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Healthy recipe boxes filled with fresh vegetables on a blue background

The best healthy meal box subscriptions on test

Published: April 19, 2022 at 9:43 am
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Ever considered signing up to a healthy food subscription service? We put popular brands of recipe boxes and ready-prepped meals to the test.

In recent years, the number of healthy food subscription services has boomed – we put popular brands to the test, to bring you the best on the market.

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We tested two categories; healthy recipe boxes, which came with chilled, fresh ingredients and recipe sheets showing you how to prepare the food at home. And pre-prepared healthy meal services, which provided ready-made meals, suitable for either eating cold or heating with minimal effort before consuming. Some brands provided a whole day’s worth of food along with snacks, while others focus on your main meal of the day, with dishes suitable for lunch or dinner. All of the boxes required little or no food waste and made an effort to use sustainable packaging.

When it comes to cost, recipe boxes and pre-prepared meals can quickly add up, especially when compared to bulk buying staple ingredients, picking up produce from local markets or timing your supermarket trip to snap up price-reduced items at the end of the day. Excess packaging and transport emissions are an environmental cost to consider, too, although many brands are doing their bit to reduce the impact of their services, and the reduction in food waste may be welcome in some households.

The main factors to take into account when choosing a healthy food subscription service are value for money, health credentials, menu options (particularly important if you follow a free-from diet or prefer a vegetarian or vegan menu), convenience, environmental impact and the terms of subscription when you sign up.

For more, visit our reviews section and find over 400+ practical buyer’s guides offering unbiased advice on what foodie products and services are worth spending money on. Plus, we have thousands of simple recipes for everyday mealtime inspiration.

The best healthy recipe boxes

1. Gousto recipe box

A Gousto recipe box filled with fresh ingredients

Best all-rounder

Industry giant Gousto received top marks from us for their health-focused boxes filled with Healthy Choices. These include ranges such as the new Calorie Controlled, Lighter and Joe Wicks’ Picks – designed with a focus on fuelling workouts. This means every week you could be tucking into the same high protein dishes as The Body Coach himself.

You can choose from 60+ recipes each week. It’s easy to find recipes that suit you with the search filters, allowing you to browse vegetarian or plant-based (vegan) dishes, as well as gluten-free and dairy-free recipes.

The menu includes sweet chilli chicken with veg-packed rice, pan-fried salmon with creamy pesto veg and meat-free sausage and kale salad with honey mustard dressing.

Inside the box are recipe cards (helpfully hole-punched in case you want to file them for future reference) with easy-to-follow, illustrated instructions, along with nutrition and allergen information. If you misplace your cards, don’t worry, you can find the recipes clearly laid out on the Gousto website, alongside images to guide you through each step.

Ingredients are separated by recipe, and most don’t require any special equipment to cook, although you’ll need to add oil, salt and pepper from your storecupboard.

We found the dishes easy and quick to prepare, and the finished plates were colourful and appealing to the eye. Portions were generous and included plenty of vegetables, with a good balance of carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats.

A two-person box containing four recipes costs £34.99, coming out at £4.37 per serving – good value for money considering the quality of ingredients you receive. There is a UK delivery, 7 days a week.

Chilled ingredients such as meat, fish and dairy products are kept cool in an Eco Chill box, which is made from cardboard, making it 100% recyclable. Inside, there are plastic ice packs which can be drained and recycled at larger supermarkets. There are some fresh vegetables such as spinach leaves and tenderstem broccoli which, understandably, are wrapped in plastic.

One thing to note, when you open an account, you’re signed up for subscriptions automatically. However, the terms are very flexible, allowing you to pause or skip deliveries, change the size of your box, delivery day and address.

Read our full Gousto review.

Find out how to sign up to Gousto

2. HelloFresh

A Hello Fresh recipe box on a doorstep

Best for adventurous cooks

HelloFresh offer 37 recipes to choose from every week, with boxes to suit different needs, such as 'healthy', 'family' and 'rapid' options to truly cover all bases, with vegetarian meals available, too. There are even some Weight Watchers approved recipes on their menu.

