Adult life is famously busy. According to some sources, the average American works about 35 hours per week and spends about 35-40 minutes in food preparation and cleanup daily. With so many competing priorities, it can be challenging to find time to eat—let alone eat something nutritious. If you find yourself eating more fast food than you’d like or are unsatisfied with frozen grocery store meals, a healthy meal delivery service might be ideal for you.
Getting your meals delivered saves energy and time that could be spent doing things like working out, watching TV, or hanging out with friends—and if said delivered meals are healthy, you’ll feel a lot better than you would with most delivery options.
As a registered dietitian who works in wellness and nutrition, I know the healthy-food-against-life-priorities dichotomy well. So I embarked on a mission to find the best healthy meal delivery options. I spent more than 20 hours researching, ordering, testing, and, most importantly, tasting different meal delivery services from Sakara to Sunbasket. Based on our review and research, we found most meal delivery services range from healthy to healthy-ish. Ultimately Fresh N Lean emerged as the best overall, thanks to its tasty, nutritious, and budget-friendly meals.
The best meal delivery service, ranked:
- Fresh N Lean (Best Overall Meal Kit)
- Sakara Life (Best Luxury Meal Kit)
- Home Chef
The Best Healthy Meal Delivery Services
Best Overall Meal Delivery Service
Fresh N Lean
- Follows dietary recommendations for sodium and saturated fats
- Offers variety of meal plans
- Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or meat-based meals
- Buying options:
- Breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner for 5 or 7 days
The Evidence Test Score: Healthy
- Simple ordering process with tracking information
- Meals are vacuum sealed for peak freshness
- Excessive packaging
With more than 12 years in the healthy food delivery biz, Fresh N Lean is a pro at offering nutritious meals at an affordable cost. Its meal plan variety, ranging from high protein to vegan to a mediterranean-based diet, is one to beat. My one complaint about the brand is its excessive packaging—my box of 10 meals had lots of insulation and six large ice gel packs.
The ordering process was simple, and I could see which meals were available for the following weeks. There are eight different types of meal plans—Protein+, Keto, Paleo, Standard Vegan, Whole30 Approved, Low-Carb Vegan, Mediterranean diet, and Bulk—each offering about eight different options for lunch and dinner, and four to five options for breakfast. Some options overlap, but overall, there is variety among meal plans. The Mediterranean and vegan meal plans also have options for plant-based eaters and for those who are plant-focused but still eat some meat or fish.
I choose to test out the Mediterranean meal plan as Harvard School of Public Health “Diet Review: Mediterranean Diet” View Source . Each meal comes in a vacuum-sealed, microwavable, BPA-free tray. Each tray has the nutrition facts label, ingredients, and cooking and storing instructions. The trays also have a QR code that takes you to a survey that invites you to say how you felt about that meal. My first order also included some free samples of Fresh N Lean’s coffee-flavored snacks and a thank you letter from the company. You can use the microwave, stovetop, or conventional oven to heat your meals, but I often went with the most convenient option—the microwave. Each meal was fully cooked in 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
I tried herbed salmon with sundried tomato, a quinoa bowl with sunny side-up eggs, a chicken buddha bowl, and chicken fajitas. All were pretty good—some tasting notes read: “earthy, hearty, a little spicy, tender, and cooked perfectly.”
Fresh N Lean’s website gives an average of the nutrition facts for each meal plan before you order them, which was very helpful. For example, the Protein+ plan provides about 36 grams of protein, 43 grams of carbs, 16 grams of fat, 490 calories, and 550 milligrams of sodium per meal. Most of the meals, regardless of the program you pick, fall within recommended dietary ranges for sodium and saturated fat, and provide at least 20 grams of protein. The meals I tested all contain ample amounts of fiber, with at least 3 to 4 grams per meal. Some even offered upwards of 10 to 12 grams of fiber.
