April 1, 2023

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Prepared meal delivery services typically offer a range of low-effort, ready-to-eat meals that you can pop into your oven or microwave to heat up during the week. These are different from meal kits, which come with individual ingredients that you cook and prepare yourself and often take more time, effort and a little more luck. These pre-made meals can be a useful alternative for people who don’t want or have time to sit in line at the supermarket or cook during the week, experts told us. Many of them branch out from the boring frozen meals of the past — they offer several unique and customizable options to fit your personal food preferences (from serving size to amount of protein). Many of them also cater to certain dietary restrictions like gluten-free, vegetarian and low-carb diets.
We spoke to chefs and nutritionists about their favorite meal delivery services that offer prepared meal plans and compiled a list of their recommendations below along with pricing, serving size and plan details. We also listed a few Select staff favorites to consider.
We talked to experts about their favorite prepared meal delivery services, including options for certain dietary restrictions like gluten-free and vegetarian, and highlighted their recommendations below across budgets and diets. All the meal delivery services below offer single-serve ready-to-eat meals, with some offering additional meal kit options, too.
CookUnity offers multiple plans depending on how many meals you want to receive, with subscriptions ranging from four meals to 16 meals per week. You can personally choose your meals from a rotating menu of ready-to-eat meals each week or have them picked for you based on your preferences, including your choices of protein and any dietary restrictions like vegetarian, vegan, low-carb or gluten-free.
“Every week, I get to choose from hundreds of meals, and a ton of them fall into my gluten-free, pescatarian diet,” said Select editor Morgan Greenwald, who started using CookUnity after a friend recommended it. You can also flag any allergies or foods you don’t like, and CookUnity will notify you if they appear in any meals on the menu. “I appreciate that they provide full ingredient lists, down to the individual ingredients in cheeses,” said Ariane Resnick, a special diet chef and certified nutritionist. The meals come fresh and have a refrigerated shelf life of about four to seven days, according to CookUnity.
Sunbasket offers pre-made meals (in addition to meal kits), which the brand says consist of high-quality ingredients and organic produce. The Fresh & Ready plan includes single-serve meals to heat in the oven or microwave, according to Sunbasket. These meals don’t come frozen, but you can freeze most of them to cook later (the ones that can be frozen have specific cooking instructions on them).
Sunbasket “has a variety of options that can be modified for carnivores and strictly plant-based eaters alike,” said Lisa Moskovitz, a registered dietitian and CEO of NY Nutrition Group. Each meal indicates whether it accommodates certain dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, soy-free and vegetarian. And if you don’t feel like committing to the Fresh & Ready plan, the service lets you mix and match with over a dozen meal kits from its weekly rotating menu.
Daily Harvest delivers pre-made harvest bowls, flatbreads, soups and more, all of which are all gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and made from plant-based ingredients, according to the service. Resick describes them as vibrant in color — a great step up from the “beige health food days of yore.” You can also choose gluten-free and dairy-free desserts, including ice cream and chocolate bites.
Daily Harvest offers a variety of smoothies, although they require a little bit more prep than its other food options — they’re delivered as pre-cut frozen fruits and vegetables that you top with a liquid of your choice and blend together. “Their smoothie kits enable people who want to make healthful smoothies to not overuse high-sugar fruit and to not overbuy ingredients they won’t use much of,” said Resnick.
With its subscription, you can choose between three differently-sized weekly boxes: Small (nine items), Medium (14 items) and Large (24 items). While you can pick a combination of any prepared meals and smoothies, prices vary depending on the category of items chosen. If you don’t want to commit to weekly deliveries, Daily Harvest offers monthly boxes, too.
Factor provides a weekly rotating menu of over 27 pre-prepared meals (designed by dieticians, according to the brand) to place directly into the fridge upon unpacking. The service caters to a number of diets and dietary needs, including keto, paleo, low-carb, vegetarian, plant-based and high protein. Select writer Justin Redman called Factor a “godsend” and loves its convenience. “The food quality has been excellent, and while your options are a bit more limited if you have a nut allergy like me, I still find great options on the menu every week,” he said.
Our experts liked the prepared meal delivery’s quality and price: “Factor is incredibly reasonably priced for the quality of health-oriented food they offer,” said Resnick. You can choose from five plans, ranging from four meals per week up to 18 meals per week.