Most recipes appear to be a good balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fresh vegetables, making HelloFresh a healthy option, if you want it to be.

Inside the delivery box are clear recipe cards and paper bags of fresh, high-quality ingredients, with plenty of time on all the best-before dates to cook throughout the week. Pleasingly, HelloFresh have attempted to combat excessive packaging by switching to paper sachets for small quantities of ingredients, such as herbs and spices, rather than plastic tubs. Chilled items (such as meat and dairy) come in a large, chilled pouch made of recycled plastics.

We chose turmeric-marinated sea bass, one of the Weight Watchers recommended healthy dishes. It was delicious. The fish was fresh and good quality, while the side of rice with caramelised onions, Sri Lankan spices and fried courgette used ingredients in a clever way to pack in big flavours. As a minor note, we would quibble that, for a healthy dinner recipe, we’d like more than one portion of veg – some frozen peas wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Timings were accurate, perhaps off by 10 minutes or less. And the portions were generous – we ordered for two but some dishes felt like they could have stretched to serve three.

If you’re struggling to cook for yourself and instead relying on ready meals or processed foods throughout the week, or struggle to think of healthy ideas beyond salads, these meals would be a step in the right direction. It’s best for people who want to eat fresh food but don’t have time to plan recipes or go food shopping to buy the ingredients. Due to the variation of different meals for specific people, such as families and those on the go, it’s useful for a wide range of households.

Price wise, HelloFresh is almost exactly on par with Gousto – three meals to serve two people works out at £4.60 per serving. If you want a cheaper cost per meal, stretch to five recipes to serve four and it goes down to £3.25 per serving. Considering you get all the ingredients and recipes delivered to your doorstep, this does feel like good value for money, although it could get expensive to do it permanently.

Subscription terms are flexible – you can skip a delivery or cancel at any time, and you’re not locked in for any amount of time.

Read our full HellFresh review.

Find out how to sign up to HelloFresh

3. Mindful Chef

Best for gluten-free and dairy-free diets

Health-focused food box company Mindful Chef centre their menus around high-quality, nutritious ingredients, and a gluten- and dairy-free way of eating. Their recipes contain no refined carbs, refined sugars or cheap fillers – only the good stuff.

Pre-measured ingredients come in paper bags, sorted by recipe (eliminating the extra few minutes you might spend hunting for spices in your kitchen cupboard), along with an insulated cool bag containing meat, fish and other chilled ingredients.

There are 20 recipes to choose from each week – a box contains ingredients for up to five. The cooking time and macronutrient information (fat, carbs and protein) are easy to see online and also in the helpful recipe booklet which comes in the box. Recipes are nutritionist-approved, gluten-free and dairy-free, with some vegan options to choose from. Mindful Chef don’t encourage calorie counting, instead they promote nutritional value and a balanced approach to eating. However, the calories in each dish are given, in case you’d like to know.

All the recipes are easy enough for novice cooks. Although we noticed that cooking times are a bit ambitious – we found 30 minutes a push, despite having our chopping boards, knives and pans ready to go before we started.

Mindful Chef believe great meals start with the best ingredients and that shines through in their recipes. Meals are tasty, with top quality meat and fish and lovely fresh vegetables. We tried edamame and chickpea coconut curry with brown rice, and salmon with potato, olive, tomato, and caper sauce – both of which were delicious, with very generous portions.

Packaging is kept to a minimum, although as with all recipe kits, the individually portioned ingredients result in a small amount of waste.

The price depends on the recipes selected – many are reasonable, but some, which use more expensive ingredients, are pricier. Pricing ranges from £4.38 per meal for a four-person box, to £8.50 per meal for one person.

You do get what you pay for and you’ll enjoy the exceptional quality of the ingredients, the nutritional benefit of the recipes and convenience of delivery. Deals are sometimes available for people interested in trying Mindful Chef for the first time, which make it more affordable.

