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The 5 best healthy meal kits and pre-made meals, according to a nutritionist

As a nutritionist with three kids, I’m keenly aware of how hard it can be to find the time to cook healthy meals amidst a busy life. When my son’s basketball practice has me on the run or my kitchen is a mess, I’m all for shortcutting my way to quick, nutritious foods. ์นด์ง€๋…ธ์‚ฌ์ดํŠธ

In this day and age, that means food delivered to your door โ€” either pre-made meals you can just pop in the microwave or all-inclusive meal kits you assemble yourself. The problem is, many brands identify themselves as healthy when they’re actually not, or the taste isn’t up to snuff.

With help from dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, CDN, author of “Read It Before You Eat Itโ€”Taking You From Label to Table,” I took stock of the best healthy meal delivery kits and services the market has to offer. I personally sampled 11 pre-made, reheatable meals and self-assembled kits, narrowing them down to five top choices for various goals.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included the other kits I considered, including those that didn’t make the cut but that I still recommend, and a selection of kits I wasn’t very fond of. I’ve also provided the testing methodology I used in picking my favorites, as well as what to look for in a healthy meal kit and answers to a few frequently asked questions.

The best healthy meal kit overall

Pros: Delicious variety of meals, nutritious ingredients, meals can be eaten hot or cold, very organized, added luxuries

Cons: Expensive, nutrition information not listed, some meals may go bad quickly ์•ˆ์ „ํ•œ์นด์ง€๋…ธ์‚ฌ์ดํŠธ

Sakara is more than a meal delivery service โ€” it’s an experience. My order arrived with three pre-made plant-based meals per day, plus a probiotic supplement, energy bar, daily teas, and even a piece of palo santo wood to light in an intention-setting ceremony. (Whoa.) An orderly schedule informed me which meals to eat on which days. It’s no surprise that this service, founded by former model Danielle DuBoise and ex-Wall Street exec Whitney Tingle, is the healthy meal service of choice for many celebrities.

When my shipment arrived, I was giddy over the unique options like chia pumpkin bread, Sichuan noodles, and specialty ingredients like watermelon radishes in salads and matcha almond milk. The taste did not disappoint, either. Every meal I tried was fresh, delicious, and very convenient โ€” each comes already prepared and can be eaten hot or cold. However, because Sakara’s meals contain so many fresh ingredients, I did have to eat them right on schedule to prevent them from going bad. I also loved that the packaging was easily recyclable.

For all Sakara’s fancy-schmancy Hollywood vibes (and some pseudoscientific marketing about “clean” eating), its meals were, to my nutrition professional’s eye, the healthiest of all the services I sampled. Ample fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and plant-based protein round out their breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

That said, one drawback is that Sakara doesn’t list the nutrition information for its meals. (DuBoise and Tingle’s philosophy is to “count nutrients, not calories.”) For some users, this might be a nice relief, but if individual nutrients matter to your health goals, Sakara might not be the service for you.

Lastly, Sakara’s many luxuries don’t come cheap. The smallest order possible โ€” a two-day program of two meals per day โ€” will set you back $109. Meal plan prices increase from there.

The best budget healthy meal kit

Pros: Low cost, availability at mainstream retailers, portion sizes are great for couples

Cons: Entrees and sides are heated separately, nutrition labeling is somewhat misleading, keto/Paleo diet isn’t right for everyone

Kevin’s Natural Foods is one of the many meal delivery services aimed toward Keto and Paleo diets and is not only great tasting but just $10-15 per meal (which serves two to four).

Kevin offers pre-made entrees and sides like Korean-style Barbecue Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Riced Cauliflower Stir-Fry. Kevin’s entrรฉes are limited to chicken- or beef-based dishes to keep them low-carb, and its sides are all made with the keto- and Paleo-friendly starches cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Since I’m not a keto or Paleo dieter myself, I wasn’t sure how I’d like Kevin’s meals โ€” so I was pleasantly surprised by their flavor. The cauliflower was crisp-tender, mashed potatoes were creamy, and my only complaint about the chicken was that it came out a tad rubbery (though I may have sipped the accompanying Thai-syle coconut sauce directly from the tray). ์นด์ง€๋…ธ์‚ฌ์ดํŠธ ์ถ”์ฒœ

And there’s no arguing that the meals are easy to make: Snip open a pack of chicken, cauliflower, or sweet potatoes, plus a sauce, microwave for a few minutes, and boom โ€” dinner.

Nutritionally speaking, Kevin’s takes the guesswork out of Paleo and keto eating โ€” but these diets aren’t right for everyone. “Although they’re hot diets, I’m a fan of balance, and these plans eliminate or limit important foods, like whole grains, beans, and pulses,” says Taub-Dix. If you’re not keto or Paleo, you may want to look elsewhere for healthy, convenient meals.

