Top Mediterranean Diet Meal Delivery Services – WTOP

When you hear the word “diet,” do you immediately flash to an image of a scale and deprivation? Changing the way you eat to lose weight is one way to define the word “diet,” but it can also mean simply a pattern of eating.

When it comes to the Mediterranean diet, the latter is the better definition, says Lori Williams, a registered dietitian with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The diet doesn’t really restriction portion sizes or very specific food items, she explains. “The name comes from the way people who lived in the Mediterranean region ate before globalization and before a lot of processed foods took over.”

What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

“The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea,” says Cathy Leman, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Dam. Mad. About Breast Cancer, a nutritional consulting firm aimed at helping breast cancer patients and survivors. “The Mediterranean diet is plant-based, but not 100% vegan or even vegetarian,” with fish and seafood being notable several-times-weekly inclusions. “On occasion dairy, eggs and poultry are eaten in moderate portions, and red meats and sweets are included infrequently.”

Lindsey Kane, a registered dietitian and in-house dietitian and director of nutrition for Sun Basket, a meal delivery service based in San Francisco, says the Mediterranean diet “is not a diet at all, but an eating pattern that focuses on nutrient-rich, high-quality whole foods,” such as:

— Fruits and vegetables.

— Nuts and seeds.

— Legumes and beans.

— Whole grains.

— Healthy fats low in saturated fat, such as olive oil.

— Herbs and spices.

Seafood a few times a week.

— Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation.

— Meats and sweets in mindful doses.

[See: The 10 Best Diets for Healthy Eating.]

“This way of eating is associated with a low incidence of chronic disease and optimal longevity and has been ranked No. 1 best overall diet by health experts year after year,” Kane says. Specifically, the Mediterranean diet has been linked with a ” lower incidence of heart disease and greater longevity,” she says. It’s also been linked with:

— Lower blood pressure.

— Reduced risk of diabetes.

— Lower risk of stroke.

— Reduced risk of developing certain types of cancer.

— Reduced risk of developing cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The Mediterranean diet limits sugar and processed foods, and Williams says the absence of those items and saturated fats is what makes this way of eating such a favorite among so many dietitians.

The key with the Mediterranean diet is fresh foods. Williams notes “there are different levels of processed,” with canning or freezing being considered a form of processing that may be healthier than eating a food that’s been rendered into a bar or other packaged form in a factory somewhere. Striving to eat foods as close to their original form can make sticking with the Mediterranean approach tricky.

“Unfortunately, often times the most convenient [food] options are the more processed options,” Kane says, “which are the opposite of a Mediterranean diet. This is why cooking your own meals at home is consistently correlated with better health outcomes.”

When done well, the diet provides plenty of phytonutrients, minerals and vitamins and plenty of protein and fiber — all of which are important for maintaining good health.

A Word About Wine

Because the Mediterranean region is famous for its wine, some people ask whether that’s on the menu, too. Williams says yes, but in moderation. “We never encourage people to start drinking wine if they haven’t had it before.” She also recommends discussing your alcohol intake with your doctor to be sure you’re not overdoing it. ” Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and two per day for men,” with a 5-ounce pour of wine equaling one drink.

Leman says she also gets questions about wine. “I often hear people say what they love about the Mediterranean diet option is its inclusion of red wine. Highlighting the ‘health benefits’ of red wine can appear as a green light to consume a significantly large volume of wine. While red wine, consumed with a meal and preferentially in the company of friends and family, is a component of this diet, alcohol is associated with an increased risk of a variety of cancers.”

[See: Quick and Healthy Dinner Ideas From Nutritionists.]

Healthy Eating vs. Weight Loss

Before transitioning to any new way of eating, it’s best to check with your doctor or a dietitian to make sure your new approach will adequately address your specific nutritional needs.

“It can be hard to put together the right portion sizes and nutrition. Olive oil has a lot of calories in it,” as do olives and nuts, which are mainstays on the diet, Williams says. Because of this, consuming too many calories on the Mediterranean diet can be easy and weight gain is an issue for some people adopting this way of eating depending on what sort of eating pattern they’re coming from. “That can be frustrating, but just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want.” This is where a dietitian can help.

In fact, Kane points out that although the Mediterranean diet consistently ranks No. 1 on U.S. News’ Best Diets list overall for healthy eating, it ranks much lower for weight loss. “This means that weight and health are independent of each other. Weight does not equal health. If there’s one thing I want readers to know about the Mediterranean diet, it’s that this way of eating may not lead to weight loss.” However, it is a healthy way of eating.

Making the Leap Gradually

Transitioning to a Mediterranean diet may be a bit challenging at first for some people, Williams says. She recommends figuring out what your goals are and to “start with two meals per week and then slowly increase the whole foods while decreasing processed food. Making incremental changes is a smart way to ease into it.