Subscriptions are flexible and easy to update – you can skip, pause or cancel deliveries at any time, as well as schedule extra one-off boxes as desired. Deliveries can be made once a week, every other week or every three or four weeks, and you can order up to eight weeks ahead.

Read our full Mindful Chef review.

Find out how to sign up to Mindful Chef

4. Grubby

Best for adventurous plant-based cooks

Grubby’s vegan recipe boxes offer nutritious and interesting recipes for those who want to get creative in the kitchen without the hassle of shopping for ingredients.

Each week, there are six recipes to choose from. We tried cauliflower katsu curry, Mexican bean burgers with carrot slaw and potato wedges, and mushroom gyros with vegan tzatziki and oregano fries. All were filling and so delicious, we found it hard to pick a favourite. Highlights were the crunchy cauliflower coating, made with breadcrumbs and oat cream, and the vegan tzatziki, made with coconut cream, garlic, lemon and cucumber.

Inside the box, ingredients are separated into paper bags for each recipe. Packaging is almost all recyclable, biodegradable or compostable with as little unnecessary plastic as possible.

Instructions are printed on handy A5 cards with nutritional information and a lovely recipe image, so you know what you’re aiming for. The equipment required for each recipe is listed, too, making it easy to have everything on hand before you start cooking. We particularly enjoyed the Grubby Spotify playlists, which can be accessed by scanning a QR code on each recipe card with your phone camera, so you can have a dance while your dinner cooks.

One thing to note, if you’re mindful of calories, some recipes do rack up – the katsu came in at 885 kcal per portion. While the focus of Grubby is to nourish our health and care for the planet by encouraging more people to choose vegan, anyone looking for lighter meals might want to consider another option.

Grubby offers a no-commitment subscription – you can skip a delivery or cancel at any time after your first delivery.

Grubby has a higher price point when compared to other recipe boxes. A two-person box containing two recipes costs £26 (£6.50 per serving) and a three recipes box is £34.50 (£5.75 per serving), however the quality of the ingredients is high and we did have a few store cupboard ingredients, like sesame oil, left over.

Find out how to sign up to Grubby

The best pre-prepared healthy meal services

5. Allplants

Allplants ready-made meals on a table

Best for plant-based dining

If you think frozen vegan food doesn’t sound exciting, think again. Allplants’ ready-made meals are full of flavour and rank highly on the convenience factor – simply stash in your freezer and cook from frozen when needed. This is a great choice for committed vegans and flexitarians looking to add more meat-free meals into their weekly rotation.

Choose from 50 main meal options (you need to select six to fill up your box), then add up to nine extras, including sides, smoothies, puddings and breakfasts.

As you choose your meals, you can peruse the nutritional information for each dish, many of which have extra points for being good sources of plant-based protein, iron and vitamin C, as well as providing two or more portions of veg. Impressively, all meals are 100% free from palm oil, as they’re frozen immediately after cooking.

Our favourite was a nacho three bean chilli topped with cashew soured cream, sweetcorn salsa and crunchy tortilla chips, clocking in at under 500 calories and providing two portions of your five-a-day. Also on the menu – a clever, cheeseless mac and greens, comforting three-mushroom risotto and a protein power bowl with miso roasted tofu, veggies and grains.

Arriving in a cheery yellow branded box, all the meals are individually portioned and frozen, surrounded by innovative insulation made from upcycled excess denim fibres. You’ll also be provided with a free returns label to send back a few boxes’ worth of eco-friendly liners, where they’ll be reused by Allplants up to 10 times.

Each box contains six meals, and you can choose whether you want to serve one or two people, with the service clocking in at £40.50 for six servings (£6.75 per portion), or £59.88 for 12 servings (£4.99 per portion). Delivery is free from Tuesday to Friday and costs £2.50 on a Saturday. You can filter to exclude soy, nuts or gluten, and opt for recipes that can be heated up in the oven or microwave (we had good results using both methods of heating, but some recipes, such as the nacho chilli, are obviously best crisped up in the oven as the packaging made clear).

