Meal delivery services that bring recipes and ingredients to your door are a growing trend for those who want to cook more. If your goal is weight loss, your priorities may be different than the average consumer. Below are a few things to investigate as you choose a meal delivery service that is right for you.
Are there options that meet your weight loss needs?
Many of these services provide healthier options, but that doesn’t always mean they will fit your calorie and nutrient needs for weight loss. Some recipes can look deceivingly healthy, only to have upwards of 900 calories and over 1,000 milligrams of sodium in a serving. It’s important that the nutrition information for the recipes be available to you before you make the commitment to sign up for the service.
Do the meals contain enough vegetables?
The goal of these services is to make cooking easier, which means many recipes turn to simple ingredients like pasta and rice. Others may contain only a piece of fish and a starch like mashed potatoes. Be sure the recipes offered use plenty of vegetables for balanced nutrition. If you find yourself constantly adding your own salad to every meal, the delivery service may not be a good investment.
Does the amount of prep fit your needs?
New recipes can help prevent boredom and help you discover new foods you enjoy. It’s important to be realistic about how adventurous you want to be in the the kitchen. If the recipes you order are filled with unfamiliar ingredients and require more skill than you expect, at the end of the week you might find your shipment still sitting in the refrigerator with other untouched ingredients. If you are new to cooking, choose a service that provides simple, healthy foods and plenty of instruction to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Is there a local service available?
Many delivery services operate nationally and regionally, but more and more local services are popping up in larger cities. While either can be a good option, local services are worth exploring. Recipe kits shipped from far away may contain ingredients that have wilted or spoiled during transit. If a local company is sourcing from farms and stores nearby, your ingredients may be fresher than what national companies can provide.
A cleanse is a short-term diet that claims to rid the body of toxins, increase energy and initiate weight loss. Most cleanses limit calorie intake to juice and can last from 1 day to a full week.
Sometimes cleanses are called detox diets. Whichever term is used, this type of diet should signal a red flag. While you can gain healthy nutrients from fresh juice, a diet of only juice can put nutritional strain on the body. Juices lack a) protein for building tissues and maintaining muscle mass, b) fiber for fullness and a gut health, and c) healthy fat to aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Additionally, the liver and kidneys efficiently remove toxins from the body when you eat a balanced, healthy diet.
If you are a healthy adult, a 1 day juice cleanse may not have a negative impact on your overall health, but an extended cleanse could have consequences. Not only can a cleanse affect concentration and mood, over time it can cause nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, while you may lose weight due to very low calorie intake and water loss, the weight will likely be gained back once you return to eating food. This has an unhealthy yo-yo effect on body weight.
When presented with a cleanse, do some research. Not all cleanses are bad. Some programs do involve balanced, healthy meals and snacks. But skip programs that require a liquid diet or skeptical supplements. Trust what you know about healthy eating. Focus on balance, variety, lean protein, heart-healthy fat, fruits and vegetables to accomplish your nutrition and weight loss goals.
An allergic reaction to food can be as mild as an upset stomach, or as serious as restricted breathing and death. Food allergies may be identified when eating a new food for the first time, or they may develop during adulthood with foods you have regularly eaten for years. If you’ve noticed changes in how you feel after eating, you may need to eliminate certain foods from your diet.
Common food allergies include shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy and wheat.
Symptoms of food allergies
Food allergy symptoms can occur within a few minutes of eating. Sometimes the symptoms are mild and include stomach cramping or itching in the mouth and throat. More severe allergies may cause lip and tongue swelling, hives, vomiting or diarrhea. Some allergies cause tightening of the throat and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. This severe reaction is called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.
The severity of an allergic reaction can vary from person to person. An allergy to peanuts in one person may cause an itchy throat while others risk anaphylaxis simply from exposure to peanut particles.
Healthy food substitutions
Foods most commonly associated with allergies are also nutritious, which can make healthy eating a challenge. Nuts contain heart-healthy fat, whole wheat provides fiber, and fish and eggs are good sources of protein. It’s important to talk with your doctor before making any food substitutions to ensure you are not swapping one allergen for another. These foods may provide healthy options to ensure you get the nutrients you need while decreasing the risk of aggravating a common food allergy.
Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and seed butters provide similar protein, fat and minerals as many nuts and nut butters.
Replace dairy with almond, rice or soy milk products.
Choose poultry, beans or tofu to replace lean protein in fish and shellfish.
Lentils, chickpeas and fava beans can serve as a substitute for soy and soybeans.
Gluten-free oats and flour blends can be used in baked goods for those with wheat allergies.
Lean protein foods are rich in protein and limited in less healthy nutrients, such as saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Some sources of lean protein also contain beneficial plant chemicals, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
How much lean protein should I eat?
Protein should account for 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories. That’s 50 to 175 grams per day for an adult on a 2,000 calorie eating plan. To control total calories, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol intake, choose lean protein sources over foods such as high-fat dairy and processed or fatty cuts of meat.
What are sources for lean protein?
Seek out nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories and unhealthy fats and that provide valuable vitamins and minerals. Below are both animal and plant-based foods that are good sources of lean protein.
Poultry (white meat) is lower in calories and saturated fat than many other meats.
Fish is rich in heart-healthy fats.
Low-fat milk and yogurt contain calcium.
Egg whites provide protein with very little fat.
Beans and lentils contain dietary fiber and plant nutrients that fight disease.
Your diet plays an important role in blood pressure regulation. While most of us know we should limit our sodium intake, we should also eat foods rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. Eating a wide-ranging diet filled with fruits and vegetables can also help lower blood pressure by providing fiber, nitrates, and unique plant nutrients.
Bananas are packed with potassium, which has been shown to decrease the harmful effects of sodium.
Anthocyanins, the plant compounds in berries that give them their deep red, purple and blue hues, have been found to reduce the risk for high blood pressure.
Beets and beet juice contain nitrates, which help keep blood vessels healthy. Researchers believe this may be why beets have the ability to lower blood pressure.
All types of beans (including black beans, navy beans and pinto beans) are loaded with heart-healthy nutrients. The soluble fiber, magnesium and potassium in beans have been linked to improved blood pressure.
Low-fat milk and yogurt contain calcium and vitamin D that may work together to reduce blood pressure. There is also evidence that the positive effects of dairy on heart health are due to compounds such as milk peptides formed when dairy is digested. Similar results have not been found with high-fat dairy.
Nectarines (and other stone fruits such as peaches and plums) are rich in potassium, magnesium and fiber.
Spinach is rich in potassium and magnesium and low in sodium. Like beets, spinach also contains beneficial nitrates. This balance in nutrients is a key factor in reducing blood pressure.
Sweet potatoes provide calcium, magnesium and potassium. Eating the skin in addition to the flesh will boost your intake of magnesium and potassium.