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Written By: Toby Amidor February 24th, 2017

I admit: I’m late to the meal delivery kit game. Even my own brother has tried the services, which promise to deliver ingredients and recipes for quick, tasty meals to your door. But while I’m happy to see that cooking meals at home is becoming mainstream, I didn’t know whether the kits lived up to the hype. So I contacted six meal delivery kit services and tried them out with feedback from the pickiest of judges: my three kids. Here’s a summary of our experiences:

1. Blue Apron
This meal kit delivery service promotes meat with no added hormones, sustainably-sourced seafood and farm-fresh, seasonal produce. The three meals I made included spiced chicken chili with chickpeas and currants, Cajun catfish and spiced rice with collard greens and mushrooms, and baked ricotta cannelloni with romaine salad and Meyer lemon dressing.
[See: 13 Best Fish: High in Omega 3s and Environmentally-Friendly.]
I loved rolling the cannelloni using the fresh pasta dough. My kids and I also devoured the chili, although they wanted more bread to dip into it. The portions were very large – the chili lasted an entire week! From a nutrition standpoint, one of my main concerns was that the meals each packed between 620 and 750 calories per serving, which is too much for me as a 5-foot-7-inch woman. So, I cut back on the portions.

2. Plated
Plated is tailored to omnivores, seafood lovers, vegetarians and even those with a sweet tooth. I tried tomato-poached fish with crispy potatoes, cheesy baked potatoes with mushroom Marsala sauce and arugula salad, leek and mushroom ramen with bok choy and soft-boiled egg, and chili-dusted frozen hot chocolate.
My kids loved the baked potatoes with cheese, but weren’t so keen on the Marsala sauce. That wasn’t a problem; I kept the extra sauce for myself, and used it on scrambled eggs the next morning. The tomato-poached fish was probably one of the best meals I tried from all of the meal delivery kits – and it was really easy to make. My meals were between 460 to 550 calories, which is appropriate for my older kid and me. (Plated does offer meals in the 800-calorie range, but I didn’t order them.)

3. HelloFresh
This service touts the fact that it works with a registered dietitian to create healthy meals. I tried “Do the Dukkah” chicken with sweet potatoes and snap peas, “the Great Caper” cod piccata with couscous and baby spinach, and Tunisian freekeh stew. Surprisingly, the vegetarian stew was the highest in calories, with 757 per serving. But, it was so “freeken” good and very satiating! To lower the calories, I made the portions smaller than what the recipe card called for. The cod piccata was also one of the tastiest dishes, and my 9-year-old daughter definitely agreed. After she had the cod for dinner, I found her sneaking bites of the fish from the refrigerator the next day. She also now requests to have fish for dinner at least twice a week. Score!
4. Sun Basket
Advertised as healthy cooking made easy, Sun Basket provides organic and non-GMO ingredients with options like gluten-free, paleo, and vegetarian. I tried the Sicilian chicken breasts with salmoriglio sauce, pan-seared salmon with orange-jicama salad and lemongrass steak stir-fry with bok choy and basil. All meals were simple and quick to make, and they ranged from 560 to 650 calories.
[See: 10 Healthy Meals You Can Make In 10 Minutes.]
The chicken breasts were tasty, and I had leftovers with the orange-jicama salad. My older two children (ages 11 and 14) loved the salmon, but weren’t too keen on the citrus salad on the side, which was a favorite of mine. The beef in the stir-fry was a bit chewy, which was probably the worst issue I had with all the meals in any kit.

5. Chef’d
Like the name implies, the meals from Chef’d are created by popular chefs and websites. I loved the fact that I could order American Diabetes Association- and Weight Watchers-based meals, which all had the most reasonable calories per serving of all the kits (between 250 and 350 per serving). I tried the American Diabetes Association’s chicken lovers balsamic chicken with cherry tomatoes and green beans, The New York Times’ roasted glazed salmon with sauteed kale and herbed orzo, and Hershey’s s’mores cookies (I just couldn’t resist!).
The balsamic chicken was extremely easy to make, and the veggies complimented the flavors and texture of the chicken nicely. The glazed salmon was another favorite in my house, thanks to the simple glaze. And no surprise, the dessert – which my kids helped bake – was quickly devoured.
6. Purple Carrot
These plant-based meals were the most creative of any of the meal delivery kits. I made kimchi quesadillas, pumpkin fettuccine alfredo and buffalo tempeh tacos. Everything was crazy good and reheated fabulously, but the calories really shocked me. The quesadillas, for example, which were made with kimchi and black beans, were 840 calories per serving. Fortunately, halving the portions was no problem since there was so much food in one serving. The fettuccine, on the other hand, was so good it was really hard to stop myself from eating the entire (650 calories-per-serving) potful! The tacos called for a simple buffalo sauce to marinate the tempeh, which was baked. Still, they would have packed 840 calories per serving had I not cut back on the fillings. (The extra baked tempeh worked well on salad for lunch the next day.)

[See: 11 Healthy Veggie Recipes That Prove Slow Cookers Are for More Than Meat.]
Bottom line? I’d absolutely order from any of these services again – particularly Chef’d since the meals were lower in calories. Purple Carrot was another favorite, thanks to the extremely creative vegan dishes, but required halving the portion sizes. I’d recommend any of these services to anyone who just doesn’t have the time to shop and organize recipes for the week.

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