Meal Delivery Services & Menu Planning

Tilapia

Menu Planning

If spending time on Pinterest boards trying to figure out what you should make for dinner this week isn’t exactly your thing, save time and energy by letting a pro do the work for you.  My colleagues at My Menu Pal sell individual meal plans for incredible prices (just $1.49 for 4 entrees, 1 – 2 side dishes with each entree, Nutrition Facts, helpful hints and a shopping list). Check out their current special and E-book by clicking here. If you want to do even less work, consider a meal delivery service.

Meal Delivery Services

There are two different types of meal delivery services – one involves popping the meals in the oven and setting the timer (I call these Heat and Eat). The second kind sends you a box of ingredients and a recipe and its your job to put the meal together (Recipe Creations). Though they cost more than buying the ingredients and cooking for yourself, they save time (and time is money, especially if you work for yourself) and may actually cost less in the the long run if you frequently eat out or food goes bad before you get a chance to eat it.

Heat and Eat

This option is for someone who travels often, is too busy to shop and cook or doesn’t want to cook. Your meals will be delivered to your doorstep and your only job is to heat them up. Most of these services have a limited number of selections that you will get tired of eating over and over again for months at a time. However, they also serve as good fill-in meals if you want a few per week to save some time on food preparation and you can cook the rest of the time.

All of the following are nationwide unless cities are specified:

Freshly (most of the U.S.)
For: athletes, general healthy eating, weight loss
* Many athletes will need 4 meals per day or more depending on calorie needs

Good variety of meals though, like all meal services, the total number of options are limited. They add at least one new meal to their menu each week. The entire menu is gluten and peanut free. They also accommodate specific dietary preferences and food allergies.

Meals are delivered fresh and never frozen. Choose from 4, 6, 9 or 12 meals per week. The more meals you get the lower the price per meal. So for instance, 4 meals per week will cost $12.50 per meal while 12 per week will cost $8.99 per meal. Free shipping. You can put your meals on pause or skip a week if you notify them ahead of time.

Fresh n Lean
For: athletes, general healthy eating, weight loss. They have many options you can choose from including: gluten free, organic, vegan, senior, fresh meals, low carb, vegetarian meals. Choose one of these options and then a meal plan (below).

Meal plans available include Standard Plant-based, Low Carb / Low Cal Plant-based, ION Performance Paleo (low carb), ION Performance Protein+ (organic veggies). Each meal is around $9 – $12. Meals are low in calories so most people will need snacks or at least 2 (or for athletes and active adults even more) Fresh n Lean meals per meal. For instance, their ION Performance+ comes in at 1330 calories for 3 meals.

Fuel Food:
For: athletes, general healthy eating, weight loss
Meals are weighed and portioned. Each meal is $7.50 (if you order 300 meals!) or more. Shipping is $5 per meal in FL and more in other states.

Hello Fresh:
For: general healthy eating
Nationwide. No calorie or macronutrient information listed. Starts at $8.75 per meal for 2 or more adults. Vegetarian options available.

Bistro MD:
For: weight loss, general healthy eating (you may need to add more calories)
5 and 7 day programs for weight loss. Women’s programs average 1,200 calories per day. Men’s – it doesn’t say. At 1,200 calories per day I would be concerned about muscle loss esp. if protein intake is low. Use code RD25Off for 25% off and free shipping.

Healthy Chef Creations:
For: general healthy eating
This service includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Dinners start at 15.99 for a “regular size” meal and cost about $21.99 for a “large size” meal (free shipping). Nutrition information isn’t listed though you can customize the meals to suit your dietary needs. They include a few quacky things like detox drinks and they don’t have a nutrition expert overseeing their meals.

My Fit Foods (AZ, CA, TX, OK)
For: weight loss, general healthy eating, athletes
I love how easy their website is to navigate. They have breakfast, lunch and dinner options with many meals between $5 – $8 (caveat – their meals are low in calories so most people, even those who are dieting will need 3 meals + snacks or 4 or more meals daily). For many athletes – the portion sizes will need to be 3-4x larger so that puts the meals at around $15 – $28 per meal if you are eating over 3,000 calories per day. They also have options grouped by dairy free, gluten-free, low-carb, low sodium, spicy and vegetarian.

