Want to change your diet and health outcomes for the better? A meal delivery service can save you time and keep you on target with your health and nutrition goals. The good news is that, depending on where you live, you may have a variety of options available to you -- both in local meal delivery companies and national ones that offer meal kits.
The not so great news? Unfortunately, not all ‘healthy’ meal delivery services are 100% focused on your health. If you’re looking for healthy meals delivered to your door (in St. Louis or beyond), this article will give you some tips on what to look for, and what to look out for, in meal delivery services available today.
What is a Healthy Meal?
Walk in to any grocery store here in St. Louis and you’ll be overwhelmed by all the so-called ‘healthy’ and ‘health’ foods - both pre-packaged meals and raw ingredients. Hop online and search for ‘healthy meal delivery’: you’ll see a host of both local and national options making promises that their meals deliver the healthiest nutrition on the market. It can be, frankly, confusing: in fact, there is so much conflicting information out there that a 2017 study by the International Food Information Council showed that 8 in 10 people are confused about which meals are healthy and which meals should be avoided.
Folks are confused -- and not without good reason. The media is constantly delivering us messages about new diet fads, meals, and ways of eating that promise to change everything. Back in the 1990’s, for example, low-fat cookies were considered ‘healthy’...in fact, anything low-fat was lumped in as a part of the overall low-fat health craze that swept the nation. Unfortunately, low-fat did not exactly turn out to be the cure-all it first promised to be: studies do not show that low-fat diets and meals (in general) lead to disease prevention or better health outcomes.
Here at Pure Plates, we are passionate about what is healthy -- and what’s not. Health, to us, isn’t something we take lightly. It starts with the types of oils and salts we select -- and we continue this commitment all the way down to the types of containers in which we deliver our meals (BPA-free). Our advice for choosing healthy meal delivery companies? Food products and meal delivery companies may claim their meals are healthy...but look a little closer and you’ll find they’re actually cutting corners (for example, learn why we don’t use canola oil even though other St. Louis meal delivery companies do).
Beware of anyone claiming their food is ‘healthy’ -- as a general rule. If you’re in a grocery store, pick up the product and look at the ingredients. If you’re looking for a meal delivery company that’s actually healthy, ask about the ingredients they use. We believe healthy meals are made with organic produce (local when available) and without choosing ingredients that cut corners. To that end, we give you full nutritional information, down to the calorie, for each and every meal we deliver. We prepare our meals fresh, and with the goal of preserving nutritional value in our meals.
Can Meal Delivery Actually Healthy?
Can meal delivery actually be healthy? The answer is: it depends on which meal delivery service you choose. Today, numerous companies are out there to help you prep meals easier and eat ‘healthier’. Meal kit delivery companies such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron deliver you all the ingredients you need for a meal (you have to go ahead and cook the meals, however). Nutrisystem offers frozen meals that are delivered to your door. Are meal kits shipped across the country over the course of a few days...or are those freeze-dried and frozen meals going to deliver optimal nutritional value?
The truth is: even when a meal kit delivery company that claims ‘freshness’, a certain level of freshness gets lost in the mail. There’s a big difference between eating meals with local produce prepared here in St. Louis -- and getting a dinner kit dropped at your front door. The closer the distance from farm to table, the more nutrition-rich the food. Local produce matters: a study by the Institute of Food Research indicates that produce can actually lose as much as 45% of its nutritional value by the time it even reaches the grocery store.
Meal kit delivery services may make cooking dinner easier by cutting out the shopping and planning time, are they actually delivering whole foods? If you’ve ever ordered from one of the popular meal kit delivery companies, you’ve probably noted the amount of pre-bottled condiments and canned goods in each kit. These usually are not organic -- quality of food is definitely something that is sacrificed in the interest of keeping costs down.
What about alternative meal delivery such as Nutrisystem? Though you may get completely ready-to-eat meals from a service like Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig, and even though these services may make big promises about weight loss -- are they actually delivering health? Again, this goes back to how you define health. If, like us, you define health by whole foods that are organic, local when in season, and prepared without unnecessary preservatives or chemicals, signing up for delivery of freeze-dried meals probably isn’t for you. Why? Heavily processed foods lose considerable nutritional value.
Ideally, a truly healthy meal delivery service should be pretty close to what we offer here in St. Louis: freshly prepared meals that get to your home within hours of when they’re made (not days), meals prepared with as much organic and local produce as possible, and meals prepared with whole foods over processed and preserved foods.
Healthy Meals are Determined By How the Company Preparing Them Defines Health
If you want to stay on target with your health goals, finding a meal delivery service can be downright transformative -- if it's truly healthy. Instead of worrying about what to eat, and when to find the time to plan, shop for it, and prepare it, you can focus on bigger ticket items like exercise.
Ultimately, the meals you eat will only be as ‘healthy’ as how the person or company who prepares them defines health in the first place. How to find a truly healthy meal delivery company?
Ask the following questions:
1. Will this meal delivery service actually save me time?
Meal delivery kits may look good on paper, but if you’re short on time -- they could end up hanging out unused and taking up valuable space in your refrigerator (and in your bank account).
2. Does this meal delivery service offer fresh ingredients that provide optimal nutrition?
If you are spending money to eat healthier, why sacrifice nutrition because of long shipping distances or heavy processing? The time it takes for your food to reach your door matters -- and the more processed meals are, the less nutritionally rich they are.
3. Does this meal delivery service offer real nutrition...or are they just interested in supply and demand?
Meal delivery services should offer meals based on nutritional science -- and if they happen to align with a current diet trend, great. Meal delivery services that are constantly changing what they offer based on the latest celebrity diet trends aren’t offering real nutrition...they’re simply responding to the principles of supply and demand. Ideally, a meal delivery service should be able to spend time with you to discuss your specific nutritional goals and help you find a plan that will meet your needs.
4. Does this meal delivery service cut corners?
Ingredients matter. Don’t go with a business that’s there for the money above all else. We’re passionate about health and healthy meals -- though we’re in St Louis, we’re sure that if we’re here, there are others like us out there that may be closer to where you live. To find a company that’s truly passionate about health over profits, do some investigative work. Find out about the quality of ingredients a meal delivery service uses. Ideally, a meal delivery service should offer you full transparency (as we do at Pure Plates) and give you a list of ingredients as well as full nutritional information.
Meal delivery services like ours are in a unique position: we are poised to spark massive health changes across the country if we can actually deliver results. Unfortunately, meal delivery service companies can fall into the trap of profits first and people second. If you want to save time and get healthier, invest time into finding a meal delivery service that is fully invested in your health -- first and foremost. To find the right meal delivery service for your health goals, look at the specific ingredients, nutritional information, meal freshness, and nutritional guidance as markers of quality. Find meal delivery company that puts your health and longevity over everything else, first and foremost.