Canceling Fresh N Lean was simple and easy. The process prompted a couple of questions about ending the service, and then had us confirm the decision. All in all, Fresh N Lean is a great option for someone looking to incorporate meal deliveries into their routine.
Best Luxury Meal Delivery Service
- 100% plant-based meals
- Elite delivery service focusing on fresh, quality ingredients
- Buying options:
- Breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner for 2, 3, or 5 days OR 2 or 4 weeks
- A weekly subscription of breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner for 2, 3, or 5 days.
The Evidence Test Score: Healthy
- Provides ample amounts of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains
- Mostly organic
- Tasty meals
- Very expensive
- No nutrition facts available
Welcome to Sakara Life, a service that provides “super nutrition” for the “chic and health conscious.” (That’s according to Vogue, anyway.) The service provides 100% plant-based meals and focuses on a holistic approach between lifestyle and food. After a few minutes of browsing Sakara’s website, you may feel like you’re in another, luxury-filled world designed for the elite.
I tried its signature nutrition program to see what the hype is about. I ordered four meals that included a ginger almond salad, a Neapolitan parfait, a brassica salad bowl, and chia pumpkin bread with cacao creme. Each meal is curated using fresh ingredients—a plethora of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Some ingredients included Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, cabbage, strawberries, coconut, cranberries, chickpeas, quinoa, and other nuts and seeds. As a bonus, because of the high-fiber ingredients, Sakara’s meals kept me fuller longer.
Sakara keeps it green when it comes to its packaging, too. (As green as any service that delivers food in single-use containers can be, anyway.) Meals come in #1 PET recycled plastic, which can be recycled when you’re done with them, and are packed in recycled (and recyclable) cardboard. Its box liners and ice packs are recyclable, too.
Sakara’s meals were the most delicious of the bunch. But its $114 price tag for four meals (plus shipping) kept it from the top spot. Additionally, with Sakara’s “no calorie-counting” nutrition philosophy, it doesn’t provide any meal-specific nutrition facts. This is great if you want to invest in health without getting caught up in numbers. But if you are trying to monitor a specific nutrient, it’s important to know how much you’re eating. Sakara says that its signature meal plan contains 40 to 60 grams of plant protein, 37 grams of fiber, and a whopping 75 plant ingredients each day. But without specific information for each meal, it’s hard to say for sure.
We opted for a one-time trial order that doesn’t create a subscription, so there was no need to cancel. If you have the disposable income, and want a great-tasting, convenient way to eat more plant-based foods, Sakara will be right up your alley.
Are Meal Delivery Services Worth It?
What’s The Difference Between a Meal Kit and Meal Delivery Service?
There are two kinds of services; kits and already-prepared meals. With meal kits, you’re sent a box with all the ingredients you need to make a specific dish. Already-prepared meals are ready to be cooked, either in the microwave or thrown into the oven.
Meal kits are handy for someone who’s too busy to grocery shop, but has time to chop, dice, and cook. Already-prepared meals are for the person who wants ultimate convenience—meals already cooked that just need to be warmed up with no prep at all.
This article focuses on already-prepared meals. These services offer a few attractive benefits; having meals delivered directly to your door—no grocery shopping!—and not having to prep any ingredients whatsoever. Most microwavable meal services we tested were ready to eat within three minutes.
Cost is one potential blocker when considering whether or not a meal delivery service is right for you. Unless you get really good discounts, even the most affordable meal delivery services are still more expensive than buying ingredients and fixing them up yourself. Another is sustainability—many delivery services say they stay do their best to stay green, but at the end of the day, your food still comes in disposable containers. (And we found that some brands had way too much packaging.)
Still, if convenience and health is your main goal, a meal delivery service could be worth it for you.
Can Meal Delivery Services Actually Be Healthy?