Fresh N Fit (Atlanta, GA)
For: weight loss, general healthy eating
Flexible (no subscription required) and they have several options including Paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, low-carb (< 15% net carbs, which means total carbohydrates – fiber), customized (you can specify no beef, no seafood, no pork etc.). Total daily calories include a 1,200 calorie option and 1,800 calorie option. At 1,200 calories per day I would be concerned about muscle loss esp. if protein intake is low. Active adults will likely need to supplement or order additional meals to get enough calories each day. Try promo code BCH10 or Mark40 to get $10 off your first order or $40 off a week plan.

Perfect Fuel
For athletes, active adults and those who want to lose weight. Perfect Fuel has 3 options: Lean (300-450 calories), Performance (450-650 calories) and Gainz (650-850 calories). Cost: $9.95 – 12.95 per meal if you sign up for 4 weeks, $10.95 – 13.95 if you sign up for 2 weeks.

Christophers To Go (Atlanta, GA)
For: general meal delivery, delivered fresh.

Nutrition information provided.

Options: Paleo, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian.

Prices: $4.59 – $21.99 per meal
› Every meal is labeled with ingredients and nutrition information.

› The menu always has vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, and dairy free options.

Sunfare (LA and Phoenix):

They have a few different meal options including Artisan (organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, Vegetarian, and Paleo.

New Orleans: there are many local options. Check them out by clicking here.

Recipe Creations

This style of meal delivery is for people who don’t want to shop or measure ingredients but do want to cook. All of the ingredients are measured and delivered to your door along with the recipe. Choose this service if you enjoy cooking but you want the convenience of somebody shopping for you. You will spend time on on meal preparation – sometimes more than 30 minutes. Advantages: no food waste, saves shopping time.
Disadvantages:  if you are short on time this option is not for you because you will spend time cooking. Meal delivery services aren’t for very choosy eaters or those who have several food allergies or  sensitivities.

Plated – this nationwide subscription service allows you to choose anywhere from 1 – 7 meals per week. They offer 9 total choices per week including vegetarian, meat and seafood options.

  • Cost: starts at $12 per serving (for one person).
  • Nutrition Facts: they estimate their meals are 600-800 calories each. Click on each entrée to find out the nutrition information.

“We’re using Plated and love it. We are looking at some other ones (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Peach Dish), but Plated is just so user friendly and the app is intuitive,” states Brandy O’Neil, RD.

Blue Apron – this nationwide subscription service is flexible and has a wide array of recipes (there are no repeats within the same calendar).  Try before you buy – they list all recipes for each dish on their website (click on one and scroll down).  They also offer free recipes emailed to you each week (scroll down to the bottom of this page).

  • Cost: starts at about $9 per serving.
  • Nutrition Facts:  these are provided under each recipe with the caveat that different sizes of produce and amount of oil used will alter the nutrition facts.

Hello Fresh – this nationwide delivery service has three different choices and will, omnivores (meat eaters), vegetarians and a family box.

  • Cost: starts at $8.75 per person.
  • Nutrition Facts: none that I could find. They estimate each meal contains 500-800 calories per serving.

Peach Dish –  Southern cooking delivered nationwide.

  • Cost: though this service is $12.50 per meal, there’s additional shipping fee in several states including AZ, CA, CO, IA, ID, KS, MN, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, OK, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY.
  • Nutrition Facts: listed as a separate tab on each recipe.

Check out this review of the best meal delivery services by reviews.com.

If you’ve tried any of these meal delivery services, please leave comments!

What Causes Muscle Cramps? How Can I Prevent Them?

Muscle cramp
There are two main types of muscle cramps. If you can identify which one you are experiencing you may be able to stop cramping sooner and prevent future cramps.

