Can Meal Delivery Services Help You Lose Weight?

<p>Getty Images / Oscar Wong</p>

Getty Images / Oscar Wong

The journey toward a healthier, fitter you often seems like a daunting task. The planning, prepping, and time needed to create healthy, balanced meals is overwhelming. But what if you had a little extra help?

Meal delivery services make it easier for many people to eat nutritious, balanced meals without having to plan, shop, or cook. All of your meals are delivered directly to you and all you need to do is heat and eat.

If meal planning and cooking aren’t your strengths—yet you want to eat better and lose weight—meal delivery services may help. Below find out more about meal delivery services, how they aid in weight loss, the pros and cons of these services, and how to choose a meal delivery service that can help you meet your health goals.

Related: Best Meal Delivery Services

Understanding Meal Delivery Services

Meal delivery services bring meals directly to you. Some services provide pre-cooked, pre-portioned meals, while others give you the ingredients you need to make your own meal, which are known as meal delivery kits.

Meal delivery kits require a little more work on your part, but they may give you more control over the ingredients and preparation. But having fully prepared meals delivered to you saves you time and energy.

How Meal Delivery Services Can Aid Weight Loss

Weight loss is complex and influenced by many factors like your sex, age, and genetics. No single approach works for all, but eating balanced meals and getting regular exercise continue to serve as the foundation for healthy weight loss.

A balanced diet contains a variety of nutrient-rich foods in appropriate portions that help you maintain a healthy weight. On paper that may sound simple enough, but in real life a balanced diet requires planning and effort. When you’re struggling to make so many changes to reach your weight goals, altering how you shop, cook, and eat can put a kink in your plan.

Meal delivery services can support your weight management goals by providing you with the balanced meals you need to stay on track, says Lon Ben-Asher, MS, RD and educator at Pritikin Longevity Center. “Meal delivery services can be a valuable tool to support weight loss efforts when used in conjunction with a holistic approach to nutrition and overall health.”

Research shows that providing portion-controlled meals can lead to better weight-loss results than following a self-directed diet plan. Ben-Asher notes that the pre-portioned meals from meal delivery services help people avoid overeating. They also assist them in sticking to appropriate portion sizes, which is crucial for managing total caloric intake and promoting weight loss, he says.

Related: Best Low-Calorie Meal Delivery Services

Benefits of Using Meal Delivery Services for Weight Loss

Meal delivery services offer many benefits when it comes to weight management. But Ben-Asher points out that these services are most effective when used alongside healthy lifestyle habits, such as staying hydrated, sleeping enough, and engaging in regular physical activity. Here are some other potential benefits.

Helps With Portion Control

Some people in the U.S. struggle with portion size, often eating large portions at home and while dining out. But, consuming the proper portion of food helps with weight control.

Meal delivery services provide pre-portioned meals so there’s no need to weigh or measure food to make sure you’re not only eating enough but also not consuming too much. These services also make it easier to track calorie intake and also promote a variety of nutrients and flavors.

Alleviates Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue is the mental exhaustion that occurs when faced with decision after decision all day, every day. When you reach the point of decision fatigue, your ability to make good decisions declines.

If you find yourself regularly picking up takeout so you don’t have to think about what’s for dinner, then you may be suffering from decision fatigue. With meal delivery services, you don’t have to make decisions about what to eat. It’s all ready to go.

Keeps You on Track

Removing the need to plan, purchase, and prepare your own meals makes it easier for you to stick with your balanced meal plan, helping you meet your goals, says Ben-Asher. “Planned meals that are ready-to-eat motivate people to stay on track."

Potential Drawbacks of Meal Delivery Services

Meal delivery services are convenient and can help you meet your weight-loss goals, but they do have some drawbacks. These types of services are costly and you may get tired of eating the same foods over and over again and struggle to figure out what to eat instead. Here are some additional drawbacks.

They're Expensive

Meal delivery services are expensive. Slow and steady weight loss leads to long-term success, meaning it can take several weeks or months to reach goals. If a meal delivery service fits your budget, great. But you need to take into consideration the long-term cost of this service to make sure it doesn’t overstretch your budget, leading to financial stress.

It Can Get Monotonous

Most meal delivery services give you a variety of foods to choose from. But how frequently this list changes may vary and the menu may become monotonous causing you to grow tired of the offerings. When deciding on a meal delivery service, look over the menu and ask yourself if you can eat these foods for the rest of your life. If you’re not sure, you may want to try a different approach.

Routine May Feel Unsustainable

Cost and monotony may make meal delivery services unsustainable long-term. While they may help you lose weight, they may not help you keep it off. When you reach a point where your meal delivery service gets too expensive or you grow tired of the menu, you may find yourself returning to your old eating habits.

According to Ben-Asher, these services are very difficult to follow long-term. This fact can lead to only short-term success and a potential yo-yo effect. They also may pose a challenge in helping create healthy habits, he says.

Nutritional Quality Varies

You can find meal delivery services that cater to special diets like the ketogenic diet or a gluten-free diet. But these specialized services may cost more.

Additionally, due to availability and cost, ingredients in the meals may change. If you have a food allergy, food sensitivity, or follow a special diet, you need to pay close attention to ingredients every time you order.

You also want to pay attention to the nutrition facts of your meals. Many pre-packaged foods are high in sodium, which may not fit your health goals.

Increased Risks Associated with Food Safety

Pre-cooked foods need to stay at a specific temperature to prevent foodborne illness—colder than 40℉ or warmer than 140℉. Keep in mind that anything can happen while your meals are en route to you, creating an environment that allows germs to grow. Check the temperature of your food when it arrives and make sure you closely follow the instructions for refrigeration and reheating to reduce the risk of illness.

Tips for Choosing the Right Meal Delivery Service

If you think meal delivery services are the way to go, it’s time to do some research. First, you want to find a meal delivery provider that offers foods you like to eat and fits your nutrition goals. Then, you need to make sure they deliver in your area.

Ben-Asher suggests approaching meal delivery services with a discerning eye. "Not all services may align with evidence-based nutrition guidelines, and some may rely heavily on processed foods or contain excessive calories, added sugars, or unhealthy fats."

Carefully review the nutritional content and ingredient lists and select services that prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods. You also want to call customer service to ask how the food is delivered—hot, refrigerated, or frozen. Also, ask what systems they have in place to make sure your food stays safe while it’s on its way to you.

Related: Best Paleo Meal Delivery Services

Meal delivery services are a convenient tool that can help you reach your weight management goals. These programs eliminate the stress that comes with meal planning, shopping, and cooking. They also help you stay accountable and motivated.

But meal delivery systems aren’t for everyone and may not provide you with the tools you need to maintain results. Always consult with a healthcare provider when considering diets for weight loss. You should also consult with a registered dietitian for personalized diet advice and guidance. 

Read Next: These Weight Loss Meal Delivery Services Can Help You Lose Weight and Save Time

Read the original article on Verywell Fitness.