The estimated value of meal delivery services is set to double in the next couple of years—working people seem to want healthier, but still convenient, meal options. These services are definitely convenient, but whether or not they’re healthy can vary. Although most delivery services advertise as being a “healthy” option, we found that some meals still contain excessive amounts of sodium and saturated fat. You generally want to limit sodium intake to 2,300-milligrams daily, which can look like 500 to 600 milligrams per meal (if you eat three meals daily), and 250-milligrams per snack (if you eat a snack or two daily). PubMed Central “Dietary Saturated Fats and Health: Are the U.S. Guidelines Evidence-Based?” View Source will depend on your caloric intake, but you want the Daily Value—shown as “%DV” on the nutrition facts label—to be around 25% to 30% per meal.
On the whole, I found the majority of these services to be healthy, especially compared to most takeout or frozen food options. The meal kits we tested had good American Society for Nutrition “Most Americans are not getting enough fiber in our diets” View Source levels, which is a nutrient that most Americans don’t get enough of. (Guidelines suggest eating 14 grams of fiber per every 1,000 calories consumed each day.)
If you’re considering a subscription, each box you get will be different. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the nutrition facts label so you can decode the info yourself.
How We Found The Best Healthy Meal Delivery Services
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Sequoia Ridley, a registered dietitian nutritionist with almost six years of nutrition education experience. As a wellness dietitian, I focus on nutrition for disease prevention and nutrition for the best quality of life. I have experience working as a nutrition educator for Cooperative Extension as well as in an outpatient hospital setting. I’ve also written for publications like VerywellFit.
Our Testing Process
To start, I spent three hours researching different meal delivery services. Most services are set up to create a subscription, with the exception of Sakara which offers a one-time trial. I also gathered research on dietary recommendations for nutrients such as saturated fat, sodium, and fiber to provide the most up-to-date and factual nutrition information.
We decided on seven services, which The Nessie ordered for testing. Over the next two weeks, I had a fridge full of meals. I tested for a week and took notes on taste, price, availability, variety, and nutrition. I strictly followed storing and cooking instructions, and made sure to analyze each nutrition facts label to make our assessment. In the end, I landed on an overall favorite and one tasty, but pricey, runner-up.
How To Pick a Meal Delivery Service
Who should buy meal delivery services?
Meal delivery services can be a great addition to your current meal pattern if you are someone with a busy schedule and no time to cook, but still want to eat healthy food. They’re also a great option if you’re looking to add in more protein, veggies, and whole grains to your diet, want to supplement your normal cooking with microwavable meals, or just want a meal service you can count on.
Which features matter most when buying meal delivery services?
- Taste: You want to enjoy your meals and feel satisfied after you eat. Your delivery service should provide meals that you personally think are tasty.
- Price/Budget: Is the delivery service something you can afford? Is it similar to your current grocery budget? You have to factor in an extra convenience cost, but it should still fit into your budget.
- Nutritional Quality: Do meals have a ton of sodium or saturated fat? Are you aiming for a specific amount of protein each day? Are you trying to add more fiber into your diet? Make sure the meals meet your nutrition needs.
- Variety: Is your diet restricted in some way? Are you a plant-based eater or a pescatarian? You want meals that cater to your preferences, but also introduce you to new flavors. You don’t want to end up eating the same meals every week.
- Availability: Does the service deliver to your area? Will there be someone home to pick up deliveries so they aren’t sitting outside? You want a reliable service that you can count on to deliver your meals to your home every week. Similarly, customer service needs to be reachable in case you have any questions or issues.
We also appreciate a good customer experience: reminders for next weeks’ delivery, alerts for new meals and snacks, alerts if there are any changes in your order, tracking measures for your delivery, and ease of cancellation are important.