Leman agrees, adding that “the best way to stick with the Mediterranean diet is to identify which components of the dietary pattern are easiest to adopt, experience that change for a week or so, then add other elements when you’re ready. Most important? Don’t try to ‘do the diet’ perfectly, as there is no such thing.”

Williams also recommends getting everyone in your household on board. “It’s a way of life. Everyone in the household would need to be on board to make it less stressful. It’s a healthier way of eating for everybody.”

And because it’s a healthy way of eating that’s appropriate for just about anyone, “barring a food allergy or intolerance to any of the foods included in this dietary pattern,” Leman says it can be a smart healthy move for families.

Using a meal kit delivery service can be a “great idea to slowly get to the point of doing a full Mediterranean diet,” Williams says.

Kane notes that meal kit delivery services remove the process of “collecting recipes, menu planning, making a grocery list, going shopping, prepping ingredients and finally, actually cooking meals. The reality is cooking healthy meals takes time, energy and effort,” which is a lot to take on when most of us are already so woefully over-scheduled.

Leman agrees that a meal service can have its upsides. “Eliminating the planning, shopping and cooking chores from the adoption of a healthy diet can certainly support adherence.” Still, it’s a good idea to understand the basics. “For days when meal delivery isn’t available, I would suggest learning shopping and cooking basics for executing the Mediterranean diet on your own simply to maintain consistency.”

[SEE: What Is the Mediterranean Diet?]

Compare the Most Popular Mediterranean Diet Meal Delivery Services:

Meal plan options Average cost per meal Shipping costs Average prep time
Sun Basket Weekly subscription, with classic and family plans available $10.99 to $12.99 $6.99 per order, with first order free 30 minutes
HelloFresh Weekly subscription, with 2- and 4-person plans available $7.49 to $10.99 $6.99 30 minutes
Green Chef Weekly subscription, with 2-person and family plans available $9.99 to $11.99 $7.99 per box 30 minutes
BistroMD Weekly subscription, with 5-day and 7-day programs available $6.74 to $8.99 $19.95 Ready-made meals, just heat and eat

Top Companies That Deliver Mediterranean Diet Meals

Few meal delivery services offer Mediterranean meal plans as a specific entity. But many offer meals and programs that conform to the overall gist of a Mediterranean diet without being specifically called out as such. You can also adapt plant-based, vegan or vegetarian options offered by many of these and other meal-kit delivery companies to make them Mediterranean by adding in a few servings of fish or a lean meat per week.

Top Mediterranean Diet Meal Services:

— Sun Basket.

— HelloFresh.

— Green Chef.

— BistroMD.

Sun Basket

— Organic produce and clean ingredients.

— Most meals between 550 and 800 calories.

— Quick recipes for busy people.

Sun Basket offers a wide range of meal kit options in its subscription-based delivery programs. The Mediterranean Meal Plan offers organic produce and responsibly sourced seafood and meats. All protein sources are antibiotic and hormone-free.

Its Mediterranean meals are “perfectly portioned” to clock in at about 550 to 800 calories per serving and contain at least 15 grams of protein and five grams of fiber per serving. The Mediterranean plan is also “rich in omega-3s and good fats sourced from olives, nuts, seeds and avocados. The plan focuses on including whole foods and unprocessed, plant-based ingredients.

Most meals can be prepared in about 30 minutes and require basic cooking skills and utensils. The company uses eco-friendly recyclable and compostable packaging and also offers free shipping on your first delivery.

Sample meal: chicken breasts and muhammara with apple-celery salad.

— Prep time: 20 minutes.

— Menu: Diabetes-friendly, gluten-free, lean and clean, dairy-free, family-friendly, Mediterranean, Paleo, soy-free.

— Calories 570.

— Total fat: 31 grams.

— Protein: 42 grams.

— Carbohydrates: 31 grams (7 grams fiber, 18 grams sugars).

— Cholesterol: 125 milligrams.

— Sodium: 240 milligrams.

HelloFresh

— Easy-to-follow recipes with clear nutritional info.

— Farm-to-table sourcing of high-quality ingredients.

— Most meals are ready in under 30 minutes.

One of the larger meal kit delivery companies in the market today, HelloFresh offers a wide variety of Mediterranean meals to subscribers, though they aren’t specifically bundled in a Mediterranean diet package. Meal plans with the popular DIY dinner company start at just $7.49 per meal and fall into four categories:

— Chef’s choice.

— Veggie.

— Family friendly.

— Calorie smart.

Each is option is available for two or four people and ranges from two to six meals per week. The company also offers a selection of world cuisine options, from Italian and Mexican to African, Thai, French and Irish. HelloFresh also makes wine pairing suggestions for its meals.