Localized Muscle Cramping

Localized muscle cramps happen suddenly when a muscle is overworked and tired.

They feel like: constant pain.

Risk factors include: several factors may contribute to localized muscle cramping including: older age, history of cramping, metabolic disturbances, poor conditioning (or increasing the intensity of your training before you are ready) and not stretching. 

Treatment: for this type of cramping should include passive stretching, massage, active contraction of the antagonist or opposing muscle group (for instance, if your hamstrings are cramping, contract your quads), and icing.

Prevention:  Stretching (hold your stretch for at least 30 seconds), using proper movement patterns (biomechanics) and making sure you are conditioned before increasing the intensity of your training.

Exertional Heat Cramps

Exertional heat cramps are due to extensive sweating and low sodium levels from not consuming enough sodium and/or losing too much sodium through sweat.

They feel like: initially you may feel brief, spontaneous contractions that take time to develop followed by debilitating, widespread muscle spasms.

Risk factors include: high sweat rate, little sodium intake (especially if you lose a lot of sodium through sweat or over consume water or other no or low sodium drinks).

Treatment: replacing both fluid and sodium losses as soon as you start cramping. You can use an electrolyte replacement product or table salt! IVs are sometimes used to expedite this process. Massage and ice can also help relax the muscles and relieve discomfort.

Prevention: if you are a “salty sweater” – you see white salt crystals on your clothes, face or other parts of your body, be sure to salt your food prior to training and competing and consume enough sodium in your sports drink to prevent excessive sodium losses.

If you know what type of cramps you are prone to, you can better incorporate prevention methods and have treatment options readily available to stop cramping as soon as possible [ice, sports drinks, electrolyte products, table salt (restaurant salt packets in a ziplock bag always come in handy), a good athletic trainer nearby etc.].

As a review, here are your prevention strategies for cramping:

  • If you have a history of heat cramping, know that your cramps will likely reoccur at some point during training or competition.
  • Make sure you are conditioned before increasing the load or intensity of your training.
  • Incorporate stretching or hot yoga into your training regimen.
  • Give your body time to adjust to changes in elevation, heat and humidity.
  • Salt your food!
  • Do not over-consume water or any other low or no sodium beverage or you’ll dilute your blood sodium level and set yourself up for cramps.
  • Weigh yourself pre- and post- training. For each lb lost, consume 20 – 24 oz of an electrolyte-replacement drink.
  • Work with a sports dietitian or athletic trainer (ATC) to develop a hydration-electrolyte plan that specifically meets your needs. Sports drinks do not contain enough sodium for salty sweaters and those prone to exertional heat cramps.

 

 

Your Cooking Oil is Harming Your Health and Aging You

Bottle of Olive Oil with Wooden Spoon --- Image by © Radius Images/Corbis
Bottle of Olive Oil with Wooden Spoon — Image by © Radius Images/Corbis

If you open a bottle of cooking oil and take months to finish it, heat, light and air start to break down the oil, making it rancid. At best, it smells and tastes different. At worse – potentially toxic compounds are produced in the oil. In this article, I’ll share how to prevent the introduction of bad compounds, how to choose the right product and store it properly and discuss the difference between regular vs. extra virgin olive oil.

Choose the Right Oil for Cooking & Throw Out Your Deep Fat Fryer

For high heat cooking, choose an oil with a high smoke point. When an oil hits it’s smoke point it breaks down and becomes rancid. Rancid oils may smell or taste bad (though sadly some people are accustomed to this taste as “normal”) and may contain toxic compounds, some of which are believe to contribute to cell aging (1, 2, 3). In general, refined oils have a higher smoke point than those that are unrefined. Refer to the usage instructions on the bottle to find out if it be used for high heat cooking.

