There are many ways to cut down the time it takes to cook a healthy meal, from signing up for a recipe box service to using one of Joe Wicks’s 15-minute recipes. However, sometimes you don’t even have 15 minutes to spare, or even if you do, you really don’t want to spend that precious 15 minutes cooking.
In those situations it’s all too easy to turn to the takeaway menu or a supermarket ready meal, both of which often contain high levels of sugar, fat, and salt, and very few servings of vegetables, meaning you’re missing out on the vitamins, minerals, fibre and all the other stuff your body would benefit from eating more of.
Fortunately, there is another way – the healthy meal delivery service. These generally send over a whole bunch of microwaveable meals for the week (though some do daily deliveries) that you can store in your fridge, close to hand whenever you’re caught short.
Here is our pick of the best of these.
This delivery service is all about weight loss, with two different low-calorie meal plans available – 1,200 and 1,800 calories. Both involve three meals and two snacks, which are delivered to your door in a large box, organised in the order in which you should eat them.
Balance Box doesn’t provide detail on the macros of the meals – you just have to trust that the nutritionists have created a healthy balance for you within the calorie limits. It’s not hard to trust them, with the meals packed full of fresh veg and other whole foods.
The meals are pretty tasty as well and surprisingly filling given the calorie restrictions in place – high amounts of protein and fibre no doubt help on that front. If you’re training hard to pack on muscle or set PBs in running events, you might want to look at something like Fresh Fitness Food instead, but if you’re trying to lose weight, Balance Box will take care of your diet for you.
Prep Kitchen has a pleasingly straightforward approach to matching meals to your fitness goals. It gives you simple choices: fat loss (lower calories) or muscle gain (higher calories); and balanced or performance, the latter cramming in more protein and vegetables and fewer carbs. The concept of a performance package low in energy-rich carbs seems counter-intuitive to us, especially if you’re a keen runner or cyclist looking to support your performance, but we’ll let that slide. Why? Because the meals are absolutely delicious.
We tried a range of meals in all the combination of categories and were never disappointed. The dishes tended to involve rich sauces, avoiding the relentless portions of dry poultry that is common with healthy meal delivery services, and the amount of food was always enough to satisfy.
The hefty portions on the muscle gain plan do cost a little extra, as is only fair, with fat loss meals costing £5.75 (or £6.50 if you opt for the protein-heavy performance option) and muscle gain meals costing £7 (performance £7.75).
We’d like to see more nutritional info on the Prep Kitchen website, which currently just shows the calories, protein, fat and carbs for each meal. Where’s the fibre count, for one thing? We could also have done with more veg in some of the meals, and often opted to cook some extra green veg on the side when we had the time. Despite these niggles, Prep Kitchen is an excellent option, well priced and flexible – you can start from an order as small as four meals.
Buy from Prep Kitchen | Meals from £5.75
Fresh Fitness Food
Whatever your fitness goal is, Fresh Fitness Food (FFF) will go all out to help get you there by providing every meal and snack you need. All your food arrives pre-made between midnight and 6am, so all you need to do is heat it up between crushing it at work and the gym.
Even if you opt for the fat loss package, there is a lot of food each day so you can be sure you won’t go hungry, which can be a problem with meal delivery services. Other meal packages FFF offers are designed to help you get lean or gain muscle, and there is a plant-based menu with vegetarian and vegan options.
The newest addition to the FFF line-up is the Training Plan package, which is designed to help you build lean muscle and tailors your daily meals around when you train most – so you’ll find extra carbs in your morning meals if you like an early workout.
It’s an incredibly convenient service, which makes it easy to eat healthily and puts you in the best possible place to achieve your fitness goals. The meals are impressively tasty, though if you stick with FFF for a few weeks you’ll notice some staple ingredients which can make it a little repetitive. Those who aren’t gym rats might find the eye-popping amount of protein in the meals takes some getting used to, but all that protein does have the benefit of ensuring you are never left hungry.