I also found Kevin’s portion sizes a little off. Even for my relatively small appetite, I’d say the meals could serve one to two people. But according to their nutrition info, the meals are intended to serve three to four.

The biggest point in Kevin’s favor is the prices are deliciously low. When you purchase 12 entrees or more โ€” which, don’t forget, serve at least two โ€” you’ll pay just $10 per meal and they’re easily freezable. Four meals and/or sides start at $15.

You can purchase online or find the brand at a variety of chain grocery stores, including Costco.

The best for healthy snacks and small bites

Pros: Healthy, plant-based ingredients, easy prep, good variety, perfect for breakfast or snacks

Cons: Small portions may not work well for lunch or dinner, many are low in protein, some items (like smoothies) require you to have liquid ingredients on hand

Daily Harvest is ideal for a light breakfast or when you need a healthy snack or small bite to tide you over. The company’s lengthy product list includes flatbreads, grain bowls, desserts, soups, and, yes, smoothies (which are actually quite filling). Most products require a quick turn in the blender or microwave, but they’re ready to eat in just minutes.

I sampled a little bit of everything, landing on a few favorites, including the Cinnamon Banana Oat Bowl for a hearty start to my day (there’s even butternut squash in it!) and the Mint + Cacao smoothie, which genuinely tasted like mint chip ice cream โ€“ even though it contains spinach and chlorella.

This, of course, highlights the aspect of Daily Harvest that makes my nutritionist heart sing: Its products are just so gosh-darned healthy. Each meal or snack lists its ingredients in large print right on the front of its packaging, almost always a short roll call of plant-based whole foods. Most are chock-full of fiber and micronutrients, with no added sugars.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend relying on Daily Harvest for an entire day’s eating, since some of the meals and snacks are particularly low in protein. But it’s also not too hard to supplement this macro if you feel it’s lacking, suggests Taub-Dix.

The best healthy meal kit for weight loss

Pros: Low-calorie comfort food, simple packaging, multiple programs for different health goals

Cons: Portion sizes may leave you hungry, more highly processed than other options, limited variety of cuisines

BistroMD was created by board-certified bariatric doctor Caroline Cederquist, MD, and offers a variety of premade, microwaveable meals suitable for all sorts of health goals, including women’s health, men’s health, heart-healthy, gluten-free, diabetic, and menopause.

I found BistroMD’s meals to be tailor-made for weight loss. Most of the single-serve entrees are 280 to 400 calories โ€” nice for a weight loss-friendly lunch or dinner. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all number of daily calories needed to drop pounds, so larger people or those with a bigger appetite may find BistroMD’s meals leave them hungry. (If that’s the case, Taub-Dix suggested adding some extra fruits or veggies to BistroMD’s meals, which will add fiber without very many calories.)

However, although the meals are low-calorie, minimal sodium, and balanced macros, they’re significantly more processed than other services. BistroMD’s lengthy ingredient lists (some over 25 ingredients long) set off alarm bells in my whole-food-loving brain. But despite a higher level of processing, BistroMD provides extremely clear nutrition info โ€” and single-serve entrees mean built-in portion control.

Meanwhile, I found the flavor of BistroMD’s meals not exactly irresistible, but certainly good. Its whole-wheat calzone had a chewy, bready exterior and hearty meat filling, while the lasagna tasted far better than the Italian Lean Cuisines of my college days. Even a simple steamed broccoli side was flavorful and not soggy โ€” no small feat for microwaved broccoli. However, if you’re looking for a wide variety of cuisines, BistroMD doesn’t serve up many global flavors. American comfort food classics are primarily on rotation here.

I also loved that BistroMD uses simple, all-recyclable packaging. As for price, BistroMD’s meals are budget-friendly, starting at $97.46 for five lunches and five dinners per week.

The best for a healthy, home-cooked meal

Pros: Unique recipes and ingredients, excellent variety, home-cooked meals made fresh in your kitchen

Cons: Lots of packaging, limited options for special diets, nutrition info not readily available online

“[Cook-yourself meal kits] are so helpful for those who are afraid to cook or those who have little cooking confidence, but they can be more time-consuming than you realize,” Taub-Dix points out. In my sampling of meal kits, Gobble stood out for actually making a home-cooked dinner in 15 minutes.

Because its classic plan doesn’t have the nutritional info listed on the site, I opted to try Gobble’s Lean & Clean meal kit program. These DIY dinners contain 600 calories or less, with a balance of lean protein and healthy fats. (The meals are grain-free, “for health,” according to Gobble, which is debatable considering abundant research shows the benefits of including whole grains in a healthy diet.)

Although my meals were full of veggies and lean proteins, I was somewhat disappointed that nutrition information wasn’t spelled out more clearly, particularly the lack of info on sodium, which is often abundant in prepared foods and essential info for anyone with high blood pressure, Taub-Dix points out.

