Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
Today’s fast-paced world limits the time most of us have to prepare home-cooked meals for our busy families. We have sports, PTA meetings, volunteer work, and other activities that often take us away from the kitchen. Our work schedule, and the long commute home for some, can also be a reason to just eat out or pass by a drive thru to get meals on the table pronto!
Enter meal kit delivery services... What's the appeal? Are these services worth the price? A meal kit delivery service is an “online kitchen,” offering to deliver a variety of kits you choose from to your doorstep. Most services deliver select ingredients based on the recipes you select from their menu. Meal kits are delivered weekly, complete with recipe guides, so you can prepare hot gourmet meals at home without a lot of mess and waste. Most meal kit delivery services can accommodate dietary needs, restrictions, and allergies, offering specialized menus such as gluten-free, ketogenic, plant-based, and low sodium to name a few.
Besides convenience, meal kit delivery services offer benefits such as eliminating the intimidation factor so even inexperienced cooks can try their hand at cooking and hone their skills. They provide the perfect opportunity for people to try out new foods and explore recipes and ingredients they may not have tried before, even those from other cultures. Having just the right amount of ingredients for each recipe keeps kitchen messes and food waste to a minimum. Menus designed for special dietary needs give people lots of options to choose from and eliminate the guesswork since ingredients delivered are specifically selected to meet special dietary requirements or restrictions.
Here are some of the most popular meal kit and ready-made meal delivery services:
1) Blue Apron – offers a variety of menu plans including vegetarian, low carb, and low calorie options (under 600 calories). Blue Apron is a popular meal kit delivery service for beginner cooks. Prices start at ~$9.00 per serving + shipping. Kits can be for two to four servings depending on the menu plan selected.
2) Home Chef – offers a rotating weekly menu with 30+ meals you can select from including quick and easy 15 minute meal kits, special occasion meal kits, and grill and oven-ready meal kits. Home Chef offers personalization of your menu selections by taking a short quiz before you order. You can customize pretty much everything to meet your specific menu needs. Prices start at ~$9.00 per serving, but you have to order a minimum weekly order of $50.00.
3) Sunbasket – offers ingredient-based meal kits as well as ready-made meals with 10 meal plans to choose from including gluten-free, plant-based, and diabetes-friendly options. A rotating weekly menu allows you to mix and match your options. Sunbasket uses organic produce and high quality ingredients according to its website. Price starts at $9.99 per serving with an additional cost for shipping.
4) HelloFresh – one of the first meal kit delivery services to come onto the market, HelloFresh offers a wide variety of menus to choose from allowing you to select a combination of recipes from the offered weekly menu options. The kits come with recipe instruction cards that are easy to follow. Prices start at ~$7.99 with an additional shipping cost.
5) Factor – has menus designed by dietitians but meals delivered weekly are pre-prepared meals, not kits you have to prepare and cook. Prices start at ~$11.00 per serving with menus catering to specific dietary requirements/needs such as low carb, high protein, paleo, plant-based, keto, and vegetarian. Consultation with a Registered Dietitian is complimentary and shipping is free.
6) BistroMD – this ready-made meal delivery service offers over 150 chef-made meals that cater to a variety of dietary needs or restrictions. Their program includes heart healthy and diabetes friendly options, even a menopause option! BistroMD also offers healthy snacks with their Essential and Tasty Snacks (EATS) program. Their meals are single-serve and costs can range from ~$149 for the 5-day lunch and dinner plan to ~$187 for the 5-day full program. Shipping is extra.
Before you decide to dive in and use a meal kit or ready-made delivery service, think about the pros and cons based on your personal needs. Consider the ingredient quality, ease of cooking the recipe, the quality of customer service (especially in case something is wrong with your order), the cost per meal, the time you are able and willing to commit to cooking, and your cooking skills. Meal kit delivery services can save precious time and can be a great way to venture into eating healthy since it takes the guesswork out of choosing healthy, quality ingredients. Most services offer first-time customer discounts and/or free shipping. Try one today!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.