report the nutritional content because I didn’t know the exact composition of the product. So when I had to start documenting all my recipes I felt stifled. Creating food is like art and then I had to put all this structure around it and I didn’t like it. But, I am forced to follow my own recipes with Fit Grub. I do have a really simple salad dressing that can be used as a marinade and an easy pancake recipe that is pretty darn good.” These recipes are Maple Dijon Mustard Salad Dressing and Fluffy Cinnamon Plantain Pancakes, both of which you can find on her website.
Erica’s advice for great cooking is to use spices. She says she keeps all of her food full of spices to keep it flavorful and zesty. Eating healthy doesn’t mean having to eat bland. Simplicity is also a must. She rarely makes anything with more than five ingredients. She feels that one of the biggest deterrents for people doing their own baking or cooking is that there are so many recipes out there that are complicated, half of which require items that people don’t have in their cupboards. She is really into batch cooking where she spends a few hours on Sunday doing all her food prep for the week and creates simple dishes in different combinations from that prepped food throughout the week. While they are simple dishes, they don’t look or taste simple in the end.
When asked what tips would she give for someone trying to get healthy and loose weight she states, “Take baby steps. Have an end goal in mind, but take it one step at a time. All the information out there can be overwhelming. All the things you need to do can be overwhelming. But I always tell people, ‘Better is better.’ When people are trying to get healthy, much like they do in the New Year, they can’t help but fail at their approach because they clean out their cupboards, throw all the bad stuff away, sign up for a workout class, and they do all of this at once. They overwhelm their physical capability because people can only have so much tolerance for change. And they fail. But if they would take small steps and acknowledge that every step in the right direction is an improvement; they would get a lot further then they would have if they did it all at once and three days later feel very dissatisfied because they did not accomplish anything. I have a saying; ‘The road to success is paved with the bodies of those that tried too hard.’ It’s not that we don’t want to try; it is that we don’t want to try everything at one time.”You can find Erica Chard’s CrossFit Raeford at 230 Lindsay Road. Her FitGrub Food website is www.wholeyouhealth.com.