Review of Hello Fresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef (recipe delivery boxes) - Specialist Nutrition Rehab

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12 Feb 2024

Review of Hello Fresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef (recipe delivery boxes)

 

Have YOU used a recipe delivery box?  Clients and support staff have been asking us about recipe delivery boxes, and are wondering if they are a healthier alternative to ready meals and take aways.  That’s why the team at Specialist Nutrition Rehab have tried boxes from the three most popular companies – Hello Fresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef – so we could share our experiences and professional insights with you.

For an overview of the recipe delivery box concept and general things to watch out for, check out our previous blog article “Recipe delivery boxes…a novel approach to healthy eating?”

Be aware that most boxes would not be suitable for someone with a brain injury to prepare on their own.  The print on the recipes is extremely small and the instructions need to be read very carefully for additional items (e.g. oil) which must be added during the cooking process.  In order to be time efficient, most recipes also have you cooking 2-4 different items at the same time (e.g. one item in the oven and then also something on the hob) which is quite a lot to manage, even for someone without a brain injury.

 

Hello Fresh

Cost and ordering

While Hello Fresh has some great introductory offers, there are also numerous hidden “add-on” costs.  For example, there is an extra charge for delivery, an extra charge for a morning delivery time slot, an extra charge for their “premium” recipes (which aren’t usually included with any discount offers) and you are prompted at the check out to buy additional items such as bread and dessert.  All of these little extras add up, so just be careful.  Full price for 3 recipes (2 servings per recipe) is ~£34.98 including delivery (although promotional pricing is often available).  Their app/website also makes it a bit tricky to skip deliveries.

Nutrition and preparing the meals

Ingredients for all Hello Fresh recipes come pre-packaged in a paper bag along with a recipe card, making it very easy to start cooking (just the perishable items are kept separate).  While the Hello Fresh recipes were tasty and visually appealing, we do have some pretty major concerns about their nutritional value overall.  Some recipes were the nutritional equivalent of a cheeseburger + fries + soft drink from your local fast food restaurant, so be very, very careful when selecting recipes.  A few clients have also advised us that some recipes/ingredients have contained unexpected/undocumented food allergens and they have had an allergic reaction to their meals.

You can modify your menu preferences to only show specific types of recipes (e.g. calorie-smart), but they don’t make this process easy.  Or you can just look at the master list of recipes, and then screen each one for the qualities you are looking for (e.g. search for ones with under 650 calories per serving).

After reviewing five randomly selected recipes, here’s the breakdown (and note, this only includes the ingredients in the box and does NOT include the oil and salt that you are advised to add during the cooking process):

  • Calories: 610 – 1189 calories per serving
  • Protein: 25 – 58 grams per serving
  • Fat: 20 – 45 grams per serving
  • Carbohydrate: 75 – 137 grams per serving (*anything over ~60 grams for a single meal is excessive for most people)
  • Salt: 2-7 grams per serving (*this is excessive)

These recipes are best for:  People trying to GAIN weight; people who are transitioning from take aways to home-cooked meals.

These recipes are generally NOT suitable for:  People with food allergies; people with diabetes; people with polycystic ovarian syndrome; people with reactive hypoglycaemia (because of the excessive amount of carbohydrate in most meals).  Also not generally suitable for people trying to lose weight (unless they stick with recipes containing under 650 calories per serving).

How to modify:  Reduce the amount of potato/rice/pasta/wraps in the recipe by half, double the vegetables and keep sauces to a minimum (as that is where most of the salt is hiding).  If making the recipe again in future, purchase extra lean meat and low fat dairy products and swap in some higher fibre ingredients (e.g. brown rice).

 

Gousto

Cost and ordering

The Gousto platform makes it easy to sort recipes by “calorie controlled,” “healthy choices,” “quick and easy,” and/or stop your subscription and there were no hidden “add on” charges.  Full price for a box with 3 recipes (2 servings each) is ~£30.99 (although promotional pricing is often available).  Delivery is included in the price and is available 7 days per week.

