Recipe delivery boxes - a novel approach to healthy eating? - Specialist Nutrition Rehab

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31 Jan 2019

Recipe delivery boxes – a novel approach to healthy eating?

Recipe delivery boxes

Can they help get clients out of a “rut” with their food choices? 

 

Coco Pops cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and crisps for lunch and fish & chips from the local chippy at tea time.  You don’t need a degree in nutrition to know this likely isn’t the healthiest way to eat.  Yet I encounter diets very similar to this, time and time again when I work with people who’ve had any type of catastrophic injury.

Why are some of the most vulnerable people in society eating foods with limited nutritional value, at a time when they are most in need of good nutrition to help their body recover and fuel various rehab activities?

If a client lives on their own, fatigue, low mood and other priorities, sometimes take precedence over healthy eating and preparing healthy meals.  However, even when there is a support package in place for several hours each day, that doesn’t seem to guarantee that a client is eating nutritious food to aid in their rehab and recovery. Sometimes clients and support workers have a limited understanding of nutrition while other times, they have limited (if any) cooking ability or a limited desire to cook.

Ready meals and take away are often used as a short term solution.  But is there anything else we can be doing?

There are a number of companies now who deliver what are known as “recipe boxes.”  You go on a website, select which meals you want to prepare (and for how many people) and these companies box and ship all of the raw pre-portioned ingredients, along with a recipe card, right to your door.  You then follow the recipe and assemble the ingredients that you’ve been sent, to prepare a hot and nourishing meal.  The target audience for recipe box companies are typically busy, stressed out, working professionals who don’t have the time or energy to shop, cook or plan a variety of nutritious meals each week.  But it occurred to me that maybe these same recipe boxes could be used occasionally by support workers, clients without cognitive impairments and/or anyone who is stuck in a “food rut,” as a short term boost to help them try new healthy recipes and increase the variety of healthy foods that they eat.

 

Here’s what a recipe box looks like:

 

Pros:

  • There is no food waste — all ingredients are portioned out exactly to what you need.
  • Many of the recipes take 15-45 minutes to prepare (for someone without cognitive difficulties).
  • You get a recipe card so you can save it and then prepare that same recipe using ingredients you’ve bought yourself in the future.
  • All ingredients are pre-measured and stored together in one bag, so there is less chance of forgetting to add an ingredient.
  • Since you make the meals from scratch, they have more flavour than a ready meal and you can leave out certain ingredients if you don’t like them.
  • The meals are designed by a chef to make sure they provide visual appeal, a variety of textures and an abundance of flavour.  These sensory elements make a meal more inherently “satisfying” and can lead to fewer cravings for sweet and salty snacks.
  • New recipes often require new and different ingredients.  Recipe boxes give you just the right amount of each ingredient so that you aren’t left with a partially used jar of something you don’t like (plus you don’t have to go searching in the supermarket for something new).

 

Cons:

  • It’s expensive (£5-10 per portion of the recipe). So an order of 3 recipes (2 portions each) can cost £30.00+.
  • Not all companies offer healthy food choices – some consist of foods which are very high in refined grain products (eg. White Pasta and rice dishes) and included very few vegetables and fruit, so you need to shop around.
  • Almost all companies automatically sign you up for weekly deliveries which you then have to remember to cancel if you don’t want them any more (if you forget, you will still get a delivery charged to your credit card with recipes the company has selected for you)!
  • The “bags” of ingredients for each recipe can take up a lot of fridge space.
  • You must choose 3-5 recipes from a list of only 12-16 options each week.
  • Some of the individually measured ingredients come in very tiny sachets/pots which may be difficult to open if you have limited dexterity.

 

The cost alone means these likely won’t be a long-term option for most people.  However, they do seem to be quite an effective short-term strategy for getting someone excited about trying new foods and recipes.  Getting them a few times a month (or even a few times a year) might be just enough encouragement to get people moving away from an otherwise boring food routine.

 

The finished recipe 30 minutes later – Shredded Chicken & Peanut Noodle Soup!

 

Other things to consider:

  • Can you see which recipes are available for the coming week BEFORE you have to enter your credit card details?
  • Is there a straight forward ordering, “pause” and cancellation process (so you can control the delivery of your orders quite easily from the website)?  Some companies allow you to “pause” deliveries for up to six weeks in advance if you know you are going to be away.
  • Are perishable items packaged in an insulated bag with ice packs so they can be left unrefrigerated for up to 36 hours (in case you are out when the delivery is made)?
  • Are weekend deliveries an option and does the company use a courier which notifies you of a one hour delivery window?
  • Is there the option to return the packaging materials for recycling?

 

I think there is some potential here and I would love a few Occupational Therapists, case managers, solicitors or other allied health professionals to let me know if you think this is an option worth pursuing and whether you have any clients where we might be able to do a pilot test.  Get in touch at info@specialistnutritionrehab.co.uk for more information on which companies I’ve used and had good experiences with.  Also, don’t forget to sign up below to receive future blog articles straight to your inbox.

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