Gluten-Free Delivery Services:
In addition to having specific food preferences, some individuals also have sensitivities or allergies that make eating certain foods a no-go. Whether it’s a severe allergy to peanuts or shellfish that can be life threatening, or simply noticing that when you eat sugar your body feels sluggish, many foods can cause certain people to feel unwell. Gluten is one that many people find problematic.
Over the last decade or so, the concept of going “gluten-free” has gained significant traction among the American public. “Gluten refers to a family of proteins known as prolamins (primarily glutenin and gliadin),” explains Cathy Leman, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Dam. Mad. About Breast Cancer. These proteins are found in many cereal grains such as wheat, barley and rye. “Each type of cereal grain contains various amounts of gluten, as well as other proteins. Gluten is found in most breads, cereals, pastas and many processed foods.”
Some people have difficulty digesting gluten. In particular, people with a medical condition called celiac disease get sick from eating gluten. Celiac disease is “a hereditary, autoimmune intestinal disorder that’s triggered by eating gluten,” Leman says.
Symptoms of celiac disease include:
— Diarrhea and/or constipation.
— Weight loss.
— Rashes and other skin problems.
People diagnosed with this condition should avoid eating gluten to prevent symptoms from occurring. Celiac disease is typically diagnosed using a combination of blood tests, genetic tests and by removing gluten from the diet and seeing whether symptoms improve. You may also have an endoscopy or a biopsy of tissue from inside the intestines to look for inflammation. “If you’ve been newly diagnosed with celiac disease, meeting with a dietitian who specializes in gluten-free diets is critical in learning how to adhere to the diet for life,” Leman says.
Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says that for people with celiac disease, ingesting gluten “aggravates the immune system.” The gut misidentifies this common protein as a “foreign invader,” and that causes inflammation and damage to the intestinal tract.”
In addition to celiac disease, some people may also have allergies to gluten or sensitivities to these compounds that mean when they cut them out of their diet, they feel better. The Beyond Celiac organization reports that about 18 million Americans have a sensitivity to gluten, but the science is mixed as to whether all of these people are truly sensitive to gluten or whether there’s a placebo effect at work. One 2015 study found that 86% of patients who believed they had gluten sensitivity actually didn’t.
Weinandy says a gluten-free diet can take many forms, as the defining feature is the elimination of gluten. But that’s not always an easy task, as gluten turns up in a lot of unexpected places. Though it’s relatively easy to spot wheat, rye and barley on product labels, many people don’t realize that many sauces, gravies, candies and other products can also be hidden sources of gluten, which is added as a thickening agent in some processed foods. “The gluten-free diet can be very restrictive in many senses, and if you’re following a strict gluten-free diet, it can be difficult.”
The Celiac Disease Foundation reports that everything from potato chips and lunch meats to French fries, soups, salad dressings, marinades, even communion wafers and herbal and nutritional supplements can contain gluten. If you’re avoiding gluten, you’ll have to double check all labels or contact the manufacturer to find out whether a particular product contains gluten or if it may have come into contact with items that do, as that can cause cross-contamination.
A Gluten-Free Diet Is Not Always Healthier
If you’re among the “5% of the population who report following a gluten-free diet of their own choice (without a medical diagnosis),” Leman also recommends a session with a dietitian. Making certain your diet is varied, balanced and appropriate in macro- and micronutrients is critical for overall good health.
It’s also important to understand that when compared to the standard American or Western diet, a gluten-free diet might be healthier, but that’s not always the case, Leman says. “Including naturally gluten-free foods like fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds in their unprocessed form, eggs, lean, non-processed meats, fish, poultry and most low-fat dairy products is a healthy alternative to the SAD diet. However, adopting a non-medically necessary gluten-free diet is not always a healthier alternative” because “gluten-free diets can be low in fiber. They also can lead to nutritional deficiencies of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as vitamins including vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D.”
