Health & Fitness

By Tallulah Dumonde

When it comes to jump-starting your weight loss campaign, prepared foods can be an absolute Godsend.

Life in the Big Apple is hectic. Most of us work more than we’d like…and an active social life seems inevitable when there are so many activities available. I mean, it would be almost an insult to the city itself to sit home night after night. With all this hustle and bustle, a proper diet can become problematic. Take-out often replacing home cooking, and junk or fast food is always easy to grab on the run. The results aren’t difficult to guess and they’re even less difficult to see. The extra fat and salt often found in fast foods and takeout make it almost impossible to avoid, let alone shed, those extra pounds. Enter the era of MREs for civilians.

I decided to go on a tasting tour of three very well known dietary meal delivery programs, and here are the results I experienced. Hopefully if you’re considering a weight loss program with prepared meals, this will help you manage your expectations and determine which program is for you. As with any diet regimen, the results will vary from person to person and if you are experiencing any health issues, you should consult a physician before beginning a program.

The first program I tried was NutriSystem. This company is one of the most reputable and longstanding diet companies in the country. They provide multi-level service that includes counseling by phone, online support, supplements, and of course, prepared meals. The NutriSystem meals arrive at the beginning of your diet, a full month’s worth of viddles.

As a matter of convenience, this system certainly works. You do not have to be home to get your delivery each day. You can travel, take your meals with you, and not feel an impact on your day-to-day lifestyle. Their program utilizes the glycemic index to assist clients in their quest to lose and stabilize their body weight. And, it works. I found that I lost weight easily the first month on this plan. You get to choose (from their ample menu) what is delivered before they ship your box, so to an extent you have some choice in what you eat. If you need to lose a few pounds and regulate your eating patterns, particularly if you’re traveling, this could be the program for you. The pricing for the meal plan is also very reasonable (though as you’ll see in the next paragraph that buying their plan does not mean you wont have to purchase supplementary foods).

Of course, there are negatives that you should be aware of. Obviously if you’re receiving a month’s worth of pre-packaged (not refrigerated or frozen) foods…there has to be some concern over the preservatives. Not that we don’t consume preserved and processed foods on a daily basis anyway, but when you’re considering every meal and snack for a month is preserved/processed…well, for me it was a concern. Additionally, you are required to supplement your meals with salads, fruits, and other items…which means that there is some supplementary work involved, as well as extra cost (over and above the monthly cost of the NutriSystem foods). Last but definitely not least significant drawback: many of the beef dinners taste like canned (beef) stew. So, whether you’re having “pot roast” or “beef stroganoff” they begin to taste the same. I believe this would be a difficult program to remain on for an extended period of time.

The next plan I sampled was the ZoneChef program. Based on the Zone Diet, which the company does not clearly explain…but I believe is a moderation of Carb intake. This diet is a favorite among celebrities. They provide less of a support staff than NutriSystem, and seem to rely heavily on their ‘star power’ to promote their program.

One of the best parts of this program is the fact that, from the onset, you can eliminate foods that you do not enjoy. You begin the program with a conversation with a ZoneChefs representative and they make notes on your account. So, for example, I don’t like peppers of any sort. My food arrived sans peppers for the entire program.

Each morning (you can choose a 5 or 7 day a week program) you receive a small cooler-bag with your “gourmet” meals for the day. Typically this consists of breakfast (a frequency of yolk-less egg dishes), lunch (salads and proteins) and dinner…along with a couple of snacks for the day. You don’t have to supplement food when you’re on this program. It literally takes the guesswork out of planning your eating for the day…week…month. And, it works. I lost the most weight while on this program. I enjoyed the variety and felt that most of the food was fresh and appetizing.

The drawbacks when considering ZoneChefs, in my opinion, would be that the program is not inexpensive. Perhaps because they cater to a celebrity client…but I do feel the cost would be excessive for some people. The second issue is that you have to be home to get your food. I happen to split my time between the city and the country, so it was a little tricky arranging my schedule. You can, however, suspend delivery any time you know you’ll be out of town. The last issue for me was that there were days when the salads were not that fresh (though the majority of the time they were just fine).

If you can afford to stay on this program long term, if that’s what your particular situation requires, I am pretty sure this would be the way to go. Overall it offers enough variety to keep you from wanting to stray.

Last, but certainly by no means least, I tried the NuKitchen program. The NuKitchen diet plan uses a formula that is similar to ZoneChefs, but sets itself apart as the most personalized of the three programs. Each week you are able to sign on to your account and select from several options offered up each day for three meals and two snacks. They strive for balance, use whole grains and fresh ingredients. They also seemed to provide a larger support system than ZoneChefs (though NutriSystem definitely excelled in the support department).

The food was very tasty and had some interesting flavors (don’t interpret that as anything other than truly interesting). I enjoyed the variety and felt that even though I did not lose as much weight as I did with ZoneChefs, this was a program I could continue for an extended period of time. I felt that this was a program more carefully designed to suit my needs and even my schedule. Though you still have to be available to accept deliveries each morning, you can go online the night before and select not to receive the food for the following day, should you find you have to be away from home. I also felt that this program was more affordable, which is a consideration if you plan to stay on it for any length of time.

The drawbacks were similar to those of the ZoneChefs; on occasion the salads were not that fresh. I also felt that the dinner options tended to be a little bland on occasion. Neither of these points would in any way deter me from signing up to do NuKitchen again. The weight loss seemed to be a little slower than the other programs, but again if you’re looking for a steady loss over a longer period of time, this program may have the best price/quality ratio.

I’ve learned a lot from these three companies and would say that, depending on how picky you are as an eater and what your goals and priorities might be, you’ll be able to find something here that works well for you. Whichever you choose, one of the best things you learn after a month of prepared, balanced foods, is how much better you feel when you’ve eliminated take-out and fast food from your diet.

For more information on NutriSystem log on to www.NutriSystem.com
For more information on ZoneChefs log on to www.ZoneChefs.com
For more information on NuKitchen, log on to www.NuKitchenFood.com

Originally published April 2006
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