The Best Healthy Meal Delivery Services Our Editors Tried (and Loved)

Almost one year ago exactly, I packed up my car, signed a lease with my best friend, and moved from my hometown of Minnetonka, Minnesota, to San Francisco, California. I began my first “adult” job, and to be honest, I felt on top of the world. Until, that is, I didn’t.

In high school, I struggled with an eating disorder, and since then, I had put in the time and work to recover and have a relationship with food that, though still challenging at times, was healthy, sustainable, and enjoyable. However, practically overnight, my life dramatically shifted. I had a one- to two-hour commute to and from work each day, a 9-to-5 job, and other demands that left me 100% depleted by the time I got home each night. My eating schedule felt erratic; I was wasting money on groceries I didn’t have time to prepare, spending money on overly priced lunches near work, and loading up on Double Stuf Golden Oreos before bed with my roommate. Suffice to say, neither I (nor my bank account) were at our peak. All of a sudden, I felt like I was losing the food/life balance I had worked so hard for while lacking the energy (or hours) in the day to buy and prepare the kinds of healthy meals that had gotten me through the past five years.

As a basic human need of life, eating shouldn’t have to be stressful. However, a lot of the time, it is. Not only are there personal obstacles like unpredictable schedules, tight weekly budgets, or even allergies and diet restrictions, but our society has also managed to make the topic of eating feel somewhat nebulous—cloudy, uncertain, and even intimidating. Which, when you consider how incredibly lucky we are to have the options and access to foods that we do, is pretty damn interesting. Still, that doesn’t lessen the sting of worry or frustration when we feel like we don’t have the time, knowledge, or patience to develop a relationship with food that feels sustainable and kind to our body’s needs. Which is where meal delivery services can become invaluable. Not only do they bring freshly prepared (or easy to prepare) food right to your doorstep, but the majority are also completely customizable to your lifestyle and diet preferences.

A couple of my months after I moved to San Francisco, I discovered the delivery service Thistle, and it totally changed my life. The service took the guesswork out of planning, prep, and a fresh, balanced way of eating, sure, but I was also saving money—aka ditching my relationship with the overpriced office vending machine, the next-door poke joint, and pointless grocery store hauls that often went neglected. I have since moved to Los Angeles (my favorite city) and started my position at Byrdie (my dream job), but here and there, I still rely on delivery services to ease a hectic transition or to get my diet back on track. Inspired by how much I have learned and the very positive experiences I’ve had with multiple meal delivery services, I decided to round up even more evidence by having Byrdie editors review some of the best meal delivery services on the market. Keep reading for our honest opinions.

Kore Kitchen

 

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Healthy highlights: ready-to-eat, organic, local (when possible), 100% gluten- and dairy-free, sustainably sourced, vegan and sustainable meat options

Where it's available: greater Los Angeles area

"I'll start by saying how incredibly excited I was to try Kore Kitchen. When it comes to my (typical) diet philosophy, I value organic, local, and sustainably sourced food, and I have so much admiration for people like Meryl Pritchard (the founder of Kore Kitchen) who essentially make it their life's work to educate and nourish their clientele from the inside out. I received two days' worth of food, which consisted of breakfast (smoothies), lunch (fresh salads), snacks (granola with homemade cashew milk one day and rice stackers with hummus the other), and dinner (comforting dishes like shrimp stir fry with forbidden rice and polenta with turkey meatballs and greens).

"I have tried a handful of meal delivery services and have never tasted produce as fresh as what I found nestled in my cooler bag. There wasn't a wilted romaine leaf to be found, and I marveled at the taste and texture of the meat and perfectly cooked vegetables. I love seafood, and I can't tell you how excited I was to find additions like shrimp and salmon. The granola was definitely another highlight—best I've ever had, and I noticed I felt satiated yet light and energetic throughout the two days I tried Kore Kitchen.

"My one (and only) complaint is in regard to the smoothies. I appreciated the ingredient list—filled with superfoods like maca, chia, seeds, fruits, and coconut), but there was a slight chalkiness, which I'm pretty sure came from the protein powder. But again, that's me nitpicking—trust me when I say I guzzled them down each morning with plenty of appreciation." — Erin Jahns, Assistant Editor

thistle

 

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Healthy highlights: ready-to-eat, organic, local (when possible), 100% gluten- and dairy-free, sustainably sourced, vegan and sustainable meat options

Where it's available: hand delivery in San Francisco Bay Area and the greater Los Angeles area and shipping to all of California and parts of Nevada

Want in? Thistle is gifting Byrdie readers with a 20% discount! Use code BYRDIE.

