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Take guesswork out of the kitchen with prepped meal kits

Take guesswork out of the kitchen with prepped meal kits

Mike Thomas

When it comes to making healthy food choices, breaking bad habits can be a challenge. Though the latest fad diets may take the guesswork out of counting calories, the convenience promised at the end of the golden arches might still win out, especially for those of us who tend toward subsisting on junk food.

Enter a new generation of companies that make healthy eating easier than ever with ready-to-eat meals delivered right to your door. Unlike their meal-kit counterparts such as Blue Apron or Home Chef, no culinary savvy whatsoever is required—aside from the ability to preheat the oven or punch in a few numbers on a microwave.

With robust stable offerings, Fresh N’ Lean is a Chino, California-based meal delivery service that promises to put your food prep on autopilot. Fresh N’ Lean’s internationally-inspired dishes are prepared by their chefs using organic ingredients. 

Meal plans from Fresh N’ Lean deliver a week’s worth of ready-to-eat food to your door at a time, with a cost per meal of around $10 each. Meal plans are customized based on dietary preference, with “performance protein,” plant-based, or low-carb options available to serve everyone from paleo purists to die hard veg-heads.

Fresh N’ Lean meals come vacuum-packed in plastic trays that leave something to be desired from an aesthetic standpoint. As the saying goes, you eat first with your eyes. Laying eyes on these things for the first time, my eyes were feasting on a week’s worth of soylent green-esque foodstuffs.

Thankfully, the meals were much more recognizable as actual food once freed from their suctioned-plastic freshness prisons. Meals such as spinach white bean quinoa with steak or cumin bell peppers with shredded chicken are plenty filling, but pack little in the flavor department to offset their initially startling visual presentation. While far from an amazing culinary experience, Fresh N’ Lean’s meals provide balanced nutrition at a very diet-friendly 500 calories (give or take) each.

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For those whose diet needs are a little less stringent, but who still need some help staying on the right track, comes Columbus’s local answer to meal prep, Fare and Square. While Fare and Square’s meals are crafted with healthiness in mind, the main consideration is providing wholesome, scratch-made food options.

Fare and Square’s menus are updated weekly, and include familiar favorites like spaghetti carbonara, chicken noodle soup and broccoli casserole. Customers place their orders for individual or bundled meals each friday, and the food is delivered the following Sunday.

Packed in simple plastic carryout containers with clear plastic lids, Fare and Square’s meal offerings live up to their scratch-made reputation, which combined with the convenience of delivery, make for a solid alternative to fast food. Priced at between $7 and $10 dollars per entree, the cost of Columbus’ own meal prep venture is in line with national competitors.

Though the food is familiar and convenient, Fare and Square’s menu is targeted to a decidedly less hardcore diet crowd. The wholesome food and reasonable portions are sure to please the health-minded, but listings of nutritional guidelines are nowhere to be found. Still, those seeking the comfort of a scratch-made meal with none of the time investment or hassle, this service may be just the thing.

Striking a balance between freshness and health, Clean Eatz is a regional chain of meal prep kitchens with locations throughout the midwest and south. Featuring new meals each week, Clean Eatz aims to provide customers with properly-portioned, balanced meals at an affordable price, eliminating the guesswork of meal prep and the temptation to seek out less-healthy options. Like Fresh N’ Lean, meal plans are designed to meet the specific dietary needs of a wide range of customers. Those looking to add muscle or drop weight will find meals catered to their needs, as well as keto and paleo-specific offerings.

Meal plans for the week go live on Clean Eatz website each Thursday, with breaks in price per meal commensurate with the quantity ordered. The five-meal plan yielding the highest cost per meal comes in at $7.60 per plate, making Clean Eatz one of the more affordable options in this niche market.

While Clean Eatz offers the convenience of home delivery, their prepped meals are also available to purchase a-la-carte from cafe locations. This option may be better for those who aren’t ready to commit to a bulk plan, or for those just curious about trying what prepped meals have to offer.

In an ideal world, everyone would have the time to prep a week’s worth of nutritious and filling meals ahead of time while avoiding all food-based temptations in their many forms. In reality, eating right is a constant struggle for most. While eating right means different things to different people, a helping hand in the form of a pre-planned, ready to eat meal just might be a step in the right direction. 

Find your next meal at freshnlean.com, fareandsquare.com, or cleaneatz.com.

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