Magazine article Drug Topics

How One R.Ph. Turned His Own Dietary Needs into a Success

Magazine article Drug Topics

How One R.Ph. Turned His Own Dietary Needs into a Success

Article excerpt

When life gives you lemons, goes the old saying, turn them into lemonade. Pharmacist Joe Martinez turned them into cheese ravioli, chicken enchiladas, and banana bread.

Martinez has been a self-described "110%" person all his life, from leading his high school wrestling team to flying Air Force jets to running the Family Prescriptives pharmacy in Milltown, N.J. When he learned he had diabetes two years ago, he went full throttle into eating healthy but soon hit a wall of frustration.

"When you first get diagnosed as a diabetic, the nurse gives you a 1,600calorie diet and says, 'Good luck.' That's basically it," lamented Martinez. "I went to the supermarket really motivated and loaded up a cart, but I found if it's lowfat, it's high-sugar. If it's low-sugar, it's high-fat, and everything has tons and tons of sodium and preservatives. I got so frustrated, I left the supermarket cart right there and went on a crusade."

Martinez enlisted the help of his brother-in-law Victor Borkowsky, a chef and also a diabetes patient. The pair cooked up healthy meals that could be refrigerated and then reheated in the microwave. Within weeks, both men saw their blood sugar levels plummet-in Martinez' case, from 253 to 95 in one month-and their waistlines shrink. It was then that Martinez realized that the meals could benefit others in the community.

Incorporated in May 1996, Diet-PikUp is both a business and a mission for Martinez. Chef Victor prepares more than 4,000 meals a week in a 4,500-sq. ft. commercial kitchen near Martinez' pharmacy in Milltown. The meals are cooked twice a week and then immediately delivered to more than two dozen independent community pharmacies throughout New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The pharmacies serve as distribution points, although some customers have their meals delivered to their homes or offices.

The program is available in 1,000 or 1,800 calories per day plans for either five- or seven-day periods. Customers pay from $44 to $126.50, depending on which plan they choose, a week in advance.

Each meal meets the guidelines of both the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. The meals are low in fat, sugar, sodium, and cholesterol. Martinez and Borkowsky devised four weekly menus that rotate, giving subscribers variety. Breakfast stays simple: typically a muffin with fruit. Lunch offerings include "Luau Chicken" with low-fat cole slaw, nocholesterol quiche, and salads. Dinners can be anything from "Texas Turkey Meatloaf" to salmon steak.

Pharmacies serving as local distributors typically make a 20%-24% retail profit on Diet-Pik-Up, "with a minimum of fuss on their part," according to Martinez. …

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