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

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24 Nov 2021

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

 

Have YOU used a recipe delivery box?  More and more clients and support teams have been asking us about using recipe delivery boxes, as a healthier alternative to ready meals and take aways.  That’s why the team at Specialist Nutrition Rehab have tried boxes from three of the most popular companies in the last few months – Hello Fresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef – so we could share our experiences and professional insights with you.

For a general overview of the recipe delivery box concept and general things to watch out for, check out our previous 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 do on their own.  The print on the recipes is extremely small and the instructions need to be read very carefully for additional items (eg. oil) which needs to be added.  In order to be time efficient, most recipes also have you cooking 2-4 different items at the same time (eg. one item in the oven and then something on the hob at the same time) 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 lots of hidden “add-on” costs – there is an extra charge for delivery, and extra charge for a morning delivery time slot, an extra charge for their “premium” recipes (which aren’t included with any discount offers) and you are prompted at the check out to buy additional side dishes such as bread or dessert.  All of these little extras add up so just be careful.  A cost for 3 recipes (2 servings per recipe) cost £30.99 including delivery.  Delivery was only available two days per week in Birmingham.  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, I do have some pretty major concerns about their nutritional value overall.  Some recipes were the nutritional equivalent of a cheeseburger meal deal from your local fast food restaurant, so be very, very careful when selecting recipes.  

You can modify your menu preference to only show specific types of recipes, such as calorie-smart or carb-smart, but they don’t make this process easy.  Or you can just look at the master list of recipes, and then screen for the qualities you are looking for (eg. to search for ones with the WW label which are low fat and under 600kcals).  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:  466 – 1168 calories per serving
  • Protein: 24 – 50 grams per serving
  • Fat:  16 – 42 grams per serving
  • Carbohydrate:  42 – 158 grams per serving (*anything over about 60 grams is excessive for most people for a single meal)
  • Salt:  2-6 grams per serving (*this is excessive)

These recipes are best for:  People trying to GAIN weight or those who are transitioning from take aways to cooking at home.

These recipes are generally NOT suitable for:  People with diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or 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 600 calories or less).

How to modify: Half the amount of carbohydrate in the recipe (eg. potato/rice/pasta/wraps), 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 low fat meat and dairy products and swap in some higher fibre ingredients (eg. brown rice).

 

Gousto

Cost and ordering

The Gousto platform is super easy to navigate and they sort recipes by “Lean in 15” “calorie controlled,” “healthy choices,” “everyday favourites,” “10 minute meals,” “gluten-free,” “dairy-free,” etc.  It was also very easy to skip deliveries or stop your subscription and there were no hidden “add on” charges.  A box with 3 recipes (2 servings each) cost £29.00.  Delivery is included in the price and is available 7 days per week.

Nutrition and preparing the meals

Gousto make healthy eating easy.  In addition to sorting recipes by “healthy choices,” many recipes also give you the option to make modifications and make it vegetarian and/or swap in low fat mince which is great.  My 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 I’m not planning to make them again.   Recipes also took at least 15 minutes over the stated preparation time, 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. I also didn’t like that various ingredients suddenly needed to be added part-way through a recipe.  These ingredients were not included and there was no advance notice that they would be required (eg.  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: 466 – 661 calories per serving
  • Protein:  29 – 51 grams per serving
  • Fat: 10 – 26 grams per serving
  • Carbohydrate: 55 – 85 grams per serving (*anything over about 60 grams is excessive for most people)
  • Salt:  0.93 – 2.2 grams per serving (*this is quite high)

These recipes are best for:  People who are health conscious.

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

How to modify: Add extra herbs, spices and umami-rich ingredients 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).  A box with 3 recipes (2 servings each) cost ~£38.00 (depending on which recipes you pick).  The higher cost is due to their use of sustainably-sourced meat (eg. grass-fed beef, free-range chicken) and more expensive (and unusual) ingredients.

Nutrition

All Mindful Chef meals are nutritious and happen to be both gluten-free and dairy-free, so there is no need to sort the recipes.   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.  My only criticism is that the portion sizes were not big enough and I had to supplement the meal with extra fruit and low-fat yogurt to fill me up.

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: 514 – 640 calories per serving
  • Protein:  20 – 50 grams per serving
  • Fat:  11 – 32 grams per serving (mostly healthy fats)
  • Carbohydrate: 35 – 59 grams per serving
  • Salt:  information not available

These recipes are best for:  People who are health conscious, wanting to lose weight, those with a small appetite and/or 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: No modifications required.

 

We’d love to hear about your experience with recipe delivery boxes!  Please get in touch.

For more information on using food and nutrition to improve the rehab outcomes in 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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