Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Can’t source enough healthy food? Tell it to come to you, then! Several companies now offer total healthy meal plan solutions by delivering every calorie you need. You just have to dodge the snacks. Coach tested three of them…

Hello Fresh

Says it “does all the hard work” so that you can learn new recipes and enjoy your time in the kitchen. Tested by photo director Bernadette Menezes. From: £4 a meal, hellofresh.co.uk

Why? The concept of meal kits was alien to me, as my partner and I enjoy cooking and usually take it in turns to knock up a meal from scratch. If we’re too tired or busy, we’ll usually buy a cooked ready meal. Hello Fresh’s service, endorsed by Jamie Oliver, is pitched somewhere in the middle.

Preparation: I chose the Classic Box for two, which contains five meals a week for two people. The food arrived on time, and the meals were tasty and quick to prepare, with cooking and prep times of around 30 minutes. You’re given recipe cards and enough meat, fish, vegetables, salad, herbs and carbohydrates for each meal. Sauces, spices and stocks are included – all you need is oil to cook with.

The verdict: I was impressed with the meal combinations and value – they contained quality ingredients, and a Classic Box of five meals for two people came in at £49 for the week, or less than £5 per meal per person. A ready meal from one of the better supermarkets would cost at least that, but here you have the advantage of knowing what’s in each dish. Jamie Oliver provides one recipe a week and, with the Classic Box, a percentage of the price goes to Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation. So you’re sort of saving lives while eating steak, which is nice.

The results: I think this would suit anyone who’s in a rut with their cooking, as it offers meal choices you may not think of yourself. It also removes any indecision, because your meals are decided for you. It may not suit those with restrictive diets, and especially not those who don’t enjoy cooking (although the recipes are pretty simple). The service is very flexible, however. I’d use it again.

Fit Fuel

Allows you to customise “every aspect” of your meals to support any fitness goal. Tested by news editor Nick Harris-Fry. From: £13.17 a day, fit-fuel.co.uk

Why? Even if you abide by the strictest exercise regime, attempts to get “swole” are easily undermined by a poor diet, so I was delighted to try Fit Fuel’s Muscle Gain package to see if it could help.

Preparation: The meals arrive in boxes of 12 or 18, which has the advantage of allowing you to plan your meals, but may earn you a reputation as a workplace fridge-hog. There were also some delivery issues that left me without breakfast for the last couple of days.

The verdict: Fortunately, what Fit Fuel lacked in logistics, it made up for in taste. Pre-made meals can turn into tasteless mush in the microwave, but not Fit Fuel’s. The meals were refreshingly normal, with meat, carbs and veg in reasonable proportions. As you’d expect, the carbs were of the complex, healthy variety and there was lots of protein, but the meals were something to look forward to rather than endure.

The results: While I didn’t finish the week as an Adonis, Fit Fuel succeeded in helping me eat healthily. The convenience and, more importantly, the deliciousness meant I didn’t miss my usual fare. That said, while the meals were filling enough to fire me through the day, I tended to snack on crisps or toast in the evening, so some willpower is still required.

RECOMMENDED: Low-Calorie Snacks

Fresh Fitness Food

Says it can remove “the guesswork and the temptation” for those with busy lives. Tested by staff writer Gary Ogden. From: £20 a day, freshfitnessfood.com

Why? I’m keen to lose a bit of weight for summer, so I chose the fat-loss programme from Fresh Fitness Food. Perhaps surprisingly, this provided five meals a day – two more than I usually eat. As each meal was around 450 calories, I found it hard to see how this course wouldn’t have the opposite effect.

RECOMMENDED: One Month Fat-Loss Meal Plan

Preparation: Before you receive your meals, you fill in a form to tell them your vital statistics and lie about how much exercise you do. They then work out a specific programme. The food is pre-cooked, and is usually delivered between midnight and six in the morning, which is more convenient if you get it delivered to a nightwatchman at your office. Most days include a substantial breakfast, a mid-morning meal, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and dinner. One of these meals is more of a protein-rich energy snack, to be eaten after a workout. Either way, it’s a lot of food.

The verdict: Taste-wise, I wasn’t the biggest fan. Some meals, such as the Thai coconut chicken, were great, but others were rather dry and tasteless. I worked my way around this by adding soy sauce to any relevant meal and low-fat chilli sauce to all the others. The ingredients were top-quality, though, and for around £30 a day, that’s not bad.

The results: My initial scepticism was unfounded. After a week, my body fat percentage had dropped by 1.6%, and I’d lost two pounds in weight. Of course, it’s essential that you train throughout the programme, and thanks to the 180g of protein a day, I increased my muscle mass, too.

RECOMMENDED: Mindful Chef’s Recipe Boxes

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