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Top Plant-Based Diet Meal Delivery Services

US News & World Report - Health logo US News & World Report - Health 10/18/2019 Elaine K. Howley

food on a wooden table: Salad of romain lettuce, onions, olives, feta, tomatoes and pecan. © (Getty Images) Salad of romain lettuce, onions, olives, feta, tomatoes and pecan. Of the many different ways there are to eat, a diet that focuses on plants may be among the healthiest. A variety of studies over the years have demonstrated that plant-based diets can cut cardiovascular disease risk, prevent and better manage Type 2 diabetes and generally improve your life expectancy. These diets may also present fewer environmental concerns and may actually be less expensive than meat-centric diets.

What Does Plant-Based Mean?

“A plant-forward diet, as plant-based diets are also known, is made up primarily of plant foods,” says Cathy Leman, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Dam. Mad. About Breast Cancer, a nutritional consulting firm aimed at helping breast cancer patients and survivors. “Choosing a plant-based diet doesn’t mean only eating a vegan or vegetarian diet, nor does it mean completely avoiding meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs and/or dairy.”

Many plant-based diets allow a little bit of everything. “It’s a pattern of eating where plant foods take center-stage, and animal protein plays a smaller supporting role. Plant-based diets are built from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, peas and lentils and soy,” Leman explains.

Lindsey Kane, a registered dietitian and in-house dietitian and director of nutrition for Sun Basket, a meal delivery service based in San Francisco, says that “a plant-based diet is exactly how it sounds: A diet in which the base of the diet is composed of plants.” Though it bears similarities to the vegan diet, it’s different in that the plant-based diet is “does not require abandoning animal products altogether, whereas a vegan diet requires complete elimination of animal products,” she explains.

This focus on plants provides a “nutritional edge,” Kane says, because “it encourages a strong emphasis on nutrient-rich, whole foods, while keeping processed foods to a minimum. In contrast, a vegan diet does not take into account the level of processing. The term only considers whether or not a food contains ingredients derived from animals.”

One reason why Kane likes the plant-based approach is because “it focuses on what you can have, rather than focusing on what you can’t have. Instead of saying "eat less meat," the plant-based motto is "just eat more plants."

Plant-Based Health Benefits

A plant-based approach is superior to the standard American (or Western) diet, Leman says. The SAD is “defined by a high intake of processed and red meat, high-fat dairy products, butter, eggs, French fries, high-calorie drinks, refined grains, sweets convenience foods and sauces.”

While some of these items may well fit the technical definition of being vegetables or vegan, they don’t actually fit the plant-based approach, Kane says. For example, “a plate of French fries, while technically vegan, is not a prime example of a plant-based way of eating because they do not embrace the nutrient-rich, minimally processed attribute of plant-based eating.”

Leman adds that the plant-based diet can be a great alternative to the SAD “when approached with health in mind, and planned deliberately.” And “because no single food group is eliminated on a plant-based diet, it’s appropriate for everyone.”

Kane agrees that anyone can follow a plant-based diet. “The beauty of this way of eating is that it’s not rigid, and it offers plenty of freedom and flexibility for each individual to find their spot along the plant-based spectrum and slowly shift towards more plants at whatever pace feels comfortable, enjoyable, and sustainable to them.”

That said, Leman still recommends “meeting with a registered dietitian to ensure all nutrient requirements are being met, and for guidance in making a smooth transition to a new dietary pattern.”

Samantha Cochrane, a registered dietitian with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, agrees that if you’re looking to switch to a plant-based diet, it’s always wise to speak with a dietitian first to make sure you’re covering all your nutritional bases. There are different interpretations of what it means to eat a plant-based diet, and some, such as the DASH diet might be a better fit for people with hypertension or certain other medical conditions. A dietitian or your doctor can help you navigate these finer points in deciding what to eat.

“I always recommend whole plant foods rather than processed foods," Cochrane notes. I like to tell my patients to make every plate half vegetables,” which will provide lots of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, that may help lower risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Foods that are high in fiber, such as leafy greens and crunchy vegetables, can also help you feel fuller longer, which may lead to weight loss and the health benefits associated with a trimmer waistline. She also says that adding in plant-based protein sources, such as tofu, can also help you adopt a more plant-based diet.