FFF’s packages start at £23 a day but that’s if you order 100 days’ worth, which would be a real display of commitment from the get-go. The minimum order is five days’ worth, which costs £28 a day for three meals a day rising to £43 for six meals. Discounts are available for making larger orders, even if you don’t go the whole hog and opt for 100 days.
One of the biggest names in recipe boxes has branched out into selling healthy frozen meals as well. After a soft launch when the frozen meals were restricted to people ordering a recipe box, they’re now a standalone product so people who only know how to use a microwave can enjoy convenient, healthy ready meals too.
The meals are all gluten-free, dairy-free and under 500 calories, and they take less than eight minutes to reheat. Currently there are four different meals on the menu: Italian-style beef and squash lasagne, spicy Panang chicken curry and black rice, creamy coconut fish pie with sweet potato mash and a vegan option – pulled barbecue jackfruit with charred corn. Each meal costs £7.
Buy from Mindful Chef | £7 per meal
No1 Food Prep
The company behind No1 Bootcamp, which puts on European fitness and weight loss holidays, is now delivering healthy meals across the UK. The packages available come in three portion sizes – lite, balanced or max – and you can choose between meat and fish or plant-based meals.
However, what sets No1 Food Prep apart is that you’re not stuck to a limited list: you can also make your own meal combinations, picking the protein, veg side and carb from the extensive list of options. You can choose the portion size of each part of the meal, and also eschew carbs entirely in favour of a double helping of veg if you like.
The meals are delivered on Wednesdays and Sundays and come in microwaveable containers that have the basic nutritional info of the meal on the lid along with cooking instructions. We tried out a variety of fish- and plant-based meals, and were consistently impressed by the flavours and also by how satisfying the portions were. We opted for the balanced portion size, rather than lite, which are 20% smaller for those looking to lose weight, or max, where the portions are ramped up for those looking to build mass or support a particularly intense training regime.
Buy from No1 Food Prep | Meals from £5.20
The Transformation Chef
These microwave meals provide balanced, delicious meals rather than cutting calories – frankly it’s nothing short of ready meals at their finest.
We were impressed by the flavour of the meals, with even the recipes containing large chunks of meat or fish being tasty. For our money chicken breast is normally a microwave meal no-no because it ends up being too dry, but the chipotle recipe from The Transformation Chef was on point.
Slightly larger portions and a few more vegetables in each meal would have been welcome, and we did come unstuck when we mistook lemons for potatoes in one meal, which is our fault for diving in while looking at our phone, but these meals are great to have on standby in your fridge in a pinch.
You can try The Transformation Chef’s service with six-meal starter box, or go all in on a complete plan which contains 12 meals and a couple of snacks. Both have vegan options too. The meals arrive on a Tuesday morning and stay fresh in the fridge for seven days.
Buy from The Transformation Chef | Six-meal starter box £34.95, complete plan £74.95-£79.95
The concept is simple – microwavable vegan meals – but the execution is exquisite. We have no hesitation about labelling the meals as some of the finest vegan food we’ve ever tasted. The cashew mac (a vegan take on mac and cheese) was gloriously creamy despite there being no cream involved, and the fiery jerk jackfruit would convince even the most committed carnivore that plants can be just as satisfying as meat. The portion sizes are healthy too, although those doing a lot of exercise might want to whip up a side dish.
Buy from Allplants | From £4.99 per serving
The Pure Package
Another ready-meal delivery service that picks your menu based on your fitness goals, including weight loss, training support and, intriguingly, longevity. There are also veggie and vegan options, ante- and post-natal menus, and a Paleo-inspired package. And if you’re feeling especially flush you can even discuss your nutritional needs with one of Pure Package’s advisors and get a personalised meal plan.
You can also choose how many meals to get on the plan, right up to two snacks, three meals, and even pudding. The meals are delivered each day, so you don’t have to own an American-style double-door fridge-freezer to store a week’s worth of food.
Buy from The Pure Package | From £39.95 a day