"Prior to trying Thistle, I had never tried a meal delivery service, and to be perfectly honest, I had mixed feelings going into it. While the sheer convenience of not having to think about my breakfast, lunch, or snacks for a week was quite appealing, I also really like making my own food and eating according to my mood—what if I simply wasn't craving whatever recipe Thistle threw together for me? It's for this reason that I really appreciated the fact that Thistle delivered two days' worth of meals at a time—on Monday, for example, I decided that Tuesday's lunch sounded more appealing, so I simply swapped them.

"I was also impressed by the volume of food—between the snacks and lunches, there was so much! This is the part where I remind everyone that I'm vegan, so it's (sadly) remarkable that they managed to give me meals that were truly filling and fresh. There were some meals that I wish were a little more flavorful, but all in all, everything was pretty tasty. I especially liked the snacks: chia pudding, veggies and hummus, and this really yummy raw granola bar situation that I would honestly happily inhale three times a day." — Victoria Hoff, Wellness Editor

"The old notions of meal delivery services (unappetizing, small portions reminiscent of astronaut food) need to be abolished. I say this because I need to remind myself. I always get a little nervous about committing to a meal delivery service A) because I consider eating out a part of my lifestyle (for better or worse, and yes I know it's worse) and B) because I'm not the 'I eat everything' person. If there's a something funky about one bite of chicken, the whole meal is done for me. Anyway, I open my Thistle delivery and am immediately impressed. Beyond the portions (which are sizable), the food looks appetizing—more than appetizing, it looks good. I'm talking the presentation! Not the 'meal in a box' situation you may be envisioning. And it was delicious. I always felt full and had leftovers.

"I also loved that the snacks weren't just bars or a pack of nuts. You would think something as simple as veggies and hummus I could do on my own, but for some reason that only happens when it's already portioned out and played for me. The chocolate quinoa bar (a cross between a chocolate candy bar and a Rice Krispies bar) is reason enough to order. Personally, I'd like to stock my pantry with those. Like I said, the food was delicious. The juices, however, were not for me. I think unless you're super into juicing (which I am not), you're not going to love them. The green juice is a true green juice (not spiked with the pineapple like you may be used to) and it has a bit of a bite. Overall, I would definitely do it again. Actually, I was looking at the packages and they're much more reasonably priced than I was expecting." — Deven Hopp, Beauty Director

sun basket

 

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Healthy highlights: fresh, pre-measured ingredients that come with recipes; organic; sustainably sourced; Paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, and calorie-controlled options

Where it's available: shipping to most zip codes in the U.S., excluding Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, and parts of New Mexico

"Before trying Sun Basket, I had only every received ready-to-eat meal delivery services. Not because the idea of fresh ingredients and mouthwatering recipes delivered straight to my door didn't sound appealing—believe me, it did—but I just didn't think I had the time or energy after a long day at the office to make it work. Plus (ironically) I actually love to cook (I find it meditative), and I was worried that my post-L.A. traffic, I-need-to-eat-something-right-now hanger would sourly impact the overall experience. In my mind, I only want to cook when I'm unhurried, sipping a glass of wine, and listening to my favorite Spotify playlist. However, I love the thought process behind Sun Basket, and after talking with executive chef/founder Justine Kelley and in-house nutritionist Kaley Todd, I was blown away by their passion and dedication toward making healthy food available to everyone. Dedicated to transforming the most nutritious of foods into the most delicious of meals is the goal, and I couldn't wait to get a taste.