Using a Meal Delivery Service

Using a meal delivery kit to help you move into a plant-based eating pattern or to stick with it can be a good option. “You can’t beat doorstep delivery convenience," Leman says. "However, on non-delivery days or when you’re no longer using a delivery service, it’s important to get the right balance of food on your plate. If you can do that, a meal delivery service can certainly make it easier to enjoy a nourishing meal.”

Kane notes that when starting on any new diet, the first steps can “feel unfamiliar and intimidating. If you aren’t currently eating a lot of plants, you’re likely not cooking with a lot of plants, either,” and figuring out how to prepare them correctly and in delicious ways may require a little effort. “A meal-delivery service can be a great strategy to break down some of the most common perceived barriers to plant-based eating. If you find yourself thinking, I don’t know what to eat or how to prepare it... meal kits can help bring peace and confidence to all of your plant-based fears.”

Compare the Most Popular Plant-Based Meal Delivery Services:

Meal plan optionsAverage cost per mealShipping costsAverage prep time
Purple CarrotWeekly subscription, with 2-serving and 6-serving plans available$7.99 to $11.99 Free30 to 45 minutes
Sun BasketWeekly subscription, with classic and family plans available$10.99 to $12.99$6.99 per order, with first order free30 minutes
Green ChefWeekly subscription, with 2-person and family plans available$9.99 to $11.99$7.99 per box30 minutes
Splendid SpoonWeekly subscription, with three plans available$9.00 to $13.00Free, but may vary by locationReady-made meals, including smoothies, soups and grain bowls
VeestroA la carte or 10, 20 or 30 meals every week, two weeks or four weeks$9.90 to $11.70Free for auto-delivery subscribers; $9.99 on one-time ordersReady-made meals, just heat and eat
Hungry RootWeekly subscription, with small, medium and large plans available$8.62 to $12.90Free ground shipping; $10 air shipping10 minutes
Fresh n’ LeanWeekly subscription, with one to three meals a day; or a la carte options available$8.40 to $11.42FreeReady-made meals, just heat and eat

Top Companies That Deliver Plant-Based Meals

While she doesn’t endorse a specific service, Leman says that “there are many plant-based meal delivery services available, with more options regularly available. Choosing one is simply a matter of finding which best fits your budget and dietary preferences.”

Cochrane adds that these services vary in what they offer, so you should do your research to make sure you’re getting the right fit for your needs. “Most of them give you a lot of fresh food options that you can cook yourself. That can be a good way to add vegetables more easily.”

Top Plant-Based Meal Delivery Services:

  • Purple Carrot.
  • Sun Basket.
  • Green Chef.
  • Splendid Spoon.
  • Veestro.
  • Hungry Root.
  • Fresh n’ Lean.
  • Blue Apron.

Purple Carrot

  • Cook your own fresh meals from ingredients delivered to your door.
  • All plant-based and vegan meals.
  • Easy to cook meals, and extras come with step-by-step instructions.

Founded by a former pharmaceutical executive who developed Crohn’s disease, Purple Carrot offers plant-based, vegetarian and vegan meals for people who want the convenience of ingredients and recipes shipped to their door. Some basic cooking skills and utensils are necessary to enjoy Purple Carrot meals, and most meals take 30 to 45 minutes on average to prepare.

In addition to plant-based meals, Purple Carrot also offers high-protein, gluten-free and “quick and easy” meals. Two-serving plans are available. This plan is “ideal for singles or small families” and costs $11.99 per serving. Subscribers can mix and match three plant-based dinners from a variety of options each week. There’s also a six-serving plan that costs $7.99 per serving and is designed for families. It includes two “unique plant-based dinners that serve six every week.”

There are no additional shipping costs, but sales tax may apply. Purple Carrot also offers breakfast and lunch meals that can be prepared in less than 5 minutes. Purple Carrot is currently running an offer to get $25 off your first box.

Sample meal: tempeh vegetable korma with basmati rice and mango chutney.

  • Calories: 770.
  • Total fat: 21 grams.
  • Carbohydrates: 106 grams (8 grams dietary fiber, 30 grams sugar includes 8 grams added sugar).
  • Protein: 28 grams.
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.
  • Sodium 660 milligrams.

Sun Basket

  • Organic produce and clean ingredients.
  • Most meals between 550 and 800 calories.