Another potential concern is that because many gluten-free diets rely on rice and rice-based products, “a gluten-free diet can increase exposure to arsenic. Gluten-free meals also tend to have more hydrogenated and saturated fats and contain foods with a higher glycemic index, Weinandy says. She also notes that removing gluten means removing many of the whole grains in your diet, which can cause you to fall short of getting certain nutrients.
Leman adds that even though there is “some research that suggests that in general, a gluten-free diet is an unhealthier diet choice than a regular diet for those without celiac disease,” the popularity of the diet continues to grow and supermarkets offer many options for those seeking to avoid gluten.
Certified Gluten Free
Meal kit and prepared meal delivery services have taken note of the need for gluten-free options, and now many of these services make gluten-free meals a primary focus.
“For someone interested in starting a gluten-free diet right away, but (who) lacks the knowledge of how best to do that, a meal delivery service could serve as a bridge across the learning curve gap,” Leman says. “While eating at home, a service could be helpful in adhering to the structure, but it’s critical to learn what to choose and what to avoid when dining out, attending social functions or when traveling.”
Weinandy also says that trying a meal delivery service might be a good option “for people who have no time to cook or don’t like to cook or it’s otherwise just not happening. If you’re going out to eat a lot, look at some of the meal delivery options to see what works for you and your budget.” However, if you have celiac disease, look for a “certified gluten-free” provider. This means the facilities where the ingredients are handled or meals are prepared don’t have any risk of cross contamination with products that may contain gluten.
Compare the Most Popular Gluten-Free Meal Delivery Services:
|Meal plan options||Average cost per meal||Shipping costs||Average prep time|
|Sun Basket||Weekly subscription, with classic and family plans available||$10.99 to $12.99||$6.99 per order||30 minutes|
|Freshly||Weekly subscription||$8.48 to $11.49||Varies by plan/location||Ready-made meals, just heat and eat|
|BistroMD||Weekly subscription, with 5-day and 7-day programs available||$6.78 to 9.74||$19.95 per order||Ready-made meals, just heat and eat|
|Fresh n’ Lean||Weekly subscription, with one to three meals a day; or a la carte options available||$9.33 to $12.69 with subscriptions; a la carte options vary||Free||Ready-made meals, just heat and eat|
|Green Chef||Weekly subscription, with 2-person and family plans available||$11.99 to $12.99||$8.99 per box||30 minutes|
|Veestro||Subscription for 10, 20 or 30 meals every week, two weeks or four weeks; or a la carte options available||$9.90 to $11.70||Free for subscribers; $9.99 on one-time orders||Ready-made meals, just heat and eat|
|Purple Carrot||Weekly subscription, with 2-serving and 4-serving plans available||$9.99 to $11.99||Free||30 to 45 minutes|
Top Gluten-Free Meal Delivery Services
Because gluten has become such a hot topic in the world of nutrition, most of the top meal kit and prepare meal delivery services now offer it as an option.
— Organic produce and clean proteins.
— Most meals between 550 and 800 calories.
— Quick recipes for busy people.
— The facility processes wheat and other gluten-containing foods, so there’s a potential for cross-contamination.
Sun Basket offers a wide range of meal kit options in its subscription-based delivery programs. The Gluten-Free Meal Plan offers organic produce and responsibly-sourced seafood and meats free of gluten. All protein sources are antibiotic and hormone-free.
Their Gluten-Free meals are “perfectly portioned” to clock in at about 550 to 800 calories per serving and contain at least 20 grams of protein and five grams of fiber per serving. The Gluten-Free plan is also “rich in omega 3s and good fats sourced from olives, nuts, seeds and avocados.” The plan focuses on including whole foods and unprocessed ingredients.
Most meals can be prepared in about 30 minutes and require basic cooking skills and utensils. The company uses eco-friendly recyclable and compostable packaging and also offers free shipping on your first delivery.
Sample meal: salmon with roasted new potatoes and green beans.
— Prep time: 30 minutes.
— Calories: 580.
— Protein: 43 grams.
— Total fat: 28 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 41 grams (7 grams dietary fiber, 1 gram added sugar).
— Cholesterol: 105 milligrams.
— Sodium: 560 milligrams.
