Weight Loss Meal Delivery Kits:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 71% of Americans are overweight or obese. For many of us, dropping even just 10% of our body weight would likely have significant positive benefits on our health.
But navigating weight loss can be confusing and difficult. “Weight loss is more complicated than just calories in and calories out,” says Dr. Eric Pham, a weight loss expert and surgeon with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. “Sustained weight loss requires behavioral changes such as exercise and good eating habits. The most successful patients I have seen after weight loss surgery are those who either meal prep or are conscientious of what they eat and drink. They also have a regular exercise schedule.” Consistency is key, he says.
Although calories aren’t the only element you need to pay attention to, they’re still important to weight loss. Creating an energy deficit — using more calories than you eat each day — can lead to weight loss.
The Best Way to Lose Weight
For his part, Shawn Wells, a registered dietitian and certified sports nutritionist based in Dallas-Fort Worth, says that he doesn’t like the idea of dieting to lose weight. “I like the idea of installing healthy behaviors and asking, ‘What’s a healthy way to eat for the rest of your life?'” rather than focusing on short-term weight loss goals. “It’s OK if it takes a little time to lose it. But let’s do something that’s maintainable for life.”
Determining exactly what that sustainable approach looks like for you can be a confusing and frustrating experience. And there’s little consensus on the one “right” way to shed pounds, likely because each person’s body and genetic makeup is a little different. Naturally, one person may react differently to foods compared to another person, and it can get complicated quickly, especially as nutritional science tries to unravel the mysteries and land on a “best diet.”
Even among physicians, there’s debate about which is the best approach to lose and maintain weight. A 2019 survey conducted by Sermo, a market research company, found that among the 515 physicians polled, 51% said that the best diet for long-term health is the Mediterranean diet. Just 5% said the ketogenic diet was best. These physicians came from 27 different specialties, and the survey aimed to find out how they’re advising their patients about weight issues and what diet they use themselves.
The idea was to “see what people on the front lines (of the obesity crisis) are taking from the current research and integrating into practice,” says Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University School of Medicine and a scientific adviser to Sermo.
While fad diets might help you shed weight quickly, many physicians and nutritionists will tell you that it can be very difficult to maintain weight loss over the long term when you crash diet. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll regain the weight, and possibly additional pounds too, if you try to lose too much weight too quickly.
The most sustainable approach that was favored by physicians surveyed was the Mediterranean diet. “The Mediterranean diet is the most researched diet,” Doraiswamy says. Though it seldom causes dramatic weight loss, it has been found to combat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, stroke and some cancers. The Mediterranean diet also topped U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Diets overall in 2019. Commercial diet company WW (formerly Weight Watchers) ranked first in the Best Diet for Weight Loss category.
Wells also recommends the Mediterranean diet to clients, but says the specifics of what you eat and when you eat should be up to your own taste preferences and should be guided by a registered dietitian or physician who can help you understand your specific nutritional needs and how to support them.
Rather than thinking of a diet as a restrictive thing, Wells encourages people to look at nutrition as a means of adding health. “If you start adding in healthy foods, then unhealthy foods get pushed out. Instead of saying, ‘Let’s remove everything you love,’ let’s think of it as adding in healthy things.”
By adding in more water, for example, perhaps someone who drinks six cans of soda a day can drop down to just two. “You don’t have to take everything away at once, and scientifically, it’s better to make one change at a time. Then you know the impact of that one thing,” and you can decide whether the benefit outweighs the sacrifice.
Top Meal Delivery Services for Weight Loss
Dieting can be hard with temptation all around. But a meal delivery service might help you stay on course, especially in the beginning when you’re working so hard to change your habits.
Pham says using a meal delivery service “can definitely help with weight loss,” but you need to look for nutritious meals and plans that can ensure that you’re getting adequate nutrients and eating plenty of vegetables and good fats. Limiting carbohydrates can also help trigger weight loss and he recommends avoiding gluten because it “may cause gut inflammation contributing to weight gain.”
“The best meal delivery services are those that customers are able to afford and use consistently,” Pham says. “People who stay on a daily diet do very well with weight loss. The problem (with regaining weight) begins when people stray off their diet and start eating high-caloric foods such as fast food, juices, soda and candy.”