Subscriptions are flexible and managed through the account section of the website, and you can make changes to order dates, portion sizes and delivery frequency, or cancel your subscription if desired.

Find out how to sign up to Allplants

6. Balance Box

Balance Box meal and menu

Best for weight loss without losing out on flavour

Offering two portion size options, Lighter (providing 1200-1300 calories each day) and Market Plan (providing 1700-1800 calories each day), Balance Box is designed with weight loss in mind, while still providing plenty of healthy, tasty food to keep you satisfied each day. Although you can choose between Classic, Vegetarian, Pescatarian and Plant-Based boxes, you can’t select exactly which meals you want, so if you like to pick and choose based on specific ingredients, you might not enjoy all the menu options. The upside is there’s no need to cook, chop or shop when using Balance Box.

Each day you'll get three meals and two snacks. The box itself is packaged with a cardboard divider for each day. Main meals are packed into sturdy, recyclable plastic tubs and clearly marked with the day and meal (e.g. Tuesday, lunch). Accompaniments (e.g. rye bread, oat cakes, granola topper) are in a separate paper bag, fruit (kiwi, apple, pear) in another, and bars, nuts and seeds (trail bar, pumpkin seeds, berry bar, peanut bar, nuts) are in another. You also get a printed menu in your box, which is handy to pop on the fridge to keep track of what to eat and when.

Breakfasts included a delicious banana and blueberry bircher and roasted pears with Greek yogurt and granola, while lunches included rainbow rice salad, carrot, coriander and ginger soup and a classic tuna niçoise salad. Dinners included peri peri chicken and tomato rice, and a falafel tagine. All were perfectly prepared, tasty and filling.

Prices start from £26.99 per day for the Lighter meals and £32.99 per day for the Market meals. Deliveries in London are made between 10pm and 6.30am on your chosen day and by 5.30pm to most places outside of London. Each delivery costs £4.95 in London and £9.95 nationwide. You can try a one-off box or save money by ordering a subscription and you can pause or re-schedule deliveries if necessary.

Find out how to sign up to Balance Box

7. MunchFit

Munch Fit Eat Strong meal

Best for big appetites

One of the more premium options on the market, MunchFit offer a huge range of gluten-free dishes prepared by chefs and tailored to specific health goals. They have four core plans: Lean, which is centred around lower-carb, lower-calorie dishes, Balanced, which provides a variety of macro profiles in your menu, Strong, which is aimed at active people who need more carbs and protein to fuel them, and Green, which is packed with plant-based protein sources.

We opted to try the Balanced plan, three meals a day (including breakfast), for three days.

The menu changes often. We tried Middle Eastern turkey patties, quinoa and harissa, paprika salmon with broccoli fritters, and pesto and lime chicken madras, cauliflower salad and butternut bhajis, which were as delicious as they sound. However, the sample dishes on the website include harissa yogurt marinated salmon with Puy lentil salad and carrot dressing, beef teriyaki with Asian-style konjac noodle salad, and smokey BBQ turkey burgers with black bean, salsa and slaw.

The portion sizes were huge – we'd wager it would be impossible to feel hungry or unsatisfied after eating a MunchFit meal.

Each meal is responsibly packaged in 100% recycled cardboard and the trays, boxes and containers are 95% plastic-free.

You can choose between two to four meals per day, eaten on three to six days per week. Deliveries are on Saturday (Sun, Mon and Tues meals) and Tuesday (Wed, Thurs and Fri meals) between 8:30am and 5pm.

The only downside to this plan is the cost. You can choose your duration and opt for a trial week for your first delivery – the longer you subscribe, the more you save, but you’re locked in for the duration of the period. As a guide price, a four-week subscription to a Balanced plan (comprising three meals each day, five days a week) tots up to a hefty £525 for the month – working out at £8.75 per meal. Delivery is free if you sign up to a four, eight or 12-week plan.