Cost Comparison of the Healthy Meal Delivery Services in This Review
|Cost of One Week||Plant-Based Options?||Healthy?|
|Fresh N Lean (Best Overall Meal Kit)||$77.45 for 5 ($15.49 per meal)||•||•|
|Sakara (Best Luxury Meal Kit)||$150 for 5 ($30 per meal)||•||•|
|Factor||$77.94 for 6 ($12.99 per meal)||•||•|
|Trifecta||$110.99 for 7 ($15.86 per meal)||•||•|
|Home Chef||$59.94 for 6 ($9.99 per meal) + $10.99 shipping||-ish|
|Sunbasket||$72.54 for 6 ($12.09 per meal) + free shipping||•||-ish|
|Freshly (UPDATE: Since writing this article, Freshly has announced that it’s no longer in business!)||N/A||-ish|
Healthy Meal Delivery Services to Consider
- Offers meat and plant-based options
- Can select meals weekly
- Buying options:
- 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, or 18 meals per week.
- Great taste
- Best variety
- Relatively high sodium levels
Factor (formerly Factor 75) offers the best variety out of all the meal deliveries we tested—and, at $13 per meal, it’s one of the more affordable options, too. But its sodium levels are just slightly over intake recommendations, which prevented it from making the top slot.
Your first Factor order starts a subscription that you can pause or cancel at any time. It offers more than 30 different meals to choose from each week, with the option to add smoothie bundles, juices, wellness shots, and “gourmet plus” meals for an extra charge. But before you pick your food, you have pick a meal plan: Keto, Vegan+Vegetarian, Chef’s Choice (the brand’s “widest selection” of healthy meals), Calorie Smart (meals with less than 550 calories), and Protein Plus (meals with a focus on protein). I went with Chef’s Choice. I able to select chicken alfredo with lentil fusilli, Louisiana shrimp with smoked gouda cauliflower, and—surprisingly my favorite—a three-bean chili with cornbread casserole and a vegan “sour crema” made out of tofu.
Factor’s website does not give an average for the macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates— to expect if you sign up for its delivery service. But each meal comes with clear nutrition info, and during testing, my calorie averages ranged between 450 and 700 for each meal. Most meals offer a whopping 40 grams or more of protein, and a decent amount of fiber—3 to 5 grams per meal. Factor’s meals also average between 800 to 900 milligrams of sodium, just over the 500 to 750 milligram recommendation for adults.
Canceling was quick and simple. The website asked me a couple of questions about my experience, then I was good to go. Factor is a great option for someone looking to add a variety of tasty, affordable meals into their routine.
- Offers meat and plant-based options
- Buying options:
- 5 meals with 5 breakfasts
- 7 meals with the option of 7 breakfasts
- 10 meals with the option of 5 breakfasts
- 14 meals with the option of 7 breakfasts
- Great meals
- High fiber
- Low sodium and saturated fat
- Cannot select your own meals
- Tricky to cancel
If you’re looking for simplicity, Trifecta should be your go-to. Its meals are tasty, nutritious, and have recognizable ingredients and little to no preservatives and fillers.
Before placing an order, Trifecta prompted me to fill out a quick quiz to determine what meal plan might be best. Six are available: Keto, Clean, Paleo, Whole30-Approved, Vegan, and Vegetarian. I went with the Clean eating plan. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that the other plans aren’t “clean”—as far as I can tell, this is just the brand’s most standard offering.
Once you pick your meal plan, you no longer have to make any decisions—all meal plans come with a set, chef-curated menu. (The initial quiz asks about allergies and intolerances, so if you note any, you won’t get meals with potential allergens.) I received a turkey burrito bowl with sweet potatoes and cabbage, a barbacoa bowl with chicken, black beans, and rice, and shrimp jambalaya with peppers and andouille sausage. I enjoyed the fresh ingredients and that each meal had different components—broccoli, sausage, sweet potatoes, cabbage, black beans, and corn, to name a few—so it didn’t feel like eating the same thing every day.
Trifecta provides an average calorie and macronutrient estimate for each meal plan (in addition to clear nutrition info on each individual meal you receive). For the Clean plan, you can expect an average 450 calories, 29 grams of protein, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 17 grams of fat, and 540 milligrams of sodium. All of the other meal plans stay close to those ranges as well.
