How Healthy Are Prepared Meals From Delivery Services?

Chris QueenLast Updated Sep 15, 2020 12:18:36 PM ET
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Meal delivery services are everywhere these days, and it's easy to see why. You and your family can enjoy a home-cooked lunch or dinner without having to plan a menu or spend time at the grocery store looking for something to eat. You can also spread your wings as a wannabe chef and try something your family might not otherwise get to experience.

One important thing you might be wondering about these meal delivery services is how healthy they are. If you're cooking prepackaged food, are you getting something truly good for you even if it looks fresh? Here's a look at the health concerns that surround these popular services and what they mean for you.

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Healthy Meals — Compared to the Alternatives

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On the surface, it's easy to answer the question of whether a meal delivery kit is healthy — which is that they are when you consider the alternatives. If you're not willing to shop for fresh food and cook from scratch, the only thing you have to compare a meal delivery service to is restaurant takeout, and delivery service meals are healthier by a long shot in most cases.

Even with the convenience of preprepared meal kits, you're far less likely to consume preservatives and packaged food as you would be if you ordered food from a fast-food restaurant or even from a locally owned establishment. You’re able to control how much sodium you add to the food, and you can opt not to add ingredients that you’re allergic or sensitive to. For those reasons alone, a meal delivery service can provide you with a healthy alternative to takeout.

Doing Your Homework Before Choosing a Delivery Service

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Because the many delivery services out there provide different levels of healthy eating, it's best to do a little research before settling on a service or two. It's always helpful to consider the nutritional value of the specific dishes you choose to order. If you do your homework ahead of time, you can be sure you select the healthiest options for your family.

Many meal kit services allow you to look at the nutritional value of the food you're ordering, and they come in pre-portioned amounts so it’s easier to track calories. Others specialize in certain types of food, like organic items or those that are suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Other meal delivery services include options for the health-conscious or for those who are interested in counting calories. There are as many options for meals as there are delivery services out there, so take the time to check out all your choices.

Healthy for Whom?

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You've ordered your first meal delivery kit, and you can't wait for it to arrive. Then, one day, a massive box appears at your doorstep. You open the box, and there's more packaging, including special material to keep your food from settling in transit and ice packs to keep the cold stuff chilled. At the end of your unboxing, there's a lot to throw away.

Meal delivery services are healthier than takeout and can help you become a more adventurous chef, but the packaging isn't always environmentally friendly. If you live in a small space, your trash cans can fill up quickly. If you're particularly interested in saving the planet, the amount of waste can be discouraging as well. From an environmental perspective, weekly deliveries with excessive packaging may not be particularly "healthy."

What's Healthy for You Isn't Always Beneficial for Your Wallet

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It's tough to beat meal delivery kits for convenience and appetizing food suggestions, but another big thing you should consider when you're choosing a service is the price. It's important to remember that what's healthy and convenient for you may not always be the most budget-conscious option, so think of the health of your budget, too. You should anticipate spending around $10 per person per meal, although you can save with larger orders or longer time commitments. Some services offer lower-cost meals, so it’s important to search for these if you’re looking to save money.

You may spend more money if you order takeout from a nicer restaurant, but it's more expensive than a bucket of chicken or a carload of kids' meals. The food and convenience may well be worth the price you pay, but you need to be aware of what you're spending before you commit to a meal delivery service.

The Bottom Line

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A meal delivery kit is a terrific alternative to picking up food from a restaurant if you don't have the time or creativity to plan a recipe and shop for what you need. You can become daring and try new ideas and cuisines, and the food is healthier than takeout meals, especially if you do your homework ahead of time.

With all the choices you have when it comes to meal delivery services, chances are you can find something that's not only healthy and good for your family, but you can also find something that everyone in your house will enjoy cooking and eating together. Meal delivery services are worth a try, even if you don't stick with them for the long haul.