Meal kits like HelloFresh, Chef’s Plate and Good Food help busy people put a tasty meal on the table that they otherwise wouldn’t have time to do. And during the pandemic, they've helped people limit trips to the grocery store.
Meal kit services are growing, but it’s not known if they are better - or worse - for you than home cooking or takeaway food.
To answer the question, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia reviewed a year's worth of recipes from a popular meal kit service, focusing on the nutritional quality of the recipes and ingredients, as well as the time to prepare meals.
The findings: meals high in calories, sodium
A typical recipe contained about nine different ingredients, averaging three vegetables and three ingredients from the home pantry. The meals took about 35 minutes to prepare and were found to be relatively high in calories from fat and protein. Meals were also relatively high in sodium with some exceeding the Australian Dietary Target for sodium (<2000 mg)
The researchers said this could be improved by increasing the vegetables and whole grain ingredients in meals, or by reducing portion sizes.
Meal kits are advertised widely, including to families, so it was important to find out if meals also had positive nutritional qualities, for example, if they included a number of different vegetables.
“It's really important to understand the qualities of these recipes, which vary from week to week, before deciding whether a meal kit is a suitable service for you and your family's nutritional needs and preferences," said the researchers.
Read the nutrition information for the meals you choose, ideally before you place your order.
If you’re trying to control your weight, look for meals that supply 400 to 600 calories each. (That might be a difficult task, given that many meals I've looked at deliver 800 calories or more.) How many calories you need will depend on gender, age and activity level.
I advise many of my weight loss clients to treat one serving as two servings.
To reduce the sodium content of meals, use one-half of the seasoning packet.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.