When I was a graduate student during the early 00’s, I searched the internet for healthy meal delivery services that were gluten-free, paleo, and made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients free of antibiotics and hormones, but no such thing existed back then. At least if a food delivery service like that did exist back then, it wasn’t showing up in the first ten pages of a google search.
In just the past five or six years, however, a growing number of high quality prepared food delivery and meal kit delivery services have emerged as the demand for these services has grown exponentially. If you’re like me, you don’t want to make compromises with the quality, healthfulness, flavor, and environmental sustainability of the food you eat on a daily basis, but you also don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen every day. Having pre-made meals delivered to your home or ordering a meal kit subscription service is almost like having a personal chef to cook meals for you or a personal assistant to do your grocery shopping for you, without the hefty price tag of hiring a chef or assistant. In some cases, having pre-made meals or a meal kit delivered to you can actually help save you money because you aren’t making impulse buys at the cash register of Whole Foods, and you aren’t tempted to eat out at restaurants simply because you don’t feel like shopping or cooking.
Now there are so many different food box delivery services that cater to people looking for gluten-free, paleo, vegan, and vegetarian meals delivered to their doorstep, choosing which company to go with can be a chore in itself. While we all have our own preferences in regards to flavor, I can tell you from my own experience which meal delivery services I prefer and recommend to my clients.
First, just in case you’re wondering what the big deal is about having pre-made meals or food boxes delivered straight to your home or office, here are some of the ways these services can make your life easier:
You can focus more on the things that are most important to you, such as your family, social life, hobbies, volunteering, or your career when you can put the other things in your life on autopilot. You don’t have to invest so much time into meal planning, grocery shopping, driving to and from the grocery store, and investigating whether that supermarket chicken has been pumped up with antibiotics and appetite stimulants or not.
2) Healthy Eating.
Through my years of working 1-on-1 with clients who struggle to eat healthy or lose weight, I have noticed one major issue that nearly all of these individuals struggle with: they fail to plan out their meals and end up with no healthy food choices at home and at work. Planning out my meals is so second-nature to me that I actually didn’t realize that most people don’t do this until I started working with 1-on-1 clients to help them with their eating habits. There even a common aphorism that states if you fail to plan you plan to fail — and it is absolutely true in the case of planning out your meals! This way you are never stuck at mealtime with no healthy choices that can easily be had with little to no extra work.
If you are anything like me in regards to strategizing your nutrition plan, it can become all too easy to fall into “robot mode” and just eat the same meals over and over again. I could literally eat the same meals every day for a year and not get too bored of them, but there are many reasons why we need variety in our diets. Not only does eating a wide variety of foods help maximize the variety of phytonutrients we’re getting, but it can also decrease your chances of developing food sensitivities. Ordering a meal delivery service that offers locally grown foods that change seasonally can help you get out of a robot mode eating rut.
Since the recent emergence of several companies offering organic food delivery, I have tried several different plans. For the purpose of this blog post, however, I will only be discussing two of them because I want to highlight the difference between ordering pre-made paleo meals and food ingredient kits.
In the pre-made paleo meal arena, my favorite company hands down is Paleo On The Go. Here are the things Paleo On The Go has going that makes them shine in comparison to the others out there at the moment.
- You can order their meal items a la carte or as part of a package deal. The meal plan package offerings include at least 20 meals plus bone broth and desserts that change each month. You can order once or “set it and forget it” to have meals delivered to you either every 15 days or every 30 days. If you don’t want to order a package deal, you are free to pick and choose any entree, soup, broth, or dessert item you want at any quantity you want.
- There’s a big emphasis on food quality and food sourcing. With Paleo On The Go, I can rest assured that I’m never receiving mystery meat, GMO’s, vegetable oils, or fake foods. They are transparent about what brands they use to prepare the food, and that means the type of quality brands that you would find at Whole Foods or similar.
- They offer Autoimmune Protocol Meals, which are nut and seed-free, egg-free, nightshade-free in addition to being paleo. The autoimmune protocol is a specific elimination diet that I explain in my book, Healing With Paleo: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, and it is an extremely effective temporary diet used to help eliminate chronic symptoms that are a result of common food sensitivities. (The most common food sensitivities are nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, grains, nightshades, cacao, and coffee. Symptoms can be vague and chronic, but temporary elimination of all offensive foods can stimulate healing.
- Paleo On The Go is paleo comfort food. Do you ever have one of those days in which you feel like you just want to come home to grandma’s house? With menu items homemade like chicken pot pie, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, biscuits and gravy, lemon blueberry muffins, paleo tarts, hearty beef stew, and hearty mac and cheese, you can start or end your day with a meal that feels like a warm hug that melts your stress away. You will never want to resort to eating greasy fast food on stressful days in which you feel rushed to find a comforting meal.