— Meals average about 500 calories each.
— Every meal is gluten-free and free from refined sugars.
— Choose from a rotating list of weekly options.
— Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.
— Certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group.
Freshly offers a wide range of dishes and options, all of which are gluten-free. Subscribers can order 4, 6, 10 or 12 meals per week and you get to choose the meals you’d like from a rotating menu with more than 35 options each week. Meals range from 300 to 650 calories each. Prices range from $8.49 per meal to $11.49 per meal, plus shipping, depending on the plan.
Sample meal: Buffalo chicken with loaded cauliflower.
— Calories: 490.
— Carbohydrates: 16 grams (5 grams dietary fiber, 5 grams total sugars).
— Total fat: 29 grams.
— Protein: 43 grams.
— Cholesterol: 155 milligrams.
— Sodium: 1,110 milligrams.
In mid-December, Freshly launched Freshly Fit, a new line of gluten-free meals that are lower-carb and higher in protein, designed for people with active lifestyles.
— Fully prepared meals, just heat and eat.
— Perfectly portioned to promote healthy weight loss or other health goals.
— More than 150 meals to choose from weekly.
— All gluten-free meals are tested to the FDA gluten-free standard and contain no wheat, rye or barley.
BistroMD was developed by a bariatric specialist to offer weight loss programs designed to fit a variety of different diet preferences and health needs, including a gluten-free program.
The company also offers custom plan creation for members and free, unlimited coaching support from a staff dietitian. For many BistroMD members, the aim is to lose weight, and the company reports that on average, members lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week when following their plan.
The gluten-free program offers several options:
— Full program, seven days. This includes seven breakfasts, seven lunches, six dinners + My Night, which is described as a “structured break to practice what you learn.” The current cost is $142.46 per week.
— Full program, five days. This includes five breakfasts, five lunches and five dinners. The current cost is $119.96 per week.
— Lunches and dinners, seven days. This include seven lunches and seven dinners. The current cost is $119.96 per week.
— Lunches and dinners, five days. This includes five lunches and five dinners. The current cost is $97.46 per week.
BistroMD is currently offering a limited time, 25% off plus free shipping offer for new members. The company ships to all 50 states, but delivery in Alaska is limited to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Eagle River.
Sample meal: meatloaf with honey bourbon glaze. (Nutritional information not available.)
— Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.
— New menus offered weekly.
— Meals include no gluten, dairy, GMOs or animal products and contain no added sugar, processed ingredients, artificial flavors.
— Offers meals for a full day.
— All meals are naturally 100% free from gluten and prepared in a fully gluten-free facility, eliminating risk of cross-contamination.
Fresh n’ Lean offers fresh and organic meals that are ready to heat and eat. Recipes feature organic, seasonal ingredients and are free from GMOs, gluten, dairy and “anything bad whatsoever. Always.”
Meal plans start at $9.33 per meal, depending on the plan. Subscribers can order additional meals and snacks a la carte. The company provides breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Fresh n’ Lean currently offers $20 off and free delivery on your first order. Shipping is free.
Sample meal: curried cauliflower with golden raisin and cage-free turkey.
— Calories: 560.
— Total fat: 16 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 36 grams (8 grams dietary fiber, 24 grams total sugars).
— Protein: 26 grams.
— Cholesterol: 90 milligrams.
— Sodium: 490 milligrams.
— Choose from a selection of gluten-free, certified organic, veggie-friendly meals.
— Family-friendly options serve four.
— Easy to cook recipes.
— Certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group’s gluten-free food service program.
Green Chef offers a variety of gluten-free meal options. Green Chef’s meals-in-a-box include organic ingredients that do not contain any pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids. The company also promises “quick and easy recipes,” with step-by-step instructions, tips and photos.
Green Chef’s pricing is “based on the plan you choose and how many people will be eating each dinner.” The two-person plan includes three dinners for two people or six servings per box. With the family plan, each box contains two dinners for a family of four or eight servings per box. Plans start at $11.99 per meal. These prices do not include shipping, handling or sales tax. Green Chef offers new subscribers $85 off and free shipping on their first order. The company delivers the continental United States.