Find out how to sign up to Munch Fit

8. KBK

KBK subscription box meals and drinks

Best customisable meal prep menus

KBK offer a flexible, adaptable service with nutritionally balanced, pre-made meals delivered straight to your door. These are ready to heat up in just three minutes in the microwave.

First, you need to choose your plan: KBK Everyday (which we opted for), Get Lean, Build (high protein), Vegetarian and Plant-based (vegan) along with Juice and Soup Cleanses. Prices start from £8.95 per day for the Get Lean plan and £10.24 for KBK Everyday, increasing in price depending on how many meals and how many days you want per week. The plans are customisable – you can choose exactly which meals you want to receive, the number of meals per day (combinations of breakfast, lunch and dinner) and deliveries per week and payment frequency. You can also enter allergies, intolerances and foods to exclude (e.g for religious reasons) as well as an option to add an extra daily healthy snack.

The KBK Everyday plan offered a wide range of chef prepared meals as a part of a constantly rotating menu. On our plan, our favourite breakfasts included coffee and cocoa overnight oats, and banana and coconut pancakes with a berry yogurt. For lunch, we most enjoyed the scrambled eggs with tomatoes and spinach. And dinners consisted of pulled pork and beetroot risotto with feta, Cajun salmon, prawn tikka masala and fajita chicken breast with rice and halloumi. We were really impressed by the quality of meat and fish and found the servings of veg were adequate in each box. There was a good variation in protein and bases between meals and they really tasted like fresh, home-cooked food rather than standard microwave meals. We were left feeling satisfied at the end of each course and found them to be nutritionally well-rounded.

The calories vary depending on the plan you choose. The Everyday plan averages out at 1300 calories a day for two meals and 1600 calories for three meals each day. It’s also low in saturated fats, high in vitamins and minerals, a good source of protein and high in fibre.

Prices vary, depending on your meal plan requirements but for reference, a three meal per day, six days per week plan costs £184.30 when ordered as a one-off package, equivalent to £19.97 per day (you can save money by signing up to a subscription). Deliveries take place on Sundays and Wednesdays, and you can cancel subscriptions at any time with seven days notice.

Find out how to sign up to KBK

9. Natural Ketosis

Natural Ketosis packaged food on a white background

Best for those looking for low-carb or keto options

The ketogenic diet is a very different approach to food than many standard diets so it can take some time to adapt to. However, if you’re interested in this way of eating, a subscription service such as Natural Ketosis could be a fuss-free way to ease you into it.

Each delivery includes shelf-stable pouches of food which can be stored conveniently in your cupboard instead of the fridge, along with low-carb snack bars and tubs of granola and porridge. It’s worth noting that the delivery doesn't include everything required to follow the plan – you’ll still need to shop for a few perishable items, such as milk, yogurt and berries, plus extra fresh vegetables if wanted. The box includes booklets with extensive and clear information on following the plan, including how to prepare your food, substitutions and extra items you can include, plus what to expect from ketosis (headaches, lethargy and metallic breath are unfortunate side effects). We’d recommend checking with your doctor before starting any weight loss diet.

There’s no getting around the fact that this is diet food and the portions are on the small side, but the food was satisfying and flavoursome (if a touch oily for our taste). We particularly enjoyed the creamy Thai chicken and hearty chilli bean soups, and the breakfast options, such as granola with yogurt and berries. If you like lots of variety each day, this might not be the ideal meal plan for you, but it does take the stress out of deciding what to eat each day and calculating nutritional targets such as net carbs, which can be particularly difficult on a keto diet.

A 14-day plan, with each day containing breakfast, lunch, dinner and one snack, costs £179, with various carb options available (e.g. under 20g carbs per day, under 50g carbs per day). Vegetarian and vegan boxes are available. Purchases are one-off, meaning you’re not tied into any rolling contract or recurring payments.

