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Home Delivered Meal Kits: Are They a Game Changer or a Recipe for Disaster?

picture of a box of ingredients with recipe cards

Have you tried one of the many home meal kit options on the market today?

With some mighty tempting savings offers on your first few meals, it's hard to imagine that anyone HASN'T tried one of the home delivered meal kits yet! 

But some of you might be wondering- are these meal kits actually healthy? Are they cost effective? Can they help you lose weight, are they sustainable- and more.

Well, that's what this article is all about! So tune in to learn this dietitians take on home delivered meal kits.

But first, let's back up a bit. Maybe you don't actually know what I'm talking about. Home delivered meal kits are boxes of ingredients delivered to your home with recipes to cook the food that generally take 40 minutes or less to cook.

There are many companies providing meal kits such as HelloFresh, BlueApron, HomeChef, FreshPrep, PurpleCarrot, and many more.

Since I am a whole foods plant-based proponent, I'm going to be paying special attention to the meal kits that offer vegan or at a minimum vegetarian meals. I will also be highlighting mainly those I see available in Canada (but I'm sure Americans will be able to Google to learn what they have available).

Those include but are not limited to:

- HelloFresh/ Chef's Plate

- FreshPrep

- PlantPrepped (in Quebec and Ontario)

- Purple Carrot

- Clean Meals

- PlantX

Are they Healthy?

More and more plant-based meal kits are being made available to consumers in North America. My parents have been using PurpleCarrot- one of the few 100% plant-based meal kits.

If you're reading my blog, you probably know that I believe eating a predominantly whole foods plant-based diet is best for our health.

If you can find a 100% plant-based home delivered meal kit, then yes, I think there's the possibility for these being a healthy option for busy families or professionals who don't have the time to shop and prepare foods on their own.

That being said, it has been my personal experience that many of the vegetarian home delivered meal kit providers use cheese and nuts to provide protein to their meals rather than more nutrient dense and lower calorie beans and soy products.

I understand why they do that, as I struggle to get the average American excited about eating more beans myself, so they probably want to limit the bean heavy choices if they want to pique peoples interest.

That being said, I often find that the meal kits come with smaller portions of healthy vegetables (things I would normally not restrict myself from eating at home). I will comment more on this below, but given the myriad of health benefits of plants, I wish that more of the calories in these meals was coming from them.

Another point of contention is the freshness of the vegetables given to you. Because these kits need supplies that aren't necessarily in season and have had to endure various forms of repackaging and transport, you may not receive the freshest ingredients.

Some boxes miss ingredients altogether, which can be a bit disappointing (especially if they left out the garlic and you didn't happen to have any).

Because these home delivered meal kit providers are trying to hook you on the flavors of their meals, they will often use salt, oil, and sugar to boost the flavors of their meals. If you are someone who is trying to go plant-based for disease reversal or weight loss, this might end up being a hindrance to you (more on that next).

From a nutritional standpoint, you could be getting lots of calories per serving, but not necessarily a lot of nutrients per serving, which would make me question whether I wanted to rely on a service like this for 3 or more meals per week.

That being said, a lot of people find a service like this helpful when first learning how to prepare plant-based foods or cook more at home. The unique recipes and flavor combinations, and the convenience of home delivered meal kits may be worth the less desirable qualities if it can help you transition to cooking and eating plant-based foods at home.

Are they Good for Weight loss and disease reversal?

Weight Loss

So you've been convinced that going plant-based is going to be the best for weight loss and disease reversal. You are busy, so you are wondering if you can hire a home delivery meal kit service to make your transition to eating plant-based just that much easier. Well, would it work?

Most meal kits tell you they range from 500-750 calories per serving. While not an unreasonable amount of calories for a meal, they generally aren't huge portions of calorie dilute foods, and some of those calories may come from oil and other fat sources.

I do think having a meal kit could lead to overconsuming calories, but it doesn't have to! You can adapt the recipes to have no oil, you can tell the companies to omit any high fat ingredients in the box, and you can definitely add in more vegetables and grains to make a more filling and calorie dilute meal.

There are also some companies that choose to offer meals with lower calorie counts, or it's something you can request. The problem with typical calorie restriction is that you usually have to eat less food.

What I teach my clients is actually how to eat MORE food for less calories. This ensures you are full and satisfied after each meal and makes compliance to this way of eating much more sustainable.

To work directly with me to learn how to use calorie density to lose weight or improve your diseases then you can schedule a free discovery call here.

