Sarah Mattison Berndt: Sports Nutrition for All

A few years ago, Sarah Mattison Berndt, MS, RD, was working as the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletics team sports nutritionist. It was a struggle, she says, for many of the athletes to prepare balanced meals required to support the demands of their training. So Berndt started making them meals.

Berndt, an athlete herself, was very interested in how food and nutrition influenced performance, energy and health. “It seemed natural to put my love for food, nutrition, and athletics together," she says. So, in 2009, she opened Hybrid Athletic Club, a full service gym, along with Fit Fresh Cuisine, an all-healthy restaurant, under one roof. Her Hybrid Health Plan has helped hundreds of participants dramatically improve their health, not only by dropping significant amounts of weight, but also by reversing risk of diseases such as type two diabetes, and by getting off medications for hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes and depression.

What led to your career in nutrition and dietetics?
I grew up in a rural setting with a family of green-thumbs, agriculture enthusiasts, farmers and foodies. We had a very large garden — from which we canned and froze our own produce — an apple orchard, and honey bees for fresh honey, all of which we sold at the local farmer’s market. As a family, our passion for enjoying a good meal is the sum of our love for the land, our commitment to sustainable agriculture, and eating locally.

Tell us about your work and how it fulfills a need in your community.
Our Hybrid Health Plan program includes 12 weeks of targeted, progressive, functional fitness training five days a week in a small group setting with a trainer. This fitness training is combined with Fit Fresh Cuisine’s calorically controlled, fresh, and locally sourced meal plan program. Over time, participants receive fewer meals per week and gradually incorporate making their own meals with the support of our demonstrations and materials. The dual approach uniquely offers accountability, efficiency and support lending to dramatic health transformations. 

How has your work made a difference in your community?
Helping people reach their goals in a timely, efficient manner builds a tremendous amount of satisfaction and further strengthens their commitment to continue a healthy lifestyle. Hundreds of participants have dramatically improved their health not only dropping significant amounts of weight, but also by reversing risk of diseases such as type two diabetes, and by getting off medications for hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes and depression.

In 2012, the buzz about our program interested the not-for-profit insurance company, Group Health Cooperative, to such an extent they provided full reimbursement for 104 of their members to participate in the Hybrid Health Plan and in addition, provided 25 percent reimbursement for Fit Fresh Cuisine’s meal plan program for the entire 12-week period. The anticipated results were evident and this partnership continues to grow into 2013.  

Looking ahead, how would you like to see your project develop or grow?
This year we brought the Hybrid Health Plan to children and teens through Hybrid’s Next Generation. We are very excited to be working with the youth to educate them about fitness and nutrition so they may lay a strong foundation for health. 

Further, Fit Fresh Cuisine has launched a line of healthy salad dressings extending our reach to make healthy eating convenient and delicious. It is very rewarding to see our products available in a wide variety of grocery stores.

Food & Nutrition Magazine
Food & Nutrition Magazine publishes articles on food and diet trends, highlights of nutrition research and resources, updates on public health issues and policy initiatives related to nutrition, and explorations of the cultural and social factors that shape Americans’ diets and health.