Some of the companies that you may want to turn to for help when trying to lose weight include:
— Easy-to-make recipes are ready in about 30 minutes.
— Calorie-conscious meals support maintaining a healthy weight.
— Choose from a wide variety of chef-developed recipes each week.
Sun Basket offers plans that support a variety of health needs and eating preferences. Its Lean and Clean plan is designed to help you lose or maintain your weight. These calorie conscious meals clock in at about 550 calories per serving, but are balanced in flavors and macronutrients to help you feel full. Each meal contains 20 grams or more of protein and at least 5 grams of fiber and no added sugar, gluten, soy or dairy.
With classic and family plans available, Sun Basket costs range from $10.99 to $12.99 per meal.
Sample meal: pork piccata with lemon-caper pan sauce and sauteed zucchini.
— Prep: 25 to 40 minutes.
— Calories: 320.
— Carbohydrates: 22 grams (4 grams sugar).
— Protein: 32 grams.
— Fat: 15 grams.
— Cholesterol: 75 milligrams.
— Sodium: 530 milligrams.
— Easy-to-follow recipes with clear nutritional info.
— Farm-to-table sourcing of high-quality ingredients.
— Most meals are ready in under 30 minutes.
— Wide selection of dietitian-approved meals are about 650 calories each.
One of the largest meal kit delivery companies in the market today, HelloFresh offers a wide variety of low-calorie meals to subscribers as part of the company’s Calorie Smart plan. Meal plans with the popular DIY dinner company start at just $8.99 per serving, plus shipping.
Each option is available for two or four people and ranges from three to five recipes per week. The company also offers a selection of world cuisine options, from Italian and Mexican to African, Thai, French and Irish. HelloFresh also offers extras like premium proteins, desserts and lunches.
Sample meal: sweet ‘n’ smoky chicken cutlets with cherry ancho BBQ sauce, green beans and pineapple. (Nutritional information not available.)
— Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.
— New menus offered weekly.
— Offers meals for a full day.
— Choose meals that include lean animal protein or are vegetarian or vegan.
Fresh n’ Lean offers fresh and organic, low-carb/low-cal plant-based 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.”
The standard plant-based vegan package includes three meals, five days a week and costs $119 weekly or $7.93 per meal. Packaging is BPA-free and fully recyclable.
On average, this plan provides a daily nutrient profile that can support weight loss:
— 43 grams of protein.
— 144 grams of carbohydrates.
— 35 grams of fat.
— 1,225 calories.
Fresh n’ Lean also offers a three-meal, seven-day-per-week program that costs $176.40 weekly and offers similar nutritional averages. 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: baked beans with veggies.
— Calories: 380.
— Fat: 7 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 48 grams (18 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugars).
— Protein: 13 grams.
— Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.
— Sodium: 520 milligrams.
— Meals that integrate with myWW plan for easy tracking.
— Easy to make meals that are generally ready in about 30 minutes.
— Flexible plan options.
Blue Apron is one of the largest meal kit delivery services in the country. It offers 23 weekly recipes that cater to various dietary preferences. One Blue Apron option offers recipes approved by WW (formerly Weight Watchers), to make it easier to stay on track and meet individual goals. These “veggie-forward” recipes are easy to prepare, with most ready in about half an hour and compatible with the myWW program.
There are several different pricing and serving size options to choose from. The two-serving Signature plan offers two, three or four recipes per week for two people each, and costs $9.99 per serving. The two-serving Vegetarian plan also feeds two people two or three recipes per week and also costs $9.99 per serving. The four-serving Signature plan serves four people two, three or four recipes per week and starts at $8.99 per serving for the four-recipe-per-week plan. The company is currently offering a new customer discount — save $60 over your first three boxes. Pr
Sample meal: Za’atar chicken and farro salad with creamy Dijon sauce.
— Prep time: 35 minutes.
— Calories: 520.
— WW SmartPoints: 10 green SmartPoints, 8 blue SmartPoints, 4 purple SmartPoints.