Sample meal: Mediterranean salmon with creamy dill sauce, green beans and Za’atar couscous. (Nutritional information not available.)

Green Chef

— Gluten-free, non-GMO, veggie-friendly meals.

— Choose three meals per week.

— Family-friendly options serve four.

— Easy to assemble and cook recipes.

Green Chef offers two menu plans that offer many meal options that are in line with Mediterranean eating principles: their plant-powered plan and their balanced-living plan. The balanced-living plan is a “diverse, flexible menu” with “plenty of choices including meat, seafood and vegetarian dinners.” The plant-powered plan “takes plant-based meals to the next level.”

Subscribers can choose three meals from five recipes weekly. Green Chef’s meals-in-a-box include organic and non-GMO ingredients that do not contain any pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids. The company also promises “quick and easy recipes,” with step-by-step instructions, tips and photos.

Green Chef’s pricing is “based on the plan you choose and how many people will be eating each dinner.” The two-person plan includes three dinners for two people or six servings per box. With the family plan, each box contains two dinners for a family of four or eight servings per box. The Balanced-Living plan costs $11.99 per meal, and the Plant-Powered plan starts at $9.99 per meal. These prices do not include shipping, handling or sales tax. Green Chef offers new subscribers $75 off and free shipping on their first order. The company delivers to most of the continental United States, but doesn’t serve Alaska, Hawaii and parts of Louisiana.

Green Chef was acquired in 2018 by HelloFresh, the largest meal kit delivery service in the U.S., and as such, it has broad reach. Its easy-to-assemble meals typically take about 30 minutes to prepare and require basic cooking skills and some utensils.

Sample meal: Parmesan-Dijon roasted salmon with couscous with scallion, sauteed broccoli and roasted red peppers.

— Prep time: 30 minutes.

— Serves: 2.

— Calories: 680.

— Total fat: 34 grams.

— Carbohydrates: 50 grams (6 grams dietary fiber, 9 grams sugars).

— Protein: 42 grams.

— Cholesterol: 85 milligrams.

— Sodium: 600 milligrams.

BistroMD

— Fully prepared meals, just heat and eat.

— Perfectly portioned to promote healthy weight loss or other health goals.

— Menus designed by a bariatric doctor.

— More than 150 meals to choose from weekly.

BistroMD was developed by a bariatric specialist to offer weight loss programs designed to fit a variety of different diet preferences and health needs. The programs include:

— Women’s program.

— Men’s program.

— Heart-healthy program.

— Gluten-free program.

— Diabetic-friendly program.

— Vegetarian program.

— Menopause program.

Though the heart-healthy program isn’t specifically labeled as a Mediterranean diet, it adheres to many of the core principles of this approach to eating. For many BistroMD members, the aim is to lose weight, and the company reports that on average, members lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week when following the plan.

The heart-healthy program offers several plan options:

— Full program, seven days. This includes seven breakfasts, seven lunches, six dinners and My Night, which is described as a “structured break to practice what you learn.” The current cost is $134.96 per week.

— Full program, five days. This includes five breakfasts, five lunches and five dinners. The current cost is $112.46 per week.

— Lunches and dinners, seven days. This include seven lunches and seven dinners. The current cost is $112.46 per week.

— Lunches and dinners, five days. This includes five lunches and five dinners. The current cost is $89.96 per week.

BistroMD is currently offering, for a limited time, 25% off plus free shipping for new members.

Sample meal: tilapia with orange parsley sauce with red and wild rice and green beans. (Nutritional information not available.)

The Takeaway

Williams adds that the Mediterranean diet was part of a larger lifestyle when it originated, and for best health benefits, it should be coupled with exercise, adequate sleep and reduced stress. “People in the Mediterranean who ate this way, it was just their way of life. They walked everywhere and labored for their food. Their stress levels weren’t the same as ours. Sleep factors into it too,” so if you don’t have those elements lined up as well, the diet can’t erase those deficiencies.

“I think that’s the hardest part for Americans to understand. It’s not just the food. With any kind of diet or eating pattern, it should fit into an overall pattern of self-care and healthy living.” To that end, she also reminds everyone to stop smoking if you still do.

Kane adds that the Mediterranean diet isn’t “limited to strictly Mediterranean dishes,” meaning Greek or Italian foods. “You can still reap the health-boosting benefits of the Mediterranean diet while enjoying all the unique cuisines and flavor combinations that the world has to offer.” She says let your cravings guide you in trying different ingredients and flavor profiles of nutrient-rich and whole-food meals from around the world. It’ll keep you from getting bored and keep you on track with eating a Mediterranean diet. Variety, after all, is the spice of life — both in and out of the kitchen.

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Top Mediterranean Diet Meal Delivery Services originally appeared on usnews.com

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