COOKEVILLE – Thomas Cox is all about healthy eats. It was, after all, the premise behind his founding of MealFit in mid-2013, a Paleo/primal- based meal planning service that has seen quick success.
Most recently, Cox has taken that concept a step further with MealFit Salads, an extension of his original business, which moved into the shuttered WestSide Deli & Catering restaurant earlier this year. MealFit Salads is almost exactly as it sounds – it’s a salad bar – one that aims to offer a healthy lunch alternative for its Cookeville patrons.
Cox wanted a way to utilize his new retail space but is also largely looking to fill a gap left by the closure of Salads & More, a similar-in-concept eatery once located on Proffitt Street. MealFit Salads is focused on the fresh: smoked chicken, grilled bacon, and is entirely grab-and-go. The business, which debuted in June, is open for lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.
“We’re a little bit more expensive, but nothing’s frozen, there’s nothing processed. All our dressings are homemade,” Cox said. “Mainly, I wanted to give people a healthy option at lunchtime – to take away another excuse for not eating right – especially when they’re walking around downtown.”
Cox started MealFit not long after leaving his post as an assistant football coach at Tennessee Tech – he felt driven, he said, to make a change. A CrossFitter since 2010, he was always interested in the nutritional aspect of the fitness program. While working part time at Life Church in Cookeville, Cox was asked to craft a meal plan for a friend.
“Pretty soon,” he said, “I had people sending me checks in the mail for the meal plans, and it grew and grew. We try to take traditional foods that are ‘unhealthy’ and give them a healthy spin, from lasagna to cheeseburgers to fajitas.”
MealFit Salads joins the core MealFit brand, which now includes MealFit Ready, or made-from-scratch dinners packaged and available for local pickup, and the newly launched MealFit Prep, which offers a weekly supply of prepared food like meat and vegetables. A new website that better details the different offerings launched Sept. 1. Cox plans to continue to expand his marketing efforts.
“My whole goal is to keep families out of the drive-thru,” Cox said. “We have loyal customers and word-of- mouth is a big deal for us. So far, it’s been absolutely great.”
MealFit Salads has received a warm welcome since its opening, Cox said. The menu is largely static, but they do offer a salad of the week option. He’s heavily targeting traffic from both Cookeville Regional Medical Center and Tennessee Tech, which are nearby.
“This is a great fit for this downtown, WestSide area,” Cox said.