After a run and hot yoga class, I dragged my wrung-out body to a nearby Potbelly Sandwich Shop for a much-needed turkey sub. Call it divine intervention, but something compelled me in that moment to order an impulse pickle. Actually, it was more of a brine intervention.
I walked home crunching on a big, crisp whole pickle — an underappreciated on-the-go snack, and an even more underrated post-workout treat. By the time I got home, the fermented phallus had completely upstaged my main course.
Review: Sakara Life’s Popular Three-Day Meal Program
Sakara Life’s version of a Snapple fact is one-part superfood spotlight, one-part mirror mantra.
I found these words written on the packaging of my breakfast last week: “There’s more vitamin C in acerola cherries than almost any other fruit. That means extra collagen-supporting, immunity-encouraging power to give you sun-level luminosity. Beam on, Sakaralite — you’re lighting the path for others.”
I nodded at this, all of a sudden feeling good. Then I ate the food (Cherry Tea Cake with Stone Fruit Jam) and felt really good.
The cake was my first meal in a three-day kit from the New York-based company, which was started in 2012 by childhood friends Danielle DuBoise and Whitney Tingle. Sakara Life is now a behemoth (Forbes specifically dubbed it a “$150-million-a-year plant-based powerhouse”) and also proffers an array of wellness products: metabolism powders, probiotics, granola, “super bars.”
Everything is plant-based and organic, and the meals are all delivered fresh. (The company maintains kitchens in Long Island City and Gardena, California, closest to their highest concentrations of consumers.) These kits are the bread and butter of Sakara Life’s business strategy, riding a wave of recent popularity — the meal kit market is on pace to reach $12 billion by 2027. The kits seem to dare fans of the brand to ask themselves: What if I always ate like this?
Well, you’d spend a lot of money. But you’d also have that energetic, I-just-consumed-something-real-thing feeling all the time. For our part, we got to have that feeling for three days earlier this month; below, some words on what the Sakara Life tastes like.
Hurry, It’s Your Last Chance to Grab This Black Friday Deal
With the holidays upon us, Sakara Life seems keen to earn some new acolytes. The brand is actually staging a big Black Friday deal. Code BLACKFRIDAY2023 will secure you 25% off nutrition programs for each week (all the way through 12/25) when you pre-order your meals for the rest of the year.
Note well: in order to secure a meal kit for the following week, you want to get your order in by Wednesday at midnight EST. If you ordered food for the following Monday-Wednesday, say, you’ll received those meals (perched atop some surprisingly effective ice bags, by the way…I used them to ice my legs during marathon training).
What We Ate
Some things we ate in addition to the cherry cake situation:
- Spiced Apple Parfait
- Kimchi Bahn Mi Dumplings
- Seasoned Basmati Rice (mixed with Butter Chickpea Curry)
- Fulfilling Focaccia + Greens (with a side of Inner Harmony Onion Soup)
- Winter Sun Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing
For starters: this food is fantastic. It’s fantastic if you’re not accustomed to eating meals where veggies play the role of protagonist, and it’s fantastic even if you’re a hardcore, hard-to-please vegan. The food is clearly prepared with a ton of thought and a lot of love (Sakara has hundreds of kitchen workers on the payroll) and for being so plant-forward, it isn’t lacking in flavor. I especially loved (a) the spicy carrot purée that accompanied the dumplings, and (b) the touches of mesquite seasoning in the parfait’s almond butter caramel.
Who Is It For?
In theory, this sort of food should be for everyone. But there’s a high probability, if you identify as a man, that you haven’t eaten anything from Sakara before. For one, online analytics suggest that 77% of its consumer audience is female. And a number of its products are expressly designed for female touch-points like prenatal care, or bridal prep. This target audience makes sense; it has obvious crossovers in the female wellness space, and besides, men eat a preposterous amount of red meat. It’s harder to convince them to buy winter salads.
Still, this sort of plant-based diet is packed with fiber, minerals, vitamins, healthy fats, you name it. It’s the sort of food that makes you want to accomplish things throughout the day instead of lay down on the couch. Over time, yes, it probably will help you clear up your skin, balance your gut, get better sleep and cool your anxiety…like Sakara puts on its branding. Eat the right food for a long period is medicinal. A mountain of evidence says so.
Can you afford what Sakara’s offering, though? That’s a bit trickier — the meals come out to about $31 a pop, or $275 for nine (when you choose a three-day meal plan). If you choose to subscribe on a weekly basis, that number drops down to $27 a pop. It’s still a lot. Do you, but I’d recommend using Sakara’s meal kits as a “reset” option. When you come back from a gluttonous holiday or wedding weekend, it’s a delicious, fresh, easy-to-prepare option that’ll put you back on track. Most of us wouldn’t dream of spending that much on breakfast, but we’ve all overspent on over-buttered dinners. Consider this an evened-out alternative.
A Favorite of Pro Athletes
The good news is that registered dietician Alicia Harper assured me that none of this was that weird. After a strenuous workout, our bodies lose a lot of electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium, and pickle juice contains all of the above. So craving a giant deli pickle makes total sense. In fact, there is scientific evidence that pickle juice can rehydrate the body and relieve muscle cramping even faster than water.
“I would say that pickle juice is helpful in replenishing electrolyte levels more quickly, making it an attractive post-workout drink,” Harper told me.
I had heard of pickle juice as a hangover remedy before, but never as a post-workout recovery hack. However, professional athletes like tennis player Frances Tiafoe reportedly swear by the fermented liquid, and hockey player Blake Coleman’s nickname is “Pickles” for this reason.
The brine works similarly in athletic and heavy drinking contexts. The same electrolytes you crave after a sweaty workout “can come to the rescue during a nasty hangover, helping you bounce back,” Harper explained.
Pickle Juice >
The bad news is that in order to tap into the full recovery potential of pickles, you are better off drinking the juice instead of chomping a gherkin.“While eating actual pickles will help deliver some of these benefits, the athlete will end up consuming less of the juice, therefore, less of the benefits,” Marley Bigos, a Los Angeles-based Barry’s instructor and NASM certified Nutrition Coach, said. It’s basically like doing a pickleback, but you’re replacing the whiskey with intense exercise that makes you want to throw up.
To be fair, fermented foods in general have been found to support weight management and healthy metabolic functioning, and pickles are no exception. But it’s worth noting that not all pickle juices are created equal, and Bigos and Harper recommend avoiding any pickles with added sugars or dyes.
After pushing myself through a 45-minute HIIT workout a few days later, I reached in my fridge for a jar of Milwaukee Baby Kosher Dills, and read the label: Yellow 5, an artificial food dye. Considering how much Mountain Dew I had consumed in my youth, I held off on doing shots of this pickle juice. Although more expensive brands offer cleaner options, the most cost-effective way to reap these benefits is by pickling your own vegetables — an easy set-it-and-forget-it type of food prep that requires little beyond cucumbers, a jar, vinegar and water.
As a Midwesterner accustomed to eating giardiniera, the idea of pickling appealed to me, but I still could not imagine drinking the juice. And when it comes to health, it’s important to have attainable goals. Ordering a large pickle from a glass jar at a deli after a long workout is a habit I can stick to, even if the recovery benefits are slightly less than chugging the juice. If I have to eat more pickles to make up for this, so be it. Where there’s a dill, there’s a way.