We know cooking our own meals from fresh ingredients is best … but there’s a laundry list of excuses we give for not doing it: It takes too much time; we don’t know how to cook; unused food always goes to waste;, we don’t know what to make and then we’ll have to do the dishes.
No wonder meal-kit delivery services are now a $ 1.5 billion industry, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.
Yet with more than 150 companies nationally, picking a box that’s healthy can be harder than deciding if you want sushi or pho tonight. Check out these five companies that strive to make healthy eating convenient, plus why Toby Amidor, RD, author of “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen,” gives her expert approval for each.
HelloFresh chefs are held to nutritional guidelines set by head dietitian Rebecca Lewis, RD. If necessary, Lewis or the other in-house RD’s make recommendations for how to modify the recipe to reduce calories, fat or sodium or bump up the protein in a dish. Although each recipe card includes the full nutrition facts, “we’re thinking about more than numbers,” says Lewis, who meets with vendors to ensure the produce, meat and other ingredients are high-quality.
Our RD’s take: “HelloFresh offers nutritionally balanced meals,” Amidor says. “I found all but one meal with fewer than 600 calories, and the sodium and saturated fat are kept under control.”
This meal-kit service is all about making eating more plants easier. “We know that once you start eating more plant-based meals, you feel better and want to keep eating more,” says cofounder Monica Klausner. “But it can be really hard to make that change. I went cold-turkey and I struggled a ton!”
Once recipes make the deliciousness cut, a nutritionist analyzes and tweaks it, if necessary, so the meals are also healthy. In addition to full meal and a la carte options, Veestro offers a weight-loss subscription with meals that add up to about 1,200 calories per day.
Our RD’s take: “Sometimes it can be hard to have enough protein in plant-based recipes, but the creators have done a good job making sure it’s in there,” Amidor says. “The meals usually have a hefty dose of fiber too and are overall nicely balanced with reasonable calories.”
Every Terra’s Kitchen meal is created jointly by in-house creative culinary director Libbie Summers and chief nutrition officer Lisa Davis, PhD. “Libbie comes up with ideas based on what customers are requesting and current trends, and Lisa evaluates those ideas based on a variety of nutritional factors. They go back and forth until they’ve reached a recipe that is delicious, quick and healthy,” says CEO Mike McDevitt.
The company only offers meat and poultry raised without antibiotics or hormones, as well as sustainably raised fish, and it sources organic and non-GMO ingredients whenever possible. It promises that every recipe is nutrient-dense and contains heart-healthy fats.
Our RD’s take: “The food plan for Terra’s Kitchen weight loss version is calorie-controlled meals, which is a definite plus, and it appears to have a ton of fruits and vegetables,” Amidor says. If you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, she recommends checking the nutrition information before ordering, as some meals can be high in calories.
Sun Basket brings the farm-to-table experience to your kitchen. Its meats are organic, non-GMO, humanely raise and hormone-free, its seafood is sustainably sourced and its produce is organic whenever possible. Each meal must pass muster with an in-house dietitian for nutritional balance.
Our RD’s take: “Their meals are well-balanced for protein, carbs and fat, and they even tell you the source of the added sugar in the recipe,” Amidor says. “They also offer vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare, which is nice to have on your table throughout the week.” Just be mindful that some meals are close to 700 calories.
“Living a healthy lifestyle starts with building healthy habits and not extreme dieting. GreenBlender sets up our members for long-term success by helping them start their day with a healthy decision,” founder Jenna Tanenbaum says. Each recipe works in a superfood you may not be familiar with, such as bok choy, kumquats or goji berries, to help you become more comfortable trying new foods.
Our RD’s take: “Be mindful that most of the smoothies serve two,” Amidor says.