YMCA Cafe feeds body and soul

Ready to go cases. —Marnely Murray

Have your New Year’s resolutions come and gone? For 32 years, I’ve never been able to stick to my resolutions, but at the end of 2016 I decided to focus on myself a little more. Among other things, I started going to the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard, where you can burn calories and also balance your new lifestyle by consuming healthy calories at the Y Cafe. I sat down with Joan Chaput, who oversees the operation, and Jill Robie-Axtell, executive director of the YMCA, to learn more about how the Y Cafe supports a healthy diet.

“The Y Cafe has been revamped slowly for the past two years. With these latest menu changes, we feel that the transition into healthier grab-and-go options and locally grown foods is connecting with our membership,” Joan Chaput said. She’s the one who works closely with cafe manager Angie Estrella to develop new recipes. Ms. Chaput has a culinary background, and she’s the business manager. The new menu showcases a make-your-own smoothie bar, as well as a signature smoothie menu, so you don’t have to think too much — the work is done for you.

The cafe’s motto is simple: Don’t sabotage your workouts. The YMCA’s core mission, after all, focuses on bringing together mind, body, and spirit. Granted, the cafe also caters to the high school students that use Alex’s Place after school, so you will see bagels and muffins for those growing teenagers. Other than those items, the menu includes much of what you’d find at a health food cafe; they’ve even removed the fryolator they used to fry chicken and fries, back in the day.

Wholesome, locally sourced ingredients are their focus, and

their biggest seller from the prepared foods is a quinoa salad Joan came up with. Simple enough, it’s just quinoa, kale, and cranberries, but the blend of tart cranberries pairs well with the hearty kale and whole grain quinoa. Another great option if you’re just looking to satiate hunger is their version of the Starbucks Protein Bistro Boxes — a small box with a hard-boiled egg, chunks of cheddar, a small cup of peanuts, and fresh strawberries. Those boxes help me stay satisfied on the days when I arrive to work out before I’ve had time to eat a decent meal. I know that’s not the smartest plan, but it happens. And that’s what the Y Cafe does — it offers quick, simple meals and grab-and-go items that you can feel good, not guilty, about.

During the summer, the influx of locally sourced items is a major bonus, but even during the off-season, the cafe strives to source from local New England farms. But it’s not just about the cafe, it’s also about the community that surrounds it, and the energy that fills the space when every table is filled. Friends and family come together at the cafe, whether as an extension of the teen center or as a quick work meeting location. It’s a spot where you can relax, grab a healthy bite to eat, and watch people come and go.

And that’s why my resolutions have held up this year. Over the past few months, for me, the YMCA has transformed from “the gym” to “the place where I feel like family.” I was the one that used to hate saying hello to people at the gym, and now I’m the one that smiles at the regulars, stops in to say hi to the trainers Melissa, Asil, and Brad. I’m the one that chats it up with Katie at the front desk, and grabs a quick protein box after a sweaty class. I may sound like a salesperson, but here’s my YMCA pitch: Give it a try for a month and you’ll love the community. Check out the website for details: ymcamv.org. It’s never too late to take care of you.