Are meal kits really the best option?
These days life is all about convenience & speed, that includes our diet too. Thanks to modern-day technology ordering ready prepared food or meal kits has never been so easy. Services such as Hello Fresh & Gousto are good options for those of us who are time short or need a little help & inspiration when it comes to cooking & making our own meals but are they actually as healthy & good for you as they claim or market themselves to be?
I had a really interesting discussion with a client last week, her friend gave her a discount code to use Hello Fresh for a week. So she ordered her box & got her meals delivered. Her main goal right now is working on weight loss & she said to me she couldn't believe how difficult it was to find the calorie content of meals on their website when ordering. She had the perception in her head that their meals would be relatively well balanced in terms of macronutrients & contain average calories per meal, after all the name of the company & the marketing on the website (clever) using fresh fruit & veg does lead you to believe they will be super nutritious meals & gives you the perception that they would probably sit well within a calorie target. Helpful if you are in a deficit for sure!
She was aware of keeping within her calorie target so was conscious of selecting meals that hit both her calorie goal & kept protein high & wanted to try something other than the low-calorie options available on the site. After a while, she did manage to find the calorie content for the meals, after spending ages online, not time effective which slightly ruins the point of the ease of the service. But anyway she found them & the next thing she couldn't believe was how high some of the calories were per serving sizes on some meals!
The average dinner serving on hello fresh on their standard recipes ranges from 600-900 calories per serving. That is a huge calorie amount for one meal especially if your goal is weight loss. If you were consuming say 1800 calories per day you would have to make sure you left 700-1000 calories for dinner to stay within your daily calorie budget which for some of us would be incredibly difficult & you may well find you lack energy as you keep calories restricted through the daytime to fit in your evening meal.
If you swapped out one of their meals & cooked it for yourself you could easily half the calories & increase the nutritional value of the meal massively. For example, their Creamy Rigatoni contains 698 calories per serving yet only 27g of protein & a whopping 88g of carbohydrates!
This is a pretty simple meal you could easily make from scratch yourself, if you simply halved the amount of pasta in the meal or swapped it out for a more complex carbohydrate such as sweet potato & added in some chicken or prawns you could turn this meal into a 500-600 calorie meal containing 30g+ of protein. Not only going to suit your calorie & protein targets better but you are also going to be far more satisfied after the meal as you have consumed a good serving of protein.
Now I am not writing this to slag off meal kit services, like I said they are a great option for those of us who are time short & if you are a single girl or live alone they are a fantastic option when you're cooking for 1 to give you plenty of variety & meal ideas. However they are not the best option when it comes to the quality of the meals or nutritional value, the ingredients are not often organic either.
So for the price, you are paying a lot of money for the convenience as opposed to the quality of your food. Food quality is important as the better quality the food the better nutrients you put in your body & therefore the better you will feel-if you're not bothered about food quality it is something you should be bothered about or understand the benefits of good quality sourced foods & I would suggest you educate yourself on this for long term health.
Of course, you can find better options on the websites that offer higher protein meals but again for the quality of the meal, you would be far better off cooking that yourself. Services like Hello Fresh & Gousto are great options but you should really consider how they fit your goals & support your training. My suggestion would be if you are looking for inspiration in your meals & considering using the service then sign up for their introductory offer where you get your first couple of weeks discounted.
Select a variety of meals so you can try all different lunches & dinners & discover what you like for those couple of weeks & also what you find works for you in terms of convenience & cooking simplicity. Then after those initial weeks do it yourself & put your own spin on the meal to make it fit your calorie & macro targets.
Use the recipes but go to the supermarket & stock up on the ingredients-this is literally the only difference that using a meal kit service provides & quite frankly if you can't make time to commit to doing a food shop each week I would question how serious you are about your goals & improving your diet?
If time is the main issue when it comes to preparing your own food then on a Sunday or a quieter day spend an hour or so & do what the meal kit services do for you-portion & prep your food & chuck it in the fridge so it is ready for you when you get home & you just have to actually cook it.
Cooking for yourself doesn't actually require any more effort than a meal prep service minus physically going to the supermarket to collect your ingredients is the only difference & in the long run you will save yourself a lot of money too shopping for yourself as opposed to paying for a meal kit service. Again if your goal is weight loss then they are a great option to give you variety & cooking inspiration but don't suddenly expect to feel awesome or get to your goal weight just because you start using a meal prep service. You need to be aware & educate yourself of what is in your meals in terms of calorie content & then teach yourself how to build a great diet yourself.
I think this is a really interesting subject as the marketing these companies use is very clever & we instantly have connotations with the branding & imagery that these meals are super healthy, contain heaps of nutrients & will help us to either lose weight or stay in great shape. Obviously, some meals are healthier than others but in the long run, you can most certainly eat better & healthier from home by doing it for yourself plus save a ton of money that could go into something else like a gym programme or an online coach to improve your fitness! If you have tried meal kit services I'd be really intrigued to hear your opinions & if you found any of this to be true!
Remember nutrition is 90% of your results & it's about finding what works for you.