Finding time to cook isn’t always easy. And finding time to try new recipes can feel impossible. But with meal delivery boxes, both problems are solved.
Meal boxes are extremely common these days, bringing fresh, portioned ingredients — and detailed recipes — straight to your doorstep. They take the work out of meal prep, and bust dinner ruts by adding variety to your weekly menu.
“It’s no surprise that meal kits have taken off,” says Melissa Hughes, a registered dietitian and wellness program manager with Sharp Rees-Stealy's Center for Health Management. “They save time, and help people expand their culinary horizons. However, not all meals are created equal when it comes to the nutritional makeup.”
Hughes offers the following four tips on choosing the healthiest service:
1. Find a service that supports your health goals
If you follow a particular diet, find a meal delivery service that will accommodate it. With so many available options, it’s easy to find one that’s low-carb, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, heart-healthy or diabetes-friendly. Most of these services offer introductory discounts, so you can experiment until you find one you like.
2. Choose recipes with the best ingredients
Most services offer a variety of recipes to choose from. While it’s easy to be swayed by unhealthy meals, focus on nutrient-dense ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. This will ensure that your meal includes vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. You can also alter recipes by adding your own healthy ingredients. Throwing in a few extra veggies is always a good idea. And simple swaps, like the ones below, can make a meal more nutritious.
|Use This||Instead of|
|Zoodles or spaghetti squash||Pasta|
|Lettuce leaves||Tortillas or buns|
|Corn tortilla||Flour tortilla|
|Greek yogurt||Sour cream|
|Brown rice||White rice|
|Cauliflower rice||Brown/white rice|
|Turnips of cauliflower||Mashed potatoes|
|Ground turkey||Ground beef|
3. Familiarize yourself with the nutrition facts
The nutrition facts for each recipe can usually be found on the meal delivery service website. Use this to select recipes that fit within your calorie budget for the day. For example, sesame shrimp with garlic broccoli and jasmine rice (Calories 639; Fat 18.5g; Protein 28g; Carbohydrates 87g) would be a healthier option than a French dip burger and oven fries (Calories 1,220; Fat 80g; Protein 53g; Carbohydrates 76g).
4. Align your service with the USDA’s nutrition guide
Select meals that follow the USDA’s MyPlate guide, in which half of the plate is filled with vegetables or fruits, a quarter of the plate is made up of protein (lean proteins such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, seafood, legumes, tofu, eggs, etc.), and the remaining quarter of the plate is made up of carbohydrates (preferably starchy vegetables or whole grains).
The Sharp Rees-Stealy Health Coaching Program offers one-on-one phone counseling around healthy eating and physical activity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight management, sleep and more. To get started, call the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management at 858-499-2700.