- Fast, Friendly Service. Paleo On the Go overnights your pre-made paleo meals frozen with dry ice. This means you will not have a bunch of heavy gel packs in your box and you won’t be receiving melted or spoiled food (which is often an issue with companies that use other shipping methods). Moreover, the customer service team at Paleo On The Go is always friendly and helpful. If you have any questions or concerns at all, they won’t snub your request or route your inquiry to a customer service agent in India. The food at Paleo On The Go is made by real people who take pride in what they do (a rarity in our culture today).
Regardless of how fun and convenient it is to order pre-made paleo meals online, I have noticed the rise in popularity of food box deliveries that focus on pre-washed, pre-chopped meal ingredients that still need to be assembled and cooked. The idea of not having to shop for groceries, and the time-saving aspect of receiving meal ingredients that have already been washed and prepped is appealing from a time efficiency perspective. Unfortunately, most of these food box delivery companies don’t cater to people with food restrictions such as gluten-free, paleo, vegan, or autoimmune protocol, and many are not up-front about their food sourcing. Vague terms such as “farm to table” and “fresh” just don’t cut it for me. I want to know if the food is organic, pesticide-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed, non-GMO, etc.
One of the meal ingredient delivery services that is transparent about their food sourcing (with a focus on organic ingredients) that also caters to people with certain food restrictions is Green Chef, so I decided to give them a try. They offer four different menu plans: carnivore, paleo, gluten-free, and vegan. Since I regularly consume a plant-based diet that does include some animal products, I initially wanted to try their vegan menu. However, their vegan meals are not gluten-free and they usually involve soy products and vegetable oils. The paleo and carnivore menus looked very meat-heavy, so I decided to try the gluten-free menu for my first shipment.
Another disadvantage I noticed when ordering is that although you can switch to a different menu at any time, but you can’t pick individual entrees. For instance, you can’t pick one item off the vegan menu, one paleo entree, and one gluten-free meal. It’s an all or nothing deal.
Green Chef also does not allow the customer a lot of control over the number of meals you can order. There are only two options: 3 meals for 2 people per week, or 2 meals for 4 people per week. Therefore, you don’t have the option to have all your meals for the week delivered, and you’re on your own for breakfast. All meals are intended to be for your evening meal, I presume.
What I do like about Green Chef that Paleo On The Go doesn’t currently offer is that nutritional facts are provided along with the recipe instructions for each meal on their website. While I don’t think calorie counting is the most important thing to focus on when planning your meals, knowing the macronutrient ratios and total calories of your meals can be a useful tool for achieving and maintaining your health goals. Most people grossly underestimate the number of calories and fats they are eating on a daily basis, while overestimating how many calories they’re burning off with physical activity. Meals that contain a lot of added oils, nuts, and avocados can pack in a lot of calories within a very small volume of food without providing much satiety. In contrast, skipping the added oils and loading up on fiber-rich whole foods and protein can make you feel fuller longer and with fewer calories.
Another thing I like about Green Chef is that each meal includes flavorful spice combinations that add an exotic, unique spin to my typical everyday cooking. Imagine tasting harissa blended with ginger, garlic, and paprika to transport your palate to Nigeria, or indulging in a green curry with jalapeno, lime, and coconut milk to feel like you’re dining in Thailand. You could theoretically purchase all these ingredients on your own to recreate any of your favorite Green Chef dishes, but you would end up with an enormous spice cabinet and a weekly shopping list that’s three pages long. Green Chef saves the shopping trip altogether for two or three meals per week, which could also replace your urge to eat unhealthy restaurant fare when you’re craving a meal that’s different than what you would ordinarily cook at home. Aside from being less expensive than dining out, there’s also the added bonus of knowing exactly what’s in your food and where the ingredients came from. The disadvantage is that you have to spend time cooking the food and then washing the dishes afterwards.
So which is better? Paleo On The Go or Green Chef? I have to say that it’s really a matter of personal choice and what you’re looking for. And it doesn’t have to be an either/or. You can use pre-made paleo meals as well as fresh food delivery kits in your toolbox as two different strategies for dialing in your nutrition and making healthy food convenient even with a busy lifestyle. Paleo On The Go is the ultimate time-saver because the meals are already cooked for you. All you have to do is thaw and reheat. Paleo On The Go is also the one to go with if you are seeking paleo comfort food to take the edge off a stressful day. If you enjoy the process of cooking a gourmet meal, but don’t necessarily enjoy shopping for and measuring ingredients, then Green Chef is your friend in the kitchen. Also, if you’re seeking a flavor profile that takes you on an adventure around the world from the comfort of your dining room table, you should definitely give Green Chef a try.