Sun Basket offers a wide range of meal kit options in its subscription-based delivery programs. The Vegetarian Meal Plan offers organic produce, eggs and tofu made from non-GMO soy. It touts “plenty of protein” from “plant-based proteins” and organic eggs.

Their vegetarian meals are “perfectly portioned” to clock in at about 550 to 800 calories per serving and contain at least 20 grams of protein and five grams of fiber per serving. The vegetarian plan is also “rich in omega-3s and good fats sourced from olives, nuts, seeds and avocados. The plan focuses on including whole foods and unprocessed, plant-based ingredients.

Most meals can be prepared in about 30 minutes and require basic cooking skills and utensils. The company offers free shipping on your first delivery. Recyclable and compostable packaging.

Sample meal: Roman orecchiette and chickpeas with spinach.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes.
  • Calories: 610.
  • Total fat: 23 grams.
  • Carbohydrates: 81 grams (9 grams dietary fiber, 8 grams sugar).
  • Protein: 20 grams.
  • Cholesterol: 10 milligrams.
  • Sodium: 350 milligrams.

Green Chef

  • Fresh, organic premeasured ingredients delivered to your door.
  • Step-by-step recipes and instructions.
  • Most meals are ready in about 30 minutes.

Green Chef offers plant-based, vegetarian and vegan meals (in addition to keto, paleo and balanced-living meals) as part of its subscription program options. Plant-based meals start at $9.99 per meal for the two-person plan – one box contains three dinners for two people, or six servings total, per box.

It also offers a family plan that includes two dinners for a family of four (or eight servings in total) which costs $10.99 per meal. The company is currently offering a deal that cuts $80 off your first three orders and free shipping for the first order. Green Chef delivers to almost all of the continental U.S., but is currently unable to deliver to Alaska, Hawaii and parts of Louisiana.

Sample meal: Moroccan sweet potato with tahini and quinoa with sauteed peppers and currants, red beet and carrot slaw

  • Calories: 670.
  • Total fat: 27 grams.
  • Carbohydrates: 96 grams (17 grams dietary fiber, 30 grams sugar).
  • Protein: 19 grams.
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.
  • Sodium: 920 milligrams.

Splendid Spoon

  • Focus on breakfast and lunch.

Splendid Spoon was founded by a former biochemist and graduate of the International Culinary Center who’d also had an eating disorder but found that eating one plant-based meal per day helped keep her on track. The company offers “ready-to-eat, nourishing, plant-based smoothies, soups and grain bowls.” The program is designed for “everyone else sick of fad diets and ready to improve their relationships with food.”

Unlike at many other food delivery companies, the focus at Splendid Spoon is on breakfast and lunch rather than dinner. Their products contain fresh, plant-based, gluten-free and GMO-free ingredients. There are three plans available, and all are plant-based. The company ships nationally.

  • Lunch: five bowls delivered weekly, $13.00 per meal ($65 per week total).
  • Breakfast + Lunch: five smoothies and five bowls delivered weekly, $9.50 per meal ($95 per week total)
  • Breakfast + Lunch + Reset: five smoothies, five bowls and one full-day reset delivery weekly, $9.00 per meal ($135 per week total). The reset is a course of five light soups “designed to reset your digestive system in one day. It’s a day of self-care in our favorite format: soup.” This is the company’s most popular plan.

Sample meal: Moroccan spiced buckwheat bowl with butternut squash and currants.

  • Calories: 180.
  • Carbohydrates: 28 grams (6 grams dietary fiber, 9 grams sugar).
  • Protein: 5 grams.
  • Total fat: 5 grams.
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.
  • Sodium: 200 milligrams.

Veestro

  • Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.
  • Dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, low-calorie, soy-free, high-protein and kosher options available.
  • No preservatives.

Aimed at busy people who want to eat healthy, Veestro offers premade plant-based and vegan meals delivered to your door. Part of the company’s “plantifesto” explains that, “we believe busy people deserve it all: flavorful, healthy, easy fast.” And that “we believe plants are the greatest food on earth.”

The company delivers to any physical address within the continental U.S., but doesn’t currently ship to Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico. Shipping is free for those who subscribe to the auto-delivery option. Meals are shipped in quantities of 10, 20 or 30 for those purchasing the a la carte option or Chef’s Choice option. Customers using the Weight Loss Plan option will receive 15 or 21 meals per box. Packaging is 100% recyclable or compostable.