Freshly offers between four and 12 pre-made meals per week, all of which the brand says are single-serve (with some multi-serve sides and proteins to share) and chef-prepared. You can choose from more than 30 menu items that accommodate various dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based and carb-conscious diets, too. Moskovitz praised Freshly’s flexible plans and easy, reliable meals, which “score high in the taste department.”
Freshly says its meals notably aren’t frozen and typically have a refrigerated shelf life of about three to five days. Certain items that the brand suggests should be eaten first (like seafood) will feature a badge on the package.
Splendid Spoon offers over 50 healthy ready-made gluten-free meals and snacks that range from smoothies and soups to grain and noodle bowls. You can choose between multiple meal plans, including a Breakfast plan that includes five smoothies, a Lunch option that features five soups and grain bowls or a combination of the two. The service recommends freezing the food upon unpacking, which they say makes them last one to three months. “I recommend Splendid Spoon for anyone who wants healthy meals in a flash — they taste as healthy as they are, which is a downside for some and a bonus for others,” said Resnick, who was sent a few boxes by the brand to try out.
While you can’t customize the number of meals you get per plan, Splendid Spoon does let you choose how often you want to receive your meals: weekly, every other week or once a month. You can also choose the On-Demand Box, which lets you order food in bulk.
Home Chef is best known for its meal kit delivery, but it also offers a Fresh & Easy plan with multiple oven-ready and grill-ready meals designed with minimal prep and clean up in mind, according to the service. Within its rotating weekly menu of more than 30 meals to choose from, Home Chef will offer about 10 options that are pre-made.
Before ordering, you’ll be prompted to take a quiz that personalizes your menu based on your taste, serving size and delivery preferences. When looking at individual menu options, each meal shows the estimated time it takes to heat up. Since Home Chef is one of the more customizable options with a variety of selections, it’s likely best for “families, kids or people with any dietary restrictions,” according to Ben Leonard, With that said, it may not be the best for people who are indecisive or not as picky with their options, according to Leonard.
BistroMD lets you choose from over 150 chef-prepared meals based on your dietary needs. Moskovitz recommended this service because of it offers various health-conscious plans — you can pick from five different programs: Signature, Gluten-free, Heart Healthy, Diabetic and Menopause. Each week, you’ll be able to customize which meals you receive. But keep in mind: BistroMD is a single-serve, individualized plan, so this may not be a good option if you’re looking to feed a family or yourself and a partner.
The service also offers an EATS (Essential And Tasty Snacks) program that provides healthy snacking options for an additional charge — the Men’s Snack Program is an additional $53 and the Women’s Snack Program is $35.
Purple Carrot offers prepared meals (as well as meal kits), which it says are plant-based and feature several gluten-free options. “Because it’s fully plant-based, Purple Carrot is an easy way for people to add more plant foods into their diets without having to fully convert to veganism,” said Resnick. She called the meals a perfect mix of “familiar and innovative,” with options like kimchi grilled cheese and Baklava overnight oats.
You can customize the number of dinners you get per week — these range from six to 10 frozen meals. Deliveries take place on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays depending on your shipping location, and you can choose to skip a delivery on any given week.
Epicured presents you with a rotating menu of over 50 prepared foods spanning breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. The service even offers curated meal bundles that include a Brunch Bundle, Taco Night Bundle, Freezer-Filler Bundle and more. Once you choose your meals and register, each weekly order is automatically renewed (if you don’t manually pick your meals, last week’s meals will be selected).
Epicured says all its meals are gluten-free and low-FODMAP, which means they don’t feature certain carbohydrates and food additives that can be hard for some people to digest. This makes them a great option for those with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a generally sensitive tummy, said Moskovitz.
Sakara Life is on the pricier side of meal delivery services, but it does offer a wide selection of ready-to-eat meals, all of which are gluten-free, organic, dairy-free and plant-based, according to the service. It also lets you choose the number of days you want to receive meals (two, three or five days) and you can check off any combination of breakfast, lunch and dinner to receive for the number of days you selected.
Programs include the Signature Nutrition Program, which comes with up to three meals per day and your choice of two, three or five days, and the 30-Day Reset, a four-week program that lets you choose at least two meals (breakfast, lunch or dinner) for up to five days per week. You can choose to do a one-week trial program if you’re just getting started, or you can pick a recurring subscription program that automatically renews each week with a set menu of meals that rotates weekly and seasonally. “Sakara is very popular among my clients because of [its] varied menu, top-quality ingredients and delicious taste,” said Moskovitz.
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Mili Godio is an associate reporter for Select on NBC News.
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