Many of our patients struggle when it comes to starting a new diet. In fact, the word diet alone can provoke feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and even depression about one’s current state of health, hindering efforts to make real lifestyle changes. While most of us know what we should and shouldn’t be eating, impulsive decisions can cause major mental setbacks.
Meal kit services, like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, debuted in the United States in 2012 and have steadily gained popularity. With over 150 companies delivering all the components of a home cooked meal tucked inside a box it is estimated that nearly one third of Americans have now tried one! While the most obvious reason for signing up may be convenience, from our perspective meal kits can be a wonderful way to kick-start and maintain a healthy eating routine.
If you’ve ever considered giving one a try but remain undecided, here are some pros and cons to help determine if it’s a good fit for you:
- Convenience. Let’s face it, meal planning night after night can be exhausting! Despite our best intentions, more people are dining out just to avoid the drudgery of grocery shopping. Meal kit services offer meal plans that send you up to 3 or 4 meals per week with no planning necessary whether you’re cooking for yourself or for a family. While many of the services are subscription based, there are some that are not, a perfect option for a trial run.
- Variation. “Eat this, not that! Make it colorful! Be creative!” This is all wonderful advice, but hard to adhere to day after day. A meal kit service can do a better job of introducing a variety of fresh and nutritious foods to your plate that you may otherwise never try.
- Portion control. It’s no secret that portion sizes in the United States are far larger than those in other countries, so it’s no wonder that our waist sizes are too. Meal kits come pre-portioned and ready to assemble and cook leaving no room for overindulgence. Over time, our bodies adjust to smaller, healthier meal sizes.
- Options galore! Fortunately, with so many online services available, it won’t take long to find one that caters to your food preferences. Whether you have no food restrictions or are following a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or paleo diet, there is a service (and app!) for that. Some of the more well-known meal kit services include: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, Plated, and Green Chef.
- Cost. While some of services claim affordability, some can get downright expensive, especially if they offer irresistible add-ons and require minimum order amounts.
- Customization. While you are able to choose the type of meal plan you are on, many companies are designed to not allow substitutions. That means, you get what you get and you don’t get upset! However, with a little researching you’ll find that there are a few that do allow small changes for those who need to maintain a little more control over their selections.
- Not environmentally friendly. With some notable exceptions, most services have each of their ingredients wrapped individually in plastic or cardboard so make sure to have a plan for reusing or recycling those contents whenever possible.
At a time when we know so much about nutrition and how it can either facilitate illness or improve overall wellness, a meal kit service can be one more tool in the arsenal when it comes to better managing our health.
*The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine does not endorse any one service mentioned above. We encourage due diligence by our readers before making any purchase and, if necessary, a discussion with your physician or nutritionist about the options that may work best for you!