Green Chef was acquired in 2018 by HelloFresh, the largest meal kit delivery service in the U.S., and as such it has broad reach. Their easy to assemble meals typically take about 30 minutes to prepare and require basic cooking skills and some utensils.
Sample meal: sesame-glazed pork tenderloins with fried quinoa with scrambled egg, edamame and carrots.
— Prep time: 30 minutes.
— Calories: 620.
— Total fat: 22 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 57 grams (7 grams dietary fiber, 14 grams sugars).
— Protein: 45 grams.
— Cholesterol: 180 milligrams.
— Sodium: 1,010 milligrams.
— 100% vegan meals made with organic ingredients.
— Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.
— Choose meals a la carte.
— Dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, low-calorie, soy-free, high-protein and kosher options available.
— No preservatives.
— Meals are prepared in a facility that also processes wheat and other allergens and cross-contamination is possible.
Aimed at busy people who want to eat healthy, Veestro offers pre-made vegan meals delivered to your door. Part of the company’s “plantifesto” explains that “we believe busy people deserve it all: flavorful, healthy, easy fast.” And that “we believe plants are the greatest food on earth.” The company delivers to any physical address within the continental U.S., but doesn’t currently ship to Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico. Shipping is free for those who subscribed to the auto-delivery option. Meals are shipped in quantities of 10, 20 or 30 for those purchasing the a la carte option or Chef’s Choice option. Customers using the Weight Loss Plan option will receive 15 or 21 meals per box. Packaging is 100% recyclable or compostable.
Sample meal: enchilada casserole.
— Calories: 220.
— Total fat: 11 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 18 grams (3 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams sugars).
— Protein: 12 grams.
— Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.
— Sodium: 360 milligrams.
— Cook your own fresh meals from ingredients delivered to your door.
— All plant-based and vegan meals.
— Easy to cook meals and extras come with step-by-step instructions.
— Purple Carrot is not certified gluten-free.
Purple Carrot was founded by a former pharmaceutical executive who developed Crohn’s disease. It offers 100% plant-based meals for people who want the convenience of ingredients and recipes shipped to their door. Some basic cooking skills and utensils are necessary, and most meals take 30 to 45 minutes on average to prepare.
In addition, Purple Carrot offers high-protein, gluten-free and “quick and easy” options in two or four servings. This plan is “ideal for singles or small families” and costs $11.99 per serving. The four-serving plan which is “great for families or if you’re looking for leftovers,” is $9.99 per serving. Subscribers can mix and match dinners from a variety of options each week, and also add breakfast, lunch and snacks.
There are no additional shipping costs, but sales tax may apply. Purple Carrot is currently running an offer to get $25 off your first box.
Sample meal: creamy miso risotto with roasted winter vegetables.
— Prep time: 45 minutes.
— Calories: 500.
— Total fat: 12 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 91 grams.
— Protein: 10 grams.
“A gluten-free diet is not a panacea. It’s not shown to improve athletic performance or overall health, nor lead to weight loss. It’s also expensive, with numerous studies showing gluten-free products have prices two to three times higher than similar non-gluten-free products,” Leman says. “Also, many processed foods, medications and supplements contain gluten, so avoiding this ubiquitous protein is not as easy as simply avoiding pasta and bread.”
“I guess more than anything, I would like people to know that just because something is gluten-free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy,” Weinandy adds. Desserts, for example. Sugar is gluten-free, and many desserts that are labeled as gluten-free have sugar as the first ingredient. “It’s easy to get a lot of unhealthy foods that are gluten-free.”
Instead of opting for packaged foods, try reaching for vegetables and fruits instead. “Eat salads and steamed veggies. Incorporate naturally gluten-free foods into your meals,” Weinandy recommends. “It doesn’t take long to saute veggies, and it’s not hard. You don’t have to cook something that’s picture-worthy to get your veggies in.”
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Update 12/23/20: Some prices have been updated, with one inactive meal delivery service removed, from a previous story version.