Find out how to sign up to Natural Ketosis

10. Potage

Potage Thai green chicken curry in a bowl

Best for frozen home-cooked classics

Potage use local, ethically sourced and British seasonal ingredients to create nutritious meals, made in small batches in their London kitchen, which are flash frozen to seal in goodness and flavour.

Potage focuses less on calories and more on general nutrition. Each meal is portion-controlled, contains only natural ingredients and includes one of your five-a-day. And if you’re interested, the website provides a full nutritional breakdown to read before you choose.

The meals were fresh and tasted properly homemade with a real comfort food feel; we tried their pork and fennel meatballs, lasagne al forno, Thai green chicken curry, kale and cauliflower macaroni cheese, chipotle black bean chilli and squash, and cavolo nero cannelloni. The dishes were filling and well-seasoned – the portion for two takes around 45 mins to heat in the oven and they are quite hearty, so it would be the ideal meal kit for winter. It really is difficult to beat the convenience of a well-stocked freezer, doing away with the mess and time required to prepare and cook from scratch.

With a choice of 18 mains, including six vegetarian/vegan options as well as five desserts and eight sides, you can choose up to six meals and four sides for your box. The options are quite varied but it was a little low on vegan options, so it would suit flexitarians or meat-eaters who are trying to cut down their meat consumption. Instructions for the meals are simple and found on the slip which also contains all the ingredients and nutrition; this information is also online so you can check before you choose your meal.

Meals arrive within a one-hour time slot and come frozen without excessive packaging in an insulated box with dry ice so they can be left on the doorstop if you aren’t home when they arrive. Unlike a lot of delivery services, Potage not only focus on the zero-waste aspect in terms of making sure no food goes to waste, but their packaging is easily recyclable: the container just needs a wipe before recycling, and the slip and lid can go straight into the recycling bin.

If you are feeding one person, meals cost £6.75 per portion, which comes down to £6 if it’s a meal for two. Six meals would cost £72 for two and £40 for one. Delivery is flexible – you can choose a suitable day online and skip boxes with ease.

Find out how to sign up to Potage

11. Tastily

Tastily box with stacked meals

Best for microwave meals in minutes

Tastily are a ready-meal delivery service run by a team of food lovers and expert chefs. Their aim is to make healthy food easy and accessible for everyone.

What makes Tastily different from the ready meals you see in the supermarket? They use a wide range of ingredients to make sure each dish is nutritionally balanced. Giving you a healthy amount of protein, carbohydrates and at least two servings of veg in every dish. Pretty impressive stuff. And each dish is available in a regular or large portion, for anyone worried they might be hungry when switching to a healthier regime.

On opening the box, we were impressed to find colourful packaging made from untreated kraft, so it can be easily recycled, plus food trays made from 85% recycled plastic.

We tried the teriyaki-glazed salmon with quinoa, long stem broccoli, edamame and pak choi; mushroom brown rice risotto with parsley; lemon and garlic gremolata with kale, green beans and peas; and paneer and pea curry with wilted spinach and spiced rice.

The meals can be cooked in three minutes in the microwave or in 20 minutes in the oven. They can also be frozen for another day. Each tray is split into sections for the main and the side – something we appreciated because who wants soggy quinoa? Not us.

We tested the meals on busy weeknights and we can’t deny there’s some enjoyment to be had in popping a portioned meal into the microwave and having dinner prepared in just three minutes – with almost no washing-up.

However, if what you’re looking for is fresh ingredients and an element of creativity, Tastily isn’t for you. Although we did add a good pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon and splash of chilli oil to the salmon. Think of it as if you had leftovers in the fridge or freezer that were tasty the first time round.

Prices vary from £6.60 per meal to £8.90, depending on how many you order. You can choose your delivery date and whether you want your meals weekly, fortnightly or monthly.

There’s a feel-good element to Tastily, too. With every box ordered, you can fund a child’s cookery course with Chefs in Schools, a charity that believes food education is of vital importance to young people.

Find out how to sign up to Tastily

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