The hustle and stress of the holidays can throw even the most virtuous eaters off course.
You could take some of the cooking and grocery shopping — and some of the season's inevitable temptations — off your plate with a healthy meal delivery service. And you might be able to beat back the binge and bloat.
Options range from nuke-it-yourself meals on your doorstep to cook-it-yourself kits, with all the pre-measured ingredients included, so shop around before you commit. We tried a bunch, and here are our favorites:
This Gwyneth Paltrow-endorsed organic plant-based meal delivery service takes meal planning and prep out of your life. Delivered to your door two days at a time, it's a no brainer… literally. You don't have a choice in each day's meals.
It's a good thing then that the unique mix of flavors combined in its meals, such as the roasted peach chana masala with coconut-basil quinoa and mint chutney and melon poke bowl with citrus ponzu and coconut lentils are unexpectedly delicious. Most can be eaten cold or heated up. Still, the menu of bowls, salads, vegan muffins and superfood waters might be lighter fare than some are used to, and it's certainly one of the pricier options out there.
Cost: $82 a day for a three- or five-day meal trial with waters and tea (with $10 weekly delivery); $69.80 a day for the three- or five-day subscription (with free delivery.) Options for two meals a day are available. sakara.com
One of L.A.'s more established meal delivery companies used by many in front of the camera, Zen has a three-meal-a-day plan for everyone including vegetarians, to paleo eaters and families. It offers pretty universally appealing light fare, such as orange roughy wraps, filet mignon, teriyaki salmon and salads, as well as a daily snack and healthy dessert, such as chocolate-covered strawberries or a paleo almond butter brownie. You pick your start date and choose your meals from the calorie-controlled options, and they are delivered each day. Just leave the insulated bag and ice packs out to be picked up the next day. I can honestly say I didn't get hungry on this plan and enjoyed the treat at the end of the day.
Cost: $54.95 each day for a seven-day weight loss plan of three meals, a snack and dessert daily; $52.95 a day for a 20-day plan. The delivery fee ranges from $6 to $13 daily, depending on zip code. zenfoods.com
Personal Trainer Food
Personal Trainer Food is right for those days when you want to stay on track with your diet, but don't want to think, don't want to cook and don't care too much what's on the menu. It's also cheaper than most of the other options.
The low-carb food arrives flash frozen in a box with pre-portioned servings of meat and vegetables in microwavable packets, which heat up in one to two minutes. You select 14 or 28 days' worth of meals and the package will arrive on your doorstep in one to three days.
Although the packets may look a bit like the contents of a Lean Cuisine meal, the food quality was definitely a step up, from the "dillicious" chicken fillets to the frittata omelets and sausage, and it was made better with the little bottle of butter garlic sauce provided. It might get a bit monotonous for long stretches, but works well on days when you're too tired to cook.
Cost: $469, or $5.58 a meal for 28 days of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Free shipping. personaltrainerfood.com
If you still like to cook dinner, but want to shortcut the meal planning and grocery shopping, Hello Fresh might be for you. You opt in for three to five meals a week for two or four people, and Hello Fresh delivers the pre-portioned ingredients and recipe cards to you in a recyclable box with freezer packs. Sure, you're still doing the slicing, searing and sautéing, but you're also motivated to make healthy options and try new, fresh ingredients. And the measured portions mean it's hard to overeat.
Guest chefs including Jamie Oliver contribute recipes, such as the chicken skewers with lemon yogurt and bulgur salad. The smoky poblano chili was also delicious and is prepared in 35 minutes or less. Just be ready to cook those meals, or those fresh ingredients will go to waste.
Cost: $69 for the Classic Plan three-meal weekly subscription ($11.50 per meal). $99 for five meals a week ($9.90 a meal). Shipping is free. hellofresh.com
Honorable mentions go to Green Chef, which delivers healthy (not always low-calorie) recipes and certified organic ingredients for all types of eaters, from vegan to paleo and in-between, as well as Purple Carrot, a plant-based meal delivery service that while not necessarily quick and easy to prepare, is motivating with its interesting recipes and ingredients.