"Right off the bat, I loved how customizable the plans were, and I opted for three, non-vegetarian recipes per week. The recipes I chose served two, and since I was just cooking for myself, the idea of having practically all of my dinners covered for the week had me borderline giddy. I'll admit that my first night of cooking was a bit rocky. It was 8:30, I was famished, and I rushed through the 30-minute cooking process without much appreciation. The food, however, was amazing, and I couldn't believe the outstanding flavor profile considering how few ingredients were involved (the high-quality organic produce probably has something to do with it). After that first night, to smooth out the process, I chose an evening I knew I'd be home earlier and prepared both of my remaining recipes for the week. Sun Basket's recipes are easy and quick, so this became my saving grace approach. For some reason, I was usually still a tad hungry post-meal, but overall I was super impressed and felt like I even learned a few new things about cooking over the course of the two weeks I tried their delivery service. All in all, I give Sun Basket an A+." — Erin Jahns, Assistant Editor

sakara

 

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Healthy highlights: ready-to-eat, organic, vegan (aside from occasional use of honey or bee pollen), 100% gluten- and dairy-free

Where it's available: across the U.S.

"You've probably seen bottles of Sakara Rose Water scattered on your Instagram feed. There's a reason: Everything Sakara is totally Instagrammable. When you cut out meat and fill your meals with veggies, fruits, and all of the (vegan) foods of the rainbow, you end up with colorful meals that delight your senses. Yes, Sakara is a vegan service. I am not vegan (furthest thing from it, really), so I was skeptical to try but had heard great things. I must say breakfast was my favorite (admittedly breakfast is always my favorite). The peanut butter and jelly–esque 'toast' situation was my jam—never a crumb left. Lunch and dinner, however, were almost too much food, so if you're concerned about portion size, don't be. Sakara kept me well fed. As a meat-eater, I encountered some nights when I wanted to toss some grilled chicken into the mix, but everything was delicious. In my inexperienced mind, I thought that vegan food would be all kind of the same—one salad after another—but I was utterly wrong. The variety is impressive; I was never bored and always legitimately excited to see what vegan treat I would unwrap next. The rose water, however, I can't get behind. Personally, I don't want to drink my florals. But add them on my rainbow salad, and I'm sold." — Deven Hopp, Beauty Director

"When I (finally) tried Sakara earlier this year, it had been a long time coming. I had been coveting the majestically marketed meals and beauty waters for years—yes, years—and was enticed to see how my actual delivery would stack up against my admittedly high expectations. I had tried (and been extremely happy with) other meal delivery services but couldn't squelch my undying curiosity and I finally committed myself to a week of vegan-based meals—all with sexy monikers. (Words like 'Aphrodite,' 'emerald,' and 'kaleidoscope' pair intriguingly with breakfast bars, salad wraps, and pasta primavera.) Like Deven, I'm not vegan, and pair animal-based protein like organic chicken, eggs, and seafood with almost every meal. Thus, I was slightly worried I'd suffer from a perpetual hanger and an aura of faintness throughout my Sakara stint. However, that was far from the case. Most meals (especially the dinners!) left me completely satisfied, and I was completely obsessed with the dressings and sauces, which were not only packed with superfoods like mushrooms and spirulina but also lent rich flavor to each and every meal.

"Though I didn't try the breakfasts and so can't attest myself, I hear they're a crowd favorite. My only qualms? Just like Deven, I just couldn't stomach the beauty waters, infused with rose and chlorophyll. I very much wanted to love the morning and night waters, but at the end of the day, I felt like I was drinking from a perfume bottle (the beauty water) and an algae-filled pond (the night water). Additionally, there were some salads that felt super heavy on greens and not much else, which, considering the investment, left me slightly disappointed. Overall, however, I was completely impressed with both the creativity and quality of the food I received. Plus, you just can't help but feel better about yourself while eating food named after goddesses, rainbows, and the like." — Erin Jahns, Assistant Editor

Blue Apron

 

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Healthy highlights: fresh, pre-measured ingredients that come with recipes, sustainably sourced seafood, meat without antibiotics or hormones, non-GMO

Where it's available: across the U.S.

"I had a Blue Apron subscription for almost a year while living in Brooklyn. It was the perfect way to save money, improve my cooking skills, eat healthier, and avoid an extra trip to the grocery store (which anyone in New York knows can be a nightmare if you go right after work on a weekday or anytime on the weekend). It was also a nice routine to have after a long workday and a bonding experience for me and my then boyfriend. Even after splitting the two servings among us, I often had enough leftovers to repurpose as lunch for the following day. The recipe lineup was ever-changing, so we were able to expand our cooking repertoire while never getting bored with the selections. I have no dietary restrictions and eat anything, so Blue Apron was a great way to try new things, both in terms of cooking and cuisine." — Dacy Knight, Weekend Editor