Despite a Pinterest board full of healthy meal ideas, every time 6 p.m. rolls around, you find yourself scrambling to fill your plate. Maybe you’ve tried those fancy meal delivery services, but preparing all that food before it goes to waste can easily cue panic-mode. And wasn’t cooking supposed to be fun?
The good news: You can still get some hand holding, while still getting to pick out your own groceries. (How else can you make sure your kale is up to snuff?). Plus, there’s no need to worry about busy travel or co-habitation schedules. We know that when you’re spending half the week at your significant other’s place, you’re not about to lug spaghetti squash all over town.
Your outside-the-pizza-box solution: Meal planning services. The premise is that you’ll get a full week’s menus, customized to your own preferences and health goals, sent right to your inbox (or smartphone). It’s then up to you to purchase the food (though some of these companies will give you the option of ordering ingredients directly through their sites). As for having someone come over to cook them? #lifegoals. Until then, here’s the inside scoop on the latest meal plan services, and how to pick the right one for you.
The 6 Best Meal Plan Services
Best for: Weight loss With plans ranging from low-calorie to heart-healthy to portion control, our friends at eMeals provide plans to help you meet your weight loss or management goals. Diabetic or vegetarian? You’re covered, too. The app helps you build grocery lists that you can then send to grocery delivery services like Instacart or stores like Whole Foods. Or, you can just head into the store like everyone else. The difference? You’ll be armed with a plan.
Pricing: $29.99 for three months
RELATED: 5 Brilliant Apps to Make Meal Planning Easy
Photo: Designed to Fit Nutrition
2.Designed to Fit Nutrition
Best for: Fit foodies If you’re reading here, we assume you like to work out. Good news: the plans take into account your fitness routine and goals — and even give you different calorie and macro options for rest days. (You are taking rest days, right?) The system is based on macros (hint: carbs, protein and fat), and all of your meals are calculated to make sure you can realistically hit those numbers. For more accountability, the coaches offer one-on-one support.
Pricing: $100 per month; 10% off for the first 10 readers to sign up with code DAILYBURN
RELATED: What the Heck Are Macros?
Best for: Forgetful cooks Who doesn’t want a little more joy on their plate? PlateJoy gives you a lifestyle quiz to make sure that the meals they suggest are ones you’ll actually make. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a recipe looks if spending an hour in the kitchen each night is not in the cards. You’re also assigned a personal coach to help you meet your nutrition goals. Our favorite feature: The Digital Pantry, which keeps track of the ingredients in your kitchen to save you from buying double “just in case” (guilty as charged).
Pricing: $69 for a six-month plan (~$12/month) or use code BURN10 for $10 off any plan
Photo: The Fresh 20
4. The Fresh 20
Best for: Singles
Single, living solo and slightly annoyed that most of these services are designed for couples and families? You’re not alone. And luckily, The Fresh 20 is different — it offers plans designed specifically for solo cooks, in addition to couples and families. Its name comes from the concept that 20 ingredients can be the entirety of your shopping list and that it will only take you 20 minutes to shop. They’ve even simplified the prep process for you so you’ll only need one hour to prep for the entire week. Now that’s prepping like a pro.
Pricing: $14 per month; use code DAILYBURN30 for 30% off any annual plan
RELATED: Printable Meal Planning Templates to Simplify Your Life
Photo: Cook Smarts
Best for: New cooks Sure, you can manage to make meals that are mostly edible, but can you say you really know what you’re doing in the kitchen? Jess Dang, the creator of Cook Smarts, was teaching in-home cooking lessons when she realized that most people aren’t all that savvy in the kitchen. And so Cook Smarts, which offers meal plans and cooking tutorials, was born. The service will also let you customize your recipes to fit as many or as few serving sizes as you need.
Pricing: $8 per month
6. Eat This Much
Best for: Macro junkies
This site takes all of the guesswork out of the calculations that many healthy eating plans require. Based on your preferences, it breaks down the macros and calories you need to hit your goals and selects which recipes fit the bill. Each recipe also highlights the estimated cost per serving, so you can eat right without going broke. Like other similar services, it also integrates with Instacart and other online grocery shopping services to have the ingredients delivered to you.
Pricing: Free plans or $7 per month for a premium version, which allows further customization
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Photo: Twenty20 Kamal Patel is the director of Examine.com, an independent and unbiased encyclopedia on supplementation and nutrition. He is a nutrition researcher with an MPH and MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and is on hiatus from a PhD in nutrition, in which he researched the link between diet and chronic pain. He has published peer-reviewed articles on vitamin D and calcium as well as a variety of clinical research topics. Not too long ago, many health-conscious eaters were intent on avoiding dietary fat like the plague. Today, many among that crowd...
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