Use Type of Oil Smoke Point (3) Greater likelihood of Oxidation (> 50 PUFA %) (4) 
Baking
Cooking
Stir Frying
Almond
Avocado
Canola
Grapeseed
Hazelnut
Peanut
Olive
Palm
Pecan
Safflower
Sunflower
High Almond
Grapeseed
Hazelnut
Safflower
Sunflower
Light sautéing
Sauces
Low-heat baking
Coconut
Corn
Hempseed
Macadamia nut, refined
Sesame, refined
Soybean
Walnut – refrigerate after opening
Medium Corn
Flaxseed
Hempseed
Soybean
Walnut
Dressings
Dips
Sauces
*Refrigerate these after opening
Flaxseed
Pumpkin seed
Wheat Germ
Low

In addition to using the right oil for what you are cooking or baking, throw out your deep fat fryer and quit eating fried foods (or at the very least, throw out the oil after each use). Food manufacturers and restaurants re-use oils over and over for frying. After several days they finally throw it out and replace it with fresh oil (5). Each time the oil is used it loses some of its integrity and the smoke point lowers. And though it may take several uses before it becomes rancid (depending on the type used, frying time, heat and other factors), frying decreases the amount of antioxidants in the oil (greater frying time = fewer antioxidants), changes it’s chemical structure and produces trans fatty acids (repeated heating of oil, prolonged heating and heating in an iron container all increase the formation of trans fatty acids) and volatile compounds (such as aldehydes, triacylglycerol oxidation products including alkoxy, epoxy, keto monomeric compounds, and higher molecular weight oxidation products) (6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

Store it Properly

Store your oil in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight (some oils should be refrigerated – as noted above). When possible, buy oil in dark glass containers. When monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acids in oil react with oxygen they become oxidized and form a variety of chemicals, several of which are toxic (aldehydes, ketones, alkenals). The production of these compounds speeds up when the oil is exposed to heat and light or metals are present. More polyunsaturated fat = greater likelihood of oxidation so check your oil’s PUFA content above and if its high, buy smaller quantities of this oil and smell-check it frequently. If it smells different than when you bought it, toss it in the trash.

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs. Olive Oil?

U.S. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the oil resulting from the first pressing of olives and is suitable for human consumption without further processing. It has “excellent flavor and odor” (smell).

U.S. Virgin Olive Oil is olive oil obtained by picking and processing olives, or blends of virgin refined olive oil. It has “reasonably good flavor and odor.”

U.S. Olive Oil is a blend of refined and virgin olive oils.

Refined Olive Oil is sold as “Olive oil” or “Pure olive oil” and is the oil obtained from subsequent pressings (after the first pressing) and suitable for human consumption by refining processes which neutralize the acidity or remove particulate. Heating, neutralizing, bleaching and deodorizing may be used (10, 11).

“‘Light olive oil refers only to the flavor and is determined by the amount of extra virgin olive oil added to the refined olive oil.” (12)

Choose an olive oil in a dark glass bottle. California Olive Ranch is a good brand, as are the ones on this list. Or, if you want amazing authentic olive oil from trees that are 2,000 – 3,000 years old, order olive oil from this Masseria in the Puglia region of Italy.

Is Canola Oil Harmful?

If you’ve heard that canola oil is harmful, read this post for a good explanation of oil processing techniques.

There are plenty of oil choices depending on your desire for taste and a temperature you are using.

References
1 J Oleo Sci. 2008;57(3):153-60.
2 Toxicol Mech Methods 2006;16(5):267-74.
3 Deep Fat Frying and Food Safety. USDA.
4 Food Nutr Res. 2011;55:10.5
5 Nahrung 2002;46(6):420-6.
6 Food Chem 2007;104(4):1740–1749.
7 Eur J Lipid Sci Tech 2002;104(12):785–791.
8 J Food Sci Technol 2014;51(6):1076-84.
9 Chem Phys Lipids 2012;165(6):662-81.
10 J Sci Food Agric 2012;92(11):2227-33.
10 Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (12. Appendix D: Qualified Health Claims). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
11 United States Standards for Grades of Olive and Olive-PomaceEffective October 25, 2010. USDA.
12 Grading Manual for Olive and Olive-Pomace. USDA. Effective May 2012.