Sample meal: carrot osso bucco (blend of organic mushrooms, carrots and onions in red wine vegetable bouillon).

  • Calories: 210.
  • Total fat: 11 grams.
  • Carbohydrates: 22 grams (6 grams dietary fiber, 7 grams sugars).
  • Protein: 6 grams.
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.
  • Sodium: 550 milligrams.

Hungry Root

  • Variety of fresh, plant-based foods.
  • Tailor to personal preferences.
  • Part grocery delivery, part meal kit program.

Hungry Root is part grocery delivery service, part meal kit plan. Subscribers get all the ingredients and instructions you need to make quick and delicious meals. The company takes the pain out of meal planning – just input your preferences and food restrictions and they send groceries and recipes for you to cook fresh at home. Most recipes are super quick to make and are ready to eat in 10 minutes.

The company offers three plan sizes: small, medium and large. The small plan is a weekly subscription that’s “great for one” person and costs $69 weekly. It contains enough groceries to make three to four two-serving meals plus snacks. The medium plan is “perfect for two” and costs $99 weekly. It provides enough groceries to make four to five two-serving meals plus snacks. The large plan is “made for families” and costs $129 weekly. It contains groceries to make five to six two-serving meals plus snacks.

Fresh n’ Lean

  • Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.
  • New menus offered weekly.
  • Meals include no gluten, dairy, GMOs or animal products and contain no added sugar, processed ingredients, artificial flavors.
  • Offers meals for a full day.

Fresh n’ Lean offers fresh and organic, 100% vegan meals that are ready to heat and eat. Recipes feature organic, seasonal ingredients and are free from GMOs, gluten, dairy and “anything bad whatsoever. Always.”

The standard plant-based package includes three meals, five days a week and costs $126.00 weekly or $8.40 per meal. Packaging is BPA-free and fully recyclable.

On average, this plan provides per day:

  • 43 grams of protein.
  • 144 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 35 grams of fat.
  • 1,225 calories.

Fresh n’ Lean also offers a three-meal, seven-day per week program that costs $176.40 weekly and offers similar nutritional averages. Subscribers can order additional meals and snacks a la carte. The company provides breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Fresh n’ Lean currently offers $20 off and free delivery on your first order. Shipping is free.

Blue Apron

  • Chef-designed recipes are quick and easy to make.
  • Responsibly-sourced, quality ingredients.
  • All ingredients perfectly portioned to eliminate waste.

Blue Apron is one of the biggest names in meal kit delivery services. The company offers many vegetarian and plant-based meal options. These meat-free dishes “celebrate the best of seasonal produce.”

The company also offers wine pairing suggestions for all its meals. It also advertises commitment-free meal planning that can be canceled or skipped at any time.

The two-serving vegetarian plan offers two or three recipes per week. This three-recipe plan serves two people and costs $9.99 per serving plus $7.99 shipping for a weekly total of $47.95. The three-recipe plan also clocks in at $9.99 per serving but offers free shipping, for a $59.94 weekly total.

The vegetarian four-serving plan is great for families or people who want to meal plan for the entire week. It offers two, three or four recipes per week and each recipe serves four. The per-serving cost ranges from $7.49 to $8.99, depending on the number of recipes per week.

Sample meal: zucchini and ricotta sandwiches with butter lettuce and cucumber salad.

  • Prep time: 35 minutes.
  • Calories: 630 calories.
  • Total fat: 16 grams.
  • Carbohydrates: 58 grams (6 grams dietary fiber, 7 grams sugar).
  • Protein: 20 grams.
  • Cholesterol: 30 milligrams.
  • Sodium: 970 milligrams.

The Takeaway

However you decide to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet, Leman wants people interested in adopting a plant-based diet to know a few other things:

  • Following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean automatic weight loss.
  • A plant-based diet is not a guarantee against getting cancer of any type.
  • Healthy, nourishing, plant-based diets include quality whole foods.

To make the process easier and to help ensure it lasts long term, Leman suggests making small, incremental changes. She also recommends getting a plant-based cookbook that isn't too intimidating. And lastly, be open to "lots of experimentation!"

Copyright 2019 U.S. News & World Report

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