Meal Kits: What is the Value?

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Do you value cost savings?  Are you interested in the nutritional value of meals?  Do you value meals that help you with your weight management goals?  Is time something you value because you seem to never have enough of it?  There are many different ways to define the value of a home-delivered “meal kit.” 

Home-delivered “meal kits” are a current trend and hot topic of many conversations.  My parents subscribe to one, my aunt and uncle are participating in this trend, my brother and sister-in-law are satisfying their “foodie” personalities, and I have had numerous clients, friends, and patients ask me if they are a “good” choice for dinner.  Since it has been the topic of many conversations recently, I succumbed to both personal and professional curiosity and decided to see what the fuss was all about. 

On a personal note, my family was struggling to find time to grocery shop and prepare meals in the evening between the daily mad dash of getting home from school and work, spending time together as a family, homework, household chores, bath time, and getting to bed at a good time.  Honestly, I cannot deny that I was excited about our first meal kit delivery because I felt like this would be one less thing to worry about and to plan.

This is my professional, as well as personal insight and advice that I have after trying a meal kit.

  • There are many nutritional advantages to these services and meals, but you still must *understand* what a balanced, varied and healthful diet are to ensure their nutritional value.  You must still be able to understand what makes food healthy, or what makes your food choices unhealthy for yourself.
  • Most meals used at least 3:5 food groups (grain, protein, fruit, vegetable, and dairy).  Good.  Your plate is balanced and has a variety of nutrients.  Most of the recipes are also very colorful indicated a variety of nutrient dense foods as well.  Good.  Healthy ingredients include a variety of heart-healthy fats and oils, lean meats and protein sources, herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, and a variety of whole grains.  Excellent.  These are all the foundation, principles and concepts needed to promote optimal nutritional health.
  • However, despite the “good” nutritional value of these meals, I was a little surprised at the calorie content of each serving.  For the meal-kit service we tried, on average each meal serving provided ~700-800 calories, which is comparable to the calorie content of many restaurant entrees and a little on the high side.  The calorie content was the main thing that would be concerned about depending on the individuals. 

For many, the calorie content is perfect for them and meets their daily needs.  For others, especially those who are actively trying to lose weight, it can easily be too many calories at a meal.  This example perfectly illustrates how calorie intake and nutritional value of food can be very independent variables.  Because of what I know, my easy solution was to serve myself a smaller portion size than recommended to reduce my calorie intake, while still receive the variety of nutrients offered by the meal.

  • The time-saving benefit occurred on the front end by not having to make a trip to the grocery store.  Time is still needed to prepare, cook, and eat the meal together.  Honestly, I was hoping for some “time-saving” benefits in the kitchen as well, but that was not the case for us.  With the service we used, most meals are prepared and ready to eat in 25-45 minutes, which I would say is typical with meal prep and dinners at home.
  • Another benefit is that these meal kits have the potential to help increase an individual’s comfort preparing foods and improve everyday culinary skills.  So many people tell me that a barrier to eating healthy is because they “can’t” cook or they “don’t like” to cook.  In other words, they struggle with feeling comfortable in the kitchen and knowing how to prepare foods with ease.  These meal kits are a perfect way to increase one’s confidence in their food handling abilities.
     
  • Some people wonder, “is the cost worth it?”  My first observation is that the meals delivered to your home still costs less and is cheaper than eating an entrée at a standard, dine-in restaurant.
     
  • However, our biggest cost savings came in the form of reduced food-waste with the fresh produce we are using (everything comes perfectly portioned).  For example, we no longer had ½ of a head of lettuce or salad greens being thrown out.  For the most part, there also are not a lot of leftovers.  The recipes provided are formulated to help reduce waste and leftovers.  Our food-waste dropped significantly.
  • The recipes are easy to use and create.  They are designed this way on purpose because the companies want you to continue to use their service.  To date, we have made about 15-20 entrees at home without any of them “failing.”  We enjoyed them all, but our personal taste buds liked some more than others, but there hasn’t been a recipe we did not like, or that did not turn out.
  • Finally, it created interest in cooking again.  We all cooked together.  My husband helped me, I helped him, and even our daughter wanted to help and could help with the meal prep at almost 7-years old.

In summary, do I think the meal kits and service are a benefit for my family and our nutritional health?  YES, but still being aware of my own calorie, protein, and nutrition needs.  Do I think these meals will work for everyone?  No, because there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to healthy eating.  Do I believe that these meal kits can be one of the many tools to help someone eat a more balanced, healthful and nutrition diet?  YES, but they must still understand and interpret the nutrition found in their food to best meet their personal nutrition needs.

This recipe is one that I will recreate and serve again.  It was one of my favorites, and it was relatively easy! Pan Seared Salmon with Light Honey Glaze, Whole Grain Farrow w/ baked apples, and Toasted Rosemary Garnish.

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