Despite this, my Gobble box arrived with fresh ingredients and colorful recipe cards listing clear instructions for preparation, including photos for each step. Each meal serves two people, so I whipped up two to feed my entire family: Seared steak with mini sweet peppers and romesco sauce and honey-hoisin-glazed chicken with carrot-ginger puree and haricots verts.

A few easy steps like slicing veggies and seasoning meat were all it took to get each entrรฉe ready to cook, and each required just one pan. All told, even though I prepped two meals at once, I spent less than half an hour cooking.

Gobble’s meals came out with spectacular flavor; my family lapped up the sauces. While these meals may require a bit more work than the microwaveable variety, I’d be eager to try out more of its chef-crafted entrees anyday.

Gobble’s entrees are $12 per serving. You have the option to order meals for three or four nights per week for two or four people.

How I tested the kits
To gather my master list of potential healthy meal delivery services, I researched a range of options, including vegan, plant-based, Paleo, keto, and low-calorie programs. I then tackled the delicious task of testing each meal delivery service and kit in my own home kitchen. All in all, I sampled 11 pre-made, reheatable meals and self-assembled kits.

For each meal kit, I considered:

Ease of prep and cleanup: The whole point of ordering pre-made meals or meal kits is to make your life easier, so one main consideration with each brand was how easy it was to turn what was delivered into dinner on the table. I followed instructions for cooking both microwaveable meals and multiple-step home-cooked meals.

The latter was more labor-intensive but even within meal kits, there was a wide range of how easy the instructions were to follow, how complicated the recipe for people who aren’t seasoned cooks, and how many pans I needed to use, which plays into ease of clean-up.

For microwavable meals, the main variable was whether there was excessive packaging and if it was recyclable.

Taste: How a meal kit or snack tastes is one of the most important factors to consider. While testing, the questions I posed were: Was the microwaved chicken rubbery? Did the sauces have enough personality to compete with a homemade meal? For dishes I cooked, was I able to achieve a noteworthy flavor and texture-based just on the instructions provided?

And since taste is entirely subjective, I had my husband and children weigh in with their thoughts, as well.

Family-friendly: If you’re trying to get a quick dinner on the table for the whole family via a delivery meal kit, whether your child will like said food is a key consideration because, well, kids can be picky. Although I tried some options individually, like Daily Harvest’s snacks, the options that were most likely to act as a family meal, I had my three kids act as testers for that kid-approved stamp of approval.

What to look for in a healthy meal kit delivery service
Meal needs are different for every person, so it’s important to gauge your own priorities to determine which healthy meal delivery service will serve you best. Assuming health is a top consideration, look for services that align with your dietary goals.

“Be sure to ask if your meals can help meet your dietary needs โ€” especially if you follow a special diet (like to control diabetes or blood pressure) or if you have a food allergy,” Taub-Dix told Insider.

If you know you’d like to DIY your own meals as much as possible โ€” and just need a little help โ€” you’ll probably want to check out meal kits. Or, if simplicity and convenience are at the top of your checklist, look for microwaveable meals that contain low or moderate sodium, calories, and saturated fat (common pitfalls of processed meals).

With recurring delivery, top-notch customer service also makes a big difference. Check delivery services’ websites to find out how easy (or difficult) it will be to cancel or modify your orders.

What else we considered
Not every meal service I tried made the cut of the best healthy options. In addition to those listed here, I sampled Freshly Fit, Purple Carrot, Home Chef, Veestro, Sunbasket, and Fresh n Lean.

What else we recommend
Purple Carrot: This popular meal kit contained an overwhelming amount of ingredients and required too many steps for them to qualify as convenient. If you love to cook and just want to expedite the process of picking recipes and grocery shopping, this kit will work for you. But if you’re looking for speed and ease, I’d say skip.
Hungryroot: A combination meal kit delivery service and online grocer, Hungryroot recommends plant-based groceries based on what you like (as per a quick quiz) and then offers recipes on how to use them. Each takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, and prices start at $59 for three two-serving recipes a week. Read our full review of Hungryroot here.
What we don’t recommend
Freshly Fit: My experience here was rather lackluster โ€” the meals took longer to heat up than expected, and when cooked, came out rubbery and soggy.
Home Chef: These make-yourself meal kits were tasty, but they had too high of a calorie count, sodium, and saturated fat to be considered healthy.
Veestro: This vegan meal delivery kit has healthy ingredients and seemed promising, but its finished products came out with unpleasant flavor and falling-apart texture.
Sunbasket: I enjoyed Sunbasket’s variety of meals, but many were less than healthy and tasted just okay.
Fresh n Lean: These microwave meals had an unappetizing, rather messy appearance that was a major turnoff.
What we’re looking forward to testing
I look forward to checking out pre-made meals from Purple Carrot and Sunbasket, both soon to hit the market. Tattooed Chef’s plant-based farm-to-table selections also sound intriguing, and Green Chef’s Paleo, keto, and vegetarian meal plans are on my list to try.

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