Canceling Trifecta was a little more complicated than other services. I had to reach out via the customer service chat to cancel at least a week before my next order. But if you’re someone who experiences decision fatigue—or just don’t want to deal with yet another set of choices every week—it’s a great, healthy option.
Healthy Meal Delivery Services You Can Skip
Home Chef (Fresh and Easy)
- Easy-to-assemble meals
- Meat-based meal options
- Buying options:
- 2-6 meals for 2, 4, or 6 people
- Meals taste good
- Offers nationwide delivery
- Longer prep/cook time
- Lack of variety
- Tough to cancel
As one of the most popular meal delivery services, we had to try out Home Chef’s Fresh and Easy meals. These meals are curated to have a shorter prep time than Home Chef’s regular meal kit service. I tried two meals—balsamic chicken with potatoes and broccoli, and chicken enchiladas—which both had great flavor.
Although Home Chef provided every ingredient needed to create the meal, I can’t categorize this the most convenient option. Both meals took about 20-30 minutes each to completely assemble and cook, compared to the other meal services we tested which took only two to four minutes in the microwave. You can also only choose a couple Fast and Fresh meals per day, so their options are limited. Additionally, after researching the options, most meals have at least 1000 milligrams of sodium per serving, which is almost half of the daily recommendation.
Finally, Home Chef is tough to cancel—there is only the option to pause orders. After chatting with a robot for 10 minutes, I finally got through to a contact support person who fully deleted my account and removed my payment information.
- Weekly delivery service
- Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, and meat-based meals
- Buying options:
- 2-5 dinners for 2 or 4 people
- Delivers to most zip codes in U.S
- Made with organic ingredients
- Unable to completely cancel account
- Higher amounts of sodium and saturated fat
Sunbasket’s ordering process is simple and easy, especially because you can skip and pause the meal service if necessary. I tried three meals—creamy spaghetti carbonara, beef n cheddar chili mac, and spinach saag paneer—which were pretty flavorful overall. Although Sunbasket offers a decent variety with about 14 to 15 options to choose from weekly, there are only a couple of options for vegans/vegetarians and pescatarians. Still, Sunbasket offers the option to add sides like cauliflower mac and cheese and butternut squash, which is a nice plus.
Despite the enjoyable meals and low cost, most of its meals tend to be higher in saturated fat and sodium. The meals were upwards of 1000 milligrams of sodium and saturated fat was over 50%DV. I wouldn’t recommend these meals for someone looking to make a meal delivery service their main food source, but it’s a nice timesaver for someone looking to get a couple meals per week. At about $10 per meal, this is a great option for someone looking to keep costs low and still enjoy flavorful food.
Canceling Sunbasket is hard. I could not fully cancel my account—right now, it’s technically “inactive,” unless I choose to reactivate in the future.
- Weekly delivery service
- Mostly meat-based meals
- Delivers nationwide
- Variety of meals
- Not able to see previous orders or receipts
- Not as tasty as others
UPDATE: Since writing this article, Freshly has announced that it’s no longer in business! But if you’re curious, this is what we thought.
Freshly offers a large variety of meals. Each pre-portioned meal also contains the nutrition facts, ingredients, and cooking instructions. We ordered three meals—a savory-sweet chicken teriyaki bowl, a bison burger with mac and cheese and sautéed veggies, and a green curry bowl. Unfortunately, none of the meals impressed us in the taste department. The vegetables became mushy after microwaving, and there was an interesting (in a bad way) aftertaste from the bison burger and the curry. Also, there was no way to log in and see receipts from previous orders, so we had to contact customer service and have our receipt emailed to us. Canceling, however, was simple—I had the option to fully cancel with the click of a few buttons, or pause deliveries.
Nutrition-wise, Freshly was on the border of healthy-ish. Many of its meals were higher in saturated fat, and average sodium levels are borderline high. Fortunately, their meals do contained adequate amounts of fiber, calcium and iron.