Meals By Mail: Can Recipe Delivery Services Help You Eat Healthier?

July 25, 2017

Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Home Chef: A stream of meal kits have hit the market (ones that deliver fresh pre-measured ingredients and recipes right to your front door) but while these products may make kitchen life a little easier, how can they affect your health? To get the answer, we asked Beth Kirsch, registered dietitian for Indiana University Health. Here, she offers her expert insights.

Plus: You Can Put Yourself on Autopilot
“One of the best things about these services is that you don’t have to plan out meals. You just pick and click. They provide everything for you to create a delicious dish,” explains Kirsch, who says this perk can be especially helpful for parents and busy professionals.

Downside: Cost
This convenience comes with a price: “These services can be a good option for someone who doesn’t enjoy or have the time to cook from scratch but you need to have the financial resources, especially since they are much more expensive than shopping for the ingredients yourself,” explain Kirsch, who adds that Blue Apron, for instance, currently supplies consumers with four recipes (along with instructional photos) a week for a whopping $71.92.

Plus: Health Conscious Options and Better Portion Control
Most services only supply consumers with enough ingredients to cook three meals, each dish feeding two to three people. So, these plans can help prevent overeating, says Kirsch. Many also offer more personalized options featuring meat, fish or vegetarian dishes, so consumers can plan menus each week based on their preferences. Some services like Green Chef, HelloFresh and Home Chef also offer organic-only meal options, as well as low fat, low cholesterol or low sodium fare to health-focused customers.

Downside: Time
“You still have to cook with these services, so kitchen effort continues to be required,” says Kirsch. “Blue Apron recipes, for instance, still require a lot of prep, so it can be an hour before food is on the table.”

Plus: You Can Learn New Dishes
These services can be a low-risk way to learn a new dish. “And if you identify some favorites then you can then keep those recipes and use them again long after you’ve decided to end the service,” says Kirsch. “These kits can also be solid starting points for new cooks to learn how recipes work and a fun way to get your family together in the kitchen.”

Downside: Wasted Food
A plethora of pre-prepped ingredients for a slew of planned meals may seem like the perfect solution during a busy week but this strategy can sometimes backfire, says Kirsch. “You have to have the stamina, energy and investment to keep cooking. Had a hard work day and still have a meal in the hopper? “Waiting to cook the meals you receive could cause some of the ingredients in the dishes your ordered to wilt or spoil, ruining the recipe and wasting money and food,” says Kirsch.

-- By Sarah Burns

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