— Fat: 7 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 55 grams (10 grams dietary fiber, 14 grams sugars).
— Protein: 52 grams.
— Cholesterol: 125 milligrams.
— Sodium: 910 milligrams.
— Fully prepared meals, just heat and eat.
— Perfectly portioned to promote healthy weight loss or other health goals.
— Menus designed by a bariatric doctor.
— More than 150 meals to choose from weekly.
BistroMD was developed by a bariatric specialist to offer weight loss programs designed to fit a variety of different diet preferences and health needs. All meals offered by bistroMD promote weight loss.
There are a few different plans you can sign up for, including:
— Full program — seven days. Includes seven breakfasts, seven lunches, six dinners + My Night (a structure break to practice what you’ve learned in eating for health). Currently offered at a discount for $142.46 per week.
— Full program — five days. Includes five breakfasts, five lunches and five dinners. Currently offered at a discount for $119.96 per week.
— Lunches and dinners — seven days. Includes seven lunches and seven dinners. Currently offered at a discount for $119.96 per week.
— Lunches and dinners — five days. Includes five lunches and five dinners. Currently offered at a discount for $97.46 per week.
Sample meal: lasagna with garden marinara.
— Calories: 360
— Protein: 29 grams.
— Net carbohydrates: 23 grams.
— Additional nutritional information not available.
— Fully prepared heat-and-eat meals and snacks designed for weight loss.
— Free delivery.
— Plans tailored for men and women.
— Counselor support and access to nutritionists.
If weight loss is your primary goal in starting with a meal delivery service, then commercial weight-loss program Nutrisystem might be a good option. The well-established diet company has several plans and programs that can help most anyone lose some weight. Not only do they take care of the cooking, access to one-on-one counseling and nutritional support can make staying on track a little easier for many people.
The four-week basic plan starts at $8.93 per day (for women; $10.36 per day for men). It includes five Nutrisystem breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks each week and free FedEx shipping. The top-rated Uniquely Yours program starts at $10.71 a day ($12.14 for men) and includes everything in the basic plan plus a choice of over 160 menu items, unlimited frozen meals and snacks and freedom to pick the frozen and non-frozen foods you want. The top of the line plan, called Uniquely Yours Ultimate, starts at $12.86 per day ($14.29 for men) and includes all the Uniquely Yours benefits plus seven Nutrisystem breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks each week. It’s the best option for people who need additional structure and convenience throughout the week. The company also customizes plans for those with diabetes and those who prefer to eat a vegetarian diet. The company often runs incentives to make getting started a little cheaper.
Sample meal: Nutrisystem chicken paella and steamed broccoli. (Nutritional information not available.)
— Prepared meals, ready to heat and eat.
— Pre-portioned macronutrients so you know exactly what you’re eating.
— Options for vegan, vegetarian, paleo and keto diets.
— Vacuum-sealed meals are not frozen and last for 10 days in the fridge.
Trifecta Nutrition caters to busy athletes who don’t have as much time to spend on their meal prep as they might like to. In addition to supporting a variety of dietary needs, including vegan, paleo, and keto lifestyles, the company also aims to help people lose weight. The Classic Meal plan features low-calorie, macro-balanced meals that include 4 ounces of meat or fish, 4 ounces of carbs and 4 ounces of vegetables. The classic meal plan starts at $119 per week.
Sample meal: beef patty, brown rice, mixed vegetables.
— Calories: 400.
— Fat: 14 grams.
— Protein: 33 grams.
— Carbohydrates: 36 grams (5 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams sugar).
— Sodium: 105 milligrams.
If you need to shed some weight, know that you’re not alone, but that you may be in for a challenging road, Pham says. “Losing weight and keeping weight off has never been easy.” Even if you’ve undergone surgery to aid weight loss, keeping it off for the rest of your life will require lifestyle changes and constant vigilance. “Weight loss surgery can help people lose up to 80% of their excess weight within the first year. After a year, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the weight off as the body adjusts. Behavioral changes become increasingly important,” he says.
More from U.S. News
Update 12/18/20: Some prices have been updated from a previous story version.