CoreLife Eatery promotes healthy lifestyle to Champaign customers


Jeni McLaughlin, assistant manager of CoreLife Eatery, puts together a Mediterranean green bowl, a customer favorite at CoreLife. Its menu provides students with healthy alternatives that are free of GMOs, trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners, antibiotics, hormones and other artificial additives.

By Sam Schrage, Staff Writer

Jeni McLaughlin, now an assistant manager at CoreLife Eatery, decided to change her eating habits some time ago. When she did, she knew it was time to make a job transition and to find one that complemented her now-healthy lifestyle. Upon seeing the job posting for CoreLife Eatery, she knew it was a perfect fit.

McLaughlin said she has always been interested in healthy eating and nutrition but went through phases where eating healthy sat on the back-burner.

“Last winter, I decided I wanted to eat well and started eating whole foods, fresh foods, antibiotic-free foods, and I felt incredible,” McLaughlin said. “I decided I wanted to change my job and noticed that everything they serve here is exactly what I had changed my diet to.”

Her job has only made it that much easier for her to continue on this path. CoreLife Eatery, a new restaurant located at 2512 N. Prospect Ave. in Champaign, offers an extensive menu full of fresh ingredients. There are 35 restaurants across the country, including the Champaign location, which opened in March.

According to Clay Baxter, operating partner for CoreLife Eatery, one of the reasons the company opened a restaurant in Champaign was because of the variety of people in the area who seek out healthy options. One of the populations he specifically wanted to target was the college-age group.

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    “I look at the younger generation, and they definitively eat differently than I did as a kid, and they seek out healthy options like this a lot more than I did,” Baxter said. “You see all kinds of ages and walks of life and people in different points throughout their health journey. We’re something people typically aren’t doing.”

    As operating partner, Baxter is the link between the corporate and franchise sides of the business. He is also responsible for opening all of the restaurants in Illinois. So far, Baxter has opened restaurants in Peoria and Champaign, and he plans to open restaurants in Normal, Downers Grove and Springfield by the end of the year.

    One of the reasons why CoreLife Eatery can expand quickly is the emphasis it places on clean eating. All the food it serves is free of GMOs, trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners, antibiotics, hormones and other artificial additives. 

    “We try to do as much in-house as we can and start with good ingredients. Anytime you process, blend, chop, freeze, puree, you’re taking away nutritional value. Keeping it as whole and under-handled as possible while incorporating great flavor is something we value,” Baxter said. “Food that’s good for you can have a lot of flavor and make you feel better and think clearer.”

    The menu varies from green bowls, grain bowls and broth bowls to power plates and warm rice bowls. Some customer favorites include the spicy Thai chicken and rice noodle bowl and the Mediterranean salad.

    Not only are CoreLife Eatery’s ingredients full of nutritional value, but customers also have the power to customize their meals. 

    “I think what makes this place unique is building it beginning to end. We know exactly what goes into it because we make everything from scratch,” McLaughlin said. “I like that we have hormone, antibiotic, GMO-free vegetables and meat because I think that’s a rising concern in our food consumption.”

    One of McLaughlin’s favorite parts about working at CoreLife Eatery is interacting with people and helping them find dishes that fit their dietary restrictions and preferences.

    “My favorite part is definitely interacting with people all day long,” McLaughlin said. “I love helping people with food allergies or sensitivities because that’s become so prevalent and it makes it really hard for people to go out to eat. I love helping them find what they want to eat and seeing them leave happy and in a good mood.”

    Customers also value the variety and freshness of ingredients, as well as the friendly and welcoming employees. CoreLife Eatery’s ambiance also reflects its emphasis on healthy living, with natural materials and artwork decorating the restaurant.

    “I like the freshness of it because you don’t get that at other restaurants. It’s a better alternative than processed foods, and the vibe is relaxed and everyone is very nice,” said CoreLife Eatery customer Makenzie Milchuck.

    Baxter also enjoys working with customers, especially regulars who share their fitness stories with him.

    “I think we speak the consumer, the lifestyle and the foodie. Customers share their fitness story and that’s a special thing that you don’t get at other places,” Baxter said. “I learn something every day from people about nutrition that I didn’t know. There’s something rewarding in what we’re doing here.”

    In the end, CoreLife’s promotion of a healthy lifestyle doesn’t stop at the door. 

    “Being healthy is a cycle that snowballs in a positive way. If you start eating better and feeling better, then you’re more likely to make more positive choices,” McLaughlin said. “They’ll feel better mentally and physically when they eat here and make good choices, and that might create a positive change by itself.”

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