Prepared Diet Food: The Good, the Bad, and the Unhealthy
Text by Megan O. Steintrager / Additional reporting by Heather Tyree / Photography by Steven Torres
L osing weight is hard enough, but then factor in counting calories, watching portions, and making the food, and it's no wonder that more than half of us in the U.S. are overweight. That's why millions turn to diet-delivery services handmade jewelry, which promise tasty, hopefully healthy food in slimming portions, delivered right to your door. The Epicurious editorial team evaluated five of the biggest plans to discover which is the best, both in taste and nutrition. The winner? We pick...eDiets!
Our Research Methods
We test-drove five popular plans, all available nationwide: ZoneChefs, eDiets, NutriSystem, PureFoods Low Carb, and Jenny Craig. We opted for the full meal plans from each, so we got breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food ranged from fresh to frozen or freeze-dried—plus some pretty scary-looking shelf-stable meats. We tasted a week's worth of meals from each plan and found vast differences in quality from company to company—and even from dish to dish within the same meal plan. We enjoyed plenty of items, such as a juicy almond-crusted chicken breast, but we were sorry we even had to contemplate eating others—skunky freeze-dried eggs spring to mind. We also noted some shocking similarities: After getting a few identical dishes (we're talking about you, "Very Berry Chicken") from ZoneChefs, eDiets, and PureFoods Low Carb cloud backup, we discovered that all three plans shipped from the same plant in Iowa.
Our Scoring System
Our rankings reflect flavor, nutrition, convenience, portion size, variety, similarity to real food (i.e.: few artificial flavors and textures), customer service, and extras such as tools to track progress and exercise components. The prices reflect the rates at the time we ordered the plans, along with all sign-up and cancellation fees. Keep in mind that some plans are cheaper if you order more than a week's worth of food or sign up for automatic renewal, etc., and that the two cheapest plans (Jenny Craig and NutriSystem) require you to add the most to create a full meal. For the nutritional analysis, we turned to Monica Reinagel theradome, chief nutritionist for our sister site NutritionData.com and author of The Inflammation Free Diet Plan.