Disease Reversal

As I mentioned before, eating a whole foods plant-based diet is going to be better for health compared to an animal based diet. Given that most diseases respond best to a significant reduction in our fat intake, it's probably best to try and order and strictly vegan box, and to limit the amount of oil you use in prepping the foods. Sautéing with water or broth works excellent, as does using an air fryer for crispy textures.

Are they Cost Effective?

With "inflation" being the buzz word of 2022-2023, I'm sure some of you are wondering if a meal kit could actually cut down on your food spending.

An average 3 meal box kit for 2 people is around $80. That jumps up to over $100 for 4 or more household members. with each serving being between $10-15 you can imagine how much it would be to add in more meals or more people to suit your families need.

The prediction of Canada's Food Price Report of 2023, is that the average Canadian family will spend $16,288 on groceries this year. That's about $340 per month.

Compare that to a meal kit with 3 meals per week, which would cost a family of 4 about $480 per month (if you don't get any discounted rates- which are abundant, and can reduce the cost significantly).

You would still need to purchase additional groceries for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and the additional dinners of the week. So, cost effective- probably not long term unless you have more disposable income in your budget.

But, it could definitely be worth the cost for a short time when you are learning to go plant-based, you have a season of increased busyness where you could use the help, you have discounts available to you, or you have only 2 people in your home.

How to get the best Bang for your buck

If you are down to try a few plant-based home delivered meal kits, then how can you stretch what you have received, and make the most of the meals?

I've been experimenting with this, as I tried some HelloFresh meals this week. Because I had vegetables left from last week, and I bought a few additional for lunches and snacks, I was able to add in vegetables to almost every meal of the kits.

By adding in vegetables, I was able to increase the portion size, meaning I would feel completely full and satisfied after every meal. Adding in vegetables gave me more fiber, water, and phytonutrients, which does make the meal healthier.

For one of the meals, I was able to essentially double it with ingredients I already had on hand, which enabled us to make 2 meals out of 1 kit.

You can also pair the meals with fruit and a side vegetable to reduce the portion of the meal you eat, and potentially create enough leftovers for another meal.

When I visit my parents, my mom often just buys a few additional ingredients to essentially double the meal kits without having to buy the 3rd and 4th portions from the company. So you can pay attention to what meals you are having that week and plan accordingly.

Are they Sustainable?

This question is dependent on the company that you choose to buy from, as some are more environmentally minded than others. But overall the industry does claim to be more sustainable than traditional grocery shopping due to a few factors:

  • More streamlined supply chains that enable them to get ingredients in bulk from local producers and therefore reduce the total distance travelled by the ingredients

  • Many producers have ways to counteract the increased carbon footprint of delivering the meals

  • Less resources like water used in cleanup

  • Less personal energy spent in creating a list, shopping, and then preparing the meal and cleaning up after.

However, there are some serious things to be considered, especially if your goal is sustainability and environmental friendliness.

  • Ingredients often come in one use plastics

  • Gel packs used to keep foods cool may not be environmentally friendly

  • Lots of cardboard is used in packaging the foods for delivery

There are some companies that strive to reduce their waste and leave as small a bio footprint as possible. Plant-based meals will automatically have a much smaller carbon footprint than animal-based meals. I would do your research to ensure your home delivered meal kit aligns with your values.

Overall thoughts about HOme Delivered Meal Kits

I do personally enjoy the simplicity of signing up for a home delivered meal kit. It does make my life much simpler on weeks when I opt to use a service like this. However, I don't use them often because of the high cost per portion which is just not sustainable for our family.

If you have never tried them, then go ahead an use the introductory discounts to enjoy a week of affordable and easy to prepare meals. You can even time these deliveries for weeks when you know you will be busy and want to just buy food from a restaurant.

If home delivered meal kits save you and your family from going through the drive through or relying on convenience foods from the grocery store, then they may be healthier and much more sustainable option for your family.

But I have a feeling, many people are just in need of support as they learn how to plan meals and meal prep at home in a way that will work well for their family.

That's exactly what I love to help individuals and families learn how to do. So schedule today to find the help you need when transitioning yourself or your family to a whole foods plant-based diet!!

Hello, many of you may be new to my blog, so I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm Lucy, a registered dietitian with a Master's in Public Health. Because of my health degrees, I love to share my knowledge about optimal nutrition and lifestyle because I really believe nutrition information should be available to everyone. So I hope you help this blog very informative and helpful! If you are someone who wants to connect about how I can support and encourage you as you transition to a more plant-based diet, then I'd love to touch base about my 1:1 Coaching or Online Course.

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