Nutrition and preparing the meals

Gousto makes it easy to choose healthier options from their range.  In addition to sorting recipes by “healthy choices,” some recipes also give you the option to make modifications and make it vegetarian and/or swap in lean meat which is great.  Our main disappointment with Gousto was with the flavour of the food and how long it took to prepare the recipes.  While 2/3 of the recipes tasted “fine,” they weren’t overly flavourful and we are not planning to make them again.  Recipes also took at least 15 minutes over the stated preparation time (even if you are a relatively proficient cook), meaning many recipes took over an hour to prepare. Ingredients also come all together in one big box, so you need to sort through them and link the correct ingredients with the correct recipe, which was a challenge. We also didn’t like the fact that various ingredients suddenly needed to be added part-way through the preparation process.  These ingredients were not included and there was no advance notice that they would be required (e.g. milk, flour).

After reviewing five randomly selected recipes, here’s the breakdown (and note, this only includes the ingredients in the box and does NOT include the oil and salt that you are advised to add during the cooking process):

  • Calories: 486 – 971 calories per serving
  • Protein: 12 – 43 grams per serving (*a bit low, as most people need at least 20 grams of protein per meal)
  • Fat: 12 – 55 grams per serving
  • Carbohydrate: 56 – 93 grams per serving (*anything over ~60 grams for a single meal is excessive for most people)
  • Salt: 1.5 – 2.9 grams per serving (*this is quite high)

These recipes are best for:  People looking for healthier recipes (but stick with those labelled “healthy choice”).

These recipes are generally NOT suitable for:  People who want food with a lot of flavour; people with taste or smell loss; people with diet-controlled diabetes.

How to modify:  Add extra herbs, spices and umami-rich ingredients (e.g. mushrooms, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce) to enhance the flavour.

 

Mindful Chef

Cost and ordering

The Mindful Chef platform is easy to navigate, but they have a much smaller selection of recipes than the other two companies.  Delivery is included in the price and is available 7 days per week (including next-day delivery).  Full price for a box with 3 recipes (2 servings each) is ~£53.00 (depending on which recipes you pick), but promotional pricing is often available.  The higher cost is due to their use of sustainably-sourced meat (e.g. grass-fed beef, free-range chicken) and more expensive (and unusual) ingredients.

Nutrition and preparing the meals

All Mindful Chef meals are nutritious and happen to be both gluten-free and dairy-free, but you can also sort recipes by vegan or meat-containing options.  All recipes could be prepared in less than 45 minutes.  The flavour was excellent and there is great texture and visual appeal to the final dishes.  Our only criticism is that the portion sizes were a bit small and we had to supplement the meal with extra vegetables/fruit and low-fat yogurt.

After reviewing five randomly selected recipes, here’s the breakdown (and note, this only includes the ingredients in the box and does NOT include the oil and salt that you are advised to add during the cooking process):

  • Calories: 501 – 699 calories per serving
  • Protein: 19 – 43 grams per serving
  • Fat: 12 – 31 grams per serving (mostly healthy fats)
  • Carbohydrate: 49 – 78 grams per serving (*anything over ~60 grams for a single meal is excessive for most people)
  • Salt: information not available

These recipes are best for:  People who are health conscious; those wanting to lose weight; those with a small appetite; and/or people who are environmentally conscious.  Perfect for people with taste and smell loss and anyone wanting to add some excitement to mealtimes.

These recipes are generally NOT suitable for:  People on a tight budget; people who don’t like unusual ingredients.

How to modify:  If you find the portion sizes a bit small, add some extra vegetables to the meal or have fruit for dessert.

We’d love to hear your feedback on the recipe delivery boxes that you have tried, so please get in touch!

For more information on using food and nutrition to improve rehab outcomes for clients after a brain injury, spinal cord injury or complex orthopaedic trauma or to make a referral, please get in touch at 0121 384 7087 or info@specialistnutritionrehab.co.uk.

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