Most of us want to cook healthy meals for ourselves and our loved ones (and not just to hashtag it #foodporn on Instagram). Often, though, this is a nice idea more than an actual possibility. Grocery shopping is a pain and ordering burritos over Seamless again is just so easy.
Times are changing, though. In the past couple of years, more than a few online services have appeared that aim to pack your fridge with good-for-you food and drinks. Many services include input from registered dietitians, and nearly all suit users with specific diets, such as gluten-free or vegetarianism.
From fresh ingredient deliveries, pre-packaged meals, and grocery list organization/meal-planning, there’s something for everyone who seeks some help in the kitchen. Here are 11 online services to make healthy, homemade meals a reality—even on busy weeknights.
Meal plans with food included:
Plated is a subscription service that allows members to choose weekly from a menu of chef-created recipes. You choose the number of recipes you want to purchase and the number of plates (servings) of each and customize based on your flavor preferences. Calorie information and approximate prep time are provided for each recipe. The company also sources locally when able and on their website, state their commitment to providing “domestic and sustainably sourced seafood, 100 percent antibiotic-free meats with no added hormones, and produce that is fresh, seasonal, and hand-packed.” Pre-portioned ingredients are delivered in a box to make meal prep as easy as possible, though staples like oil, salt, pepper, and eggs are not included.
When choosing from recipe options, look for vegetable-rich dishes and leaner protein sources like poultry and fish over beef. A few recent examples from Plated include black-eyed peas with sweet potato and collard greens and pan-seared pollock with blood orange, grapefruit, and olives.
Blue Apron subscribers can customize depending on the number of people they want to feed (two-person and family plans area available), dietary restrictions, and ideal delivery times. The food arrives in refrigerated boxes to ensure freshness along with recipe cards that can be saved for future cooking adventures. As with similar services, ingredients arrive in exact quantities you need. Plus, recipes are never repeated within the year, which is great if you’re looking to get more variety in your diet!
Blue Apron meals are roughly 500 to 700 calories per serving. Keep in mind that 700 calories may be more than many adults and children need in a meal, so play around with dividing into smaller portions and bulking up with extra veggies. Some of the healthier recent choices from Blue Apron include cacciatore-style baked eggs, seared salmon and salsa verde, and pork chops and apple mostarda.
In November 2015, Mark Bittman he announced he was leaving a plum gig at the New York Times to join the Boston-based company Purple Carrot. He now creates and tests plant-based recipes meant to be ready to eat in 45 minutes or less.
The Purple Carrot delivery boxes include pre-portioned ingredients with an emphasis on non-GMO, ethically sourced products. Its website also provides information on plant-based diets for those looking to deepen their knowledge and understanding.
Check out creative plant-based meals like broccoli pasta with crispy butterbeans and Brazilian black beans and beets with coconut rice and tropical salsa.
Hello Fresh offers classic and vegetarian options, features seasonal ingredients and are meant to be easy for even the most inexperienced home cook to prepare in 30 minutes. Recipes are reviewed by an in-house dietitian and users can also download the HelloFresh mobile app to track orders and sync up meals to their FitBit, Jawbone, or other health trackers.
Some of the healthier dishes to try are acorn squash and coconut-curry sauce with gingered fried rice or comfort food classics like vegetable minestrone with Tuscan kale, cannellini beans, and Parmesan.
Home Bistro is a meal delivery service that provides chef-prepared, flash-frozen meals that you store in the freezer until you’re ready to microwave them and eat. The company highlights its use of natural ingredients and offers a variety of traditional, vegetarian, and “lifestyle” plans (such as reduced sodium or diabetic) to suit dietary needs. Each meal is designed to serve one adult, so keep in mind when portioning out. Though the meals are not made fresh to order, the convenience of having a delicious meal ready to go when you are may be appealing.
Enjoy healthy yet traditional entrees like chargrilled salmon with lemon sauce with Spanish rice and Brussels sprouts or scope out vegetarian offerings like lemon grilled tofu with roasted fingerling potatoes and honey roasted carrots.
Munchery promises meals made by in-house chefs and delivered chilled, so they can be reheated. The menu changes daily and to view the available items in their area, users enter their zip code to view what;s on offer. Users can choose by chef, type of cuisine, or dietary restriction (vegetarian, nut-free, etc.) and place an order online or with the mobile app. Meals arrive on demand but can also be scheduled for delivery up to a week in advance. Also noteworthy is that for every order, Munchery makes a donation to a local food bank.
Some healthy options include shiitake pea fried rice, roasted chicken breast, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, and butternut squash soup.
This meal- and menu-planning service seeks to empower users to live a healthy life by creating home-cooked, practical meals. Cook Smarts offers recipes, meal plans, tutorial videos, infographics, and a regularly updated blog to complement the recipes. For as little as $6 a month, users can have weekly meal plans sent to them with a shopping lists and tips on how to do a big weekend prep.
Some smart choices for healthy recipes include skillet enchiladas with black beans and kale, vegetable tortellini soup with chard and black-eyed peas, and cider-marinated chicken with roasted vegetables and farro.
This meal-planning program was created by two dietitians. Users choose a plan and download their menu, which includes recipes and a shopping list. Users can also browse the recipes on the site and check out resources like infographics, tutorials, and links to other nutrition websites for further information. For users looking for extra, individualized support, nutrition counseling services with the founders are available for an additional fee. My Menu Pal also has an Amazon shop where users can find handy kitchen tools and other must-haves.
Check out creative breakfast recipes like the baked omelet roll or hit a dinner home-run with French onion flank steak, speedy shrimp tacos, and lentil sloppy joes. There are also healthy drink and dessert recipes. Chocolate caramel banana bites, anyone?
This online menu planner lets you drag and drop recipes from all over the Web onto a downloadable calendar so users can keep your favorites organized. To make sure you have all the ingredients you need, you can print automated grocery lists or save them to your phone.
The Fresh 20 features various dietitian-approved meal plans to suit different dietary needs and restrictions—which are great for families looking for vegetarian, gluten-free, and kosher options. Each weekly menu includes five meals made from just 20 ingredients (not including pantry staples like oil, salt, pepper, and eggs), and guides to help you cut the bulk of your food prep to one hour once a week. Meals are designed to be ready in 20 minutes. Meal plans and shopping lists (the 20 ingredients plus pantry staples) for the coming week are posted on Fridays, and the cost for the plan starts at $18 for three months.
This program uses an algorithm based off a series of questions new users answer when they sign up to generate customized meal plans to suit a variety of needs and dietary restrictions. It also takes health goals and number of people to be fed on the plan into account as well. Meal plans include recipes and shopping lists and can be tailored to suit consumers’ personal schedule. The digital pantry feature keeps track of what foods you might need to restock, based on the PlateJoy recipes you’ve been making.
Check out popular PlateJoy recipes, such as broiled halibut with mango relish and cauliflower “rice,” ginger citrus tofu bowl with rice, bok choy and cashews, and white bean, avocado and cucumber sandwiches.
Illustration via Max Fleishman