No Time to Cook? Try This: The Lowdown on Healthy Meal Delivery Services
Recently, I’ve had to deal with a new kitchen – one that literally includes nothing but a microwave and a minifridge. No, this wasn’t some kind of backwards renovation process; I’ve been living in hotels while traveling for work. And, unsurprisingly, the hectic schedule mixed with new surroundings has made it hard to eat healthy foods. I haven’t been half as conscientious as I should be.
In a nutshell, I’m finding it borderline impossible to prioritize healthy habits when circumstances get challenging.
Weight loss isn’t everyone’s battle, but it’s something that I’m working on, and the main fight within it is developing and adhering to habits that result in balanced nutrition and fitness. I know that these habits directly impact my sleep, mood and overall well-being. But while I’m on the road, it’s hard to keep them top of mind.
Like I often do when I’m struggling, I turned to CGH for advice. Guess what? I ran into an article on avoiding takeout. WRITTEN BY ME.
Especially since my hotel mini-fridge looked like this last week:
No worries, though. I’m learning to embrace the ebbs and flows of my health journey—it is as curvy as my waist-to-hip ratio suggests. Progress ain’t always interrupted. I’m finally proud of my ability to reflect and readjust, uncovering the version of myself that can certainly be more diligent and wise about my choices.
Course correction without judgment: yeah, it’s my new thing.
As I pondered the minifridge scene above, I thought back to when I had the disposable income necessary to try out the convenience of home-cooked meals, delivered to me chez moi. Sound awesome? It was. While living in Philadelphia, during a particularly stressful stretch of my work life, I connected with a chef/dietitian who delivered smartly proportioned, delicious meals to my home. I once thought of doing such a thing as a cop out on health, but for those of us who neglect healthy behaviors during times of change, these kinds of services are a blessing.
For some of you considering this route, I thought I’d put together a guide my favorite meal prep services. Some ground rules: Getting healthy meals delivered is expensive. I can comfortably fit 1lb of ground turkey, chicken, some form of carbs, vegetables, fruits in a $40 per week budget–maybe $60 if I head to Whole Foods. On average, creating a similar diet from these plans will cost $10-20 per serving. But if you are ordering or dining out frequently, this may be a worthwhile investment for you.
If that’s a reality check that makes you want to schedule that long-awaited Whole Foods trip, then run, girl! Run! But here are some reasons, un-related to cost-efficiency, to consider these services if your bank account can handle it.
1. You are stuck in a food slump, bored with the same ol’ meals. Variety is your friend, girlfriend. For me, getting bored with meals is a precursor to defaulting to the takeout window. Forcing a change through an external food source that’s both healthy and convenient can help.
2. You are interested in experimenting with new dishes. You may or may not be naturally spontaneous or an adventure-seeker, but lately you’ve been wanting to mix it up. Letting someone else kick off that process can help you feel more capable of creating new meals yourself.
3. You eat out a lot and find it difficult to make wise choices. You come home stuffed and fall promptly into a sleep coma. Might as well spend the same amount of cash and have guaranteed-to-be-nutritious meals show up at your house.
4. You like to experiment with food, but hate being stuck with random sauces and seasonings you’ve only used once. Letting someone else keep an elaborate spice rack, but still benefiting from it? Win-win.
Sound intriguing? Here are some categories of companies that can make it easier to broaden your palate and find a healthy alternative to heading to the nearest restaurant. I’ve divided these services into categories and added links and reviews from the web.
1. Meal kits. They deliver the ingredients in a box with instructions; you prep and cook the meal. The big three are HelloFresh, Plated, and BlueApron. Generally speaking, each company offers a similar principle: you order the meal, and it’s shipped fresh to your home, complete with instructions and pretty pictures. These services are either subscription-based or fee-per-meal. Read more here and here!
2. Restaurant-sourced dining at home. Companies like Forage and HealthyOut offer meals direct from your favorite restaurant. Both companies have a small service area (Forage in California and Nevada, HealthyOut in NYC). Forage meals can be prepared with 20 minutes, while HealthyOut meals are delivered cooked from the local restaurant. For the latter, all ordering is done through the HealthyOut app, complete with detailed nutritional information and the ability to plan your meals for the entire week.
3. Complete meals. HealthyChefCreations offers a wide variety of foods shipped anywhere in the US. Meals are typically delivered with freezer-packs to keep them fresh. I’ve tried this service only once before; to be quite honest, I’m not sure why I cancelled, but I did. As with any new adventure, I suggest doing some research on the ol’ internet for reviews before committing.
4. Personal chef. Feel free to do a quick Google search for personal chefs near you. Some prefer cook the meal in your home or some may offer delivery of fresh meals. I’m a big fan and supporter of local businesses, so this is my personal favorite! In the past, I’ve been a customer of Katie Cavuto of Healthy Bites Delivery in Philadelphia, PA and Chef Timothy Cozart in Durham, NC. The advantage of personal chefs is complete customization. Do your homework! Ask detailed questions as some chefs may not have experience with certain dietary restrictions.
5. ASK FOR HELP! Contact your friends and loved ones. Plan a weekly cooking date or just simply ask someone you love to cook and politely reimburse them for their time. No shame. I’m guessing if you are like me, you aren’t great asking for help and you may choose the options above. We’ll leave that potential issue for another day…
Some basic ordering tips if you’re on board:
• Select meals appropriate for your household. Some meal programs default to the 2 servings per package meals. If you are eating for one, you may want to check with the company to ensure you are given the right portions • Be home to receive your package or make arrangements to have it picked up.
• Don’t assume these meals are nutritionally balanced. Check the ingredients, and call the company if you are concerned.
• Similarly, check the ingredient list if you have allergies or intolerances.
• Before going through the ordering process, make sure they deliver to your area. • Select the company based on your style. If you are adventure-seeker, then choose the company with the least allowances for customization. If you are a picky eater, choose wisely, make sure your meals can be made to order.
• Make sure you understand the cancellation policy.
• Mix it up! Try out different companies and see what fits you best.
• Give feedback! That’ll make it better for all of us.
As for me: I haven’t settled on a plan just yet. (I will, though, and soon! It all depends on which company delivers to this small Midwestern town that is my new home for the next couple of weeks.) I’m off the experiment! Will update you soon.
With Love and Respect,