5 Popular Meal Kit Delivery Services Rated By A Dietician
We get it, cooking isn’t something everyone has time for and with the hours many of us are working just to get ahead, even hitting the supermarket can be an overwhelming experience. But take away pizza or Pad Thai every night, as delicious as that sounds, is both expensive and not exactly great for your health. So what are the alternatives?
Thankfully, there are several meal kit services out there for people who are time poor that don’t want to forgo healthy meals. Plus they’re all cheaper than that pizza delivery, we promise.
What is a meal kit?
Not quite takeout, not quite cooking from scratch, meal kits are delivered boxes of pre-measured ingredients and recipes to help you cook with ease – and not have to stress about what to cook.
To ensure our round up options are as nourishing as they are speedy, we asked dietitian Meg Lemon her thoughts on each option, because great nutrition is the key to helping you power through your day.
1 / 5
The newest meal kit delivery service on the Australian market, Marley Spoon prides itself on creating wholesome, fresh dinner options that are packed with veggies and lean protein. One of Marley Spoon’s greatest points of difference is the awareness of the trend towards cleaner eating. In fact, Marley Spoon’s CEO Dave Malcolm announced recently that they’re introducing a range of low calorie, low carbohydrate meals in the coming weeks.
Price: starting at $55 for a two-person box of two meals a week including free delivery. Cost per serving of $13.75.
“This service is great for choice and convenience in the ordering and delivering of meals. The recipe steps are simple, with pictures reducing confusion for amateur cooks. The focus on fresh ingredients and reduced food waste is promising but there is limited information regarding the nutrition for each meal. One of the ‘healthy choices’ still contains a large amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates and only a small serve of vegetables. Though it encourages flavouring foods with herbs and spices, these meals would ideally be best split between two people or two meals and served with a side salad or extra vegetables.”
2 / 5
After meeting through a mother’s group, founders Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt realised they could help time poor, exhausted people get hearty meals on the table that would please adults and children alike. Currently only based in Sydney but looking to expand in 2017, the Dinner Ladies have a weekly rotating menu of fresh meals (think rich curries, vibrant salads and exotic stews) as well as an ongoing frozen menu filled with favourites like butter chicken, meatballs and bakes packed with hidden veggies. The best bit? Orders over $100 deliver free and these meals freeze like a dream.
Price: minimum order of $50, delivery fee $7.50 (free for orders over $100).
“Due to the different sizes of meals available, these are a good option to keep in the freezer for people requiring portion, calorie-controlled meals, less active people or people with allergies or coeliac disease (their gluten-free range is amazing). It promotes eating more whole natural foods, limiting sugar and processed foods and their meals are packed with vegetables – but the levels of meat, protein and fat in many of the meals is a touch high.
“I’m cautious of words like ‘clean eating’ and ‘paleo diet’, which promote the removal of core food groups, such as legumes, grains and dairy. These trends can give rise to unhealthy relationships with food and eating and restrict your intake of healthy nutrients and possible deficiencies. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, look at what you can eat more of and order meals with those ingredients.”
3 / 5
Probably the most well-known of the meal delivery options, HelloFresh is a great option for people who are looking for a little adventure. They focus on meals that the entire family will enjoy, making them perfect for housemate ‘families’ who like to unwind together at night with just a little cooking (but not too much! HelloFresh works hard to ensure your cooking time is less than 20 minutes). They’re also a great subscription box to trial, as there are discount codes all over the ‘net.
Price: starting at $69.95 for a two-person box of three meals, including free delivery. Cost per meal of $11.66
“HelloFresh is a great option for families or couples (or even housemates!) who want to build confidence and skills in cooking healthy, tasty meals without the added stress of thinking, planning and shopping. But you can easily overeat if you don’t keep a close eye on portion sizes, as this company tend to be generous with their portions. It’s also not a great option for anyone with severe allergies, as it’s quite inflexible.”
4 / 5
These guys are partnered with recipe aggregator Good Food, which guarantees they’re going to have a massive focus on flavour and slightly more adventurous ingredients for the foodies among us. They have an option where you can pick exactly what you’d like in your box each week, which is perfect for people who want to be in control of what they’re eating. Their recipes are slightly more involved than some of the others, so if you still enjoy cooking these guys are worth a try.
Price: starting at $64 for a two-person box with two meals, including free delivery. Per meal price from $13.63.
“These are a great option for time-poor people who are confident in their cooking skills and want to consume gourmet meals using fresh ingredients. They tend to focus on portioned meals, which reduces waste. It is encouraging that they offer variety, promote new skills in cooking and healthier food choices without the stress of shopping around for ingredients or recipes. They have more sustainable food choices than some of the other options and the use of local, higher quality ingredients encourages long term healthier eating.”
5 / 5
Supermarket frozen meals
There’s a lot of options in the freezer section and they’re growing every week. From Lean Cuisine to Michelle Bridge’s Delicious Nutritious range, many make claims of being healthier, lower calorie options. It can be incredibly confusing picking the right frozen meal, as you want to balance flavour with nutrition.
“Look for options that have at least one serve of vegetables and don’t discount big brand options like McCain’s Healthy Choice Moroccan Lamb Tagine and John West’s Tuna, Brown Rice and Quinoa, which both get this dietitian’s tick of approval. The Delicious Nutritious range is great, especially the Beef Casserole which packs in three serves of veggies.
“Look for options with non-starchy veggies and lean proteins and avoid anything with cheese or high-fat products like coconut milk. Watch the salt in these meals and aim for less than 700mg per serve. I recommend boosting the health benefits of the meal by adding frozen veggies, baby spinach or leafy greens. Aim for less than 2500kJ per serve (1700kJ if you’re trying to lose weight) and consider sharing frozen meals with a friend or splitting it into two meals.”
Final words from the dietitian
“Most of the portion sizes offered are better suited to couples or housemates to limit the risk of overeating,” says Meg, “but they’re good alternatives to take out food and reduce the stress from shopping and preparing dinner, which people often perceive as a barrier to healthy eating.”
Meg says that if you do have a choice in the menu at all, such as with The Cook’s Grocer or The Dinner Ladies, look at the ingredients and consider the amount of lean protein, wholegrains and vegetables versus total fat, sugar and carbohydrates – and remember that you can always bulk things out with extra veggies and salad.
Meg also recommends not adding any extra salt to anything pre-prepared, as most will already have too much salt.
When life gets busy, these meal boxes can put you back in control of your portion sizes and the foods you’re choosing to put in your body. Fuelling your body with healthy foods will help boost your energy.
Lead image: HelloFresh
Georgia is a writer and pastry chef living in Sydney. As a low-income earner, she’s become a dab hand at creating delicious, budget-friendly recipes that satisfy her need for bold flavours and meals worth getting excited about.