A Guide to Meal Delivery
Updated for October, 2021
Much of life is centered around food. Meals are how we celebrate, how we spend time together and how we make memories. But nutrition is important, and eating is vital to survival and often that’s given secondary consideration when it comes to sitting down at the table. As we age, this basic lifeline can become an obstacle to independent living.
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Studies show that a good diet as you get older reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Eating well, though, is often easier said than done. You may lack the energy, desire or ability you need to cook a well-balanced meal. And sometimes, going through a drive thru or getting take out seems like a better option than staring down three days of leftovers because the recipe you used made too much food. There are easier and better ways available, but first it’s important to know what your body needs as you age.
Nutrition Needs as We Age
Good nutrition is important, but as we get older, the nutrients our bodies need changes. Muscle mass shrinks, metabolism slows down, and caloric intake needs lessen. But the need for fewer calories means every calorie must count. Our bodies require calories to function properly so, poor food choices can have a greater impact at age 55 than at 25.
If you struggle with knowing what you need in your diet to be healthy, the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University teamed up with the AARP Foundation to simplify it for you. The groups released an updated MyPlate for Older Adults graphic to help sort through any confusion.
The plate basically recommends the following:
- 50% fruits and vegetables
- 25% grains (mostly whole grains)
- 25% protein-rich foods such as nuts, beans, fish, lean meat, poultry
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheeses, and yogurts
The new MyPlate for Older Adults also recommends using heart-healthy fats like vegetable oils and soft margarines, and herbs and spices instead of salt to lower sodium intake.
Like anything, having the knowledge is one thing, but putting it into practice can be challenging. As middle age turns into golden years, it can be difficult, to say the least, to do what it takes to prepare healthy meals three times a day.
On the night of your party, everyone brings their own freezer bags and plastic containers for storage and take home.
Meal Prep Parties
Meal prep parties are usually considered to be something busy parents do who need to provide dinner instead of take out for their families every night. But there’s no rule that says you need a house full of young children to get together with your friends and prep meals for the week. So, consider throwing your own meal prep party – senior style.
Here’s how it works: You round up a few of your friends (four people including you is an optimal amount) and pick a home to host. Everyone contributes a recipe; one person does the grocery shopping, and everyone chips in on the bill. On the night of your party, everyone brings their own freezer bags and plastic containers for storage and take home. Divide the recipes up among everyone in attendance and get started cooking. It can take anywhere between two and four hours to get everything prepared. Once it is, equally divide your dishes and everyone takes home the amount they need to eat for the week. The quality social time with your friends is a much-needed bonus.
There are several options to choose from and some offer first time discounts to get started.
Ready-to-Cook Food Delivery Options
Maybe you’re tired of experimenting in the kitchen, not interested in figuring out if you have all the ingredients for a tried and true recipe, can’t stand the thought of pushing a cart down a grocery store aisle, or are simply unable to spend the time in the kitchen that’s required to prepare a much-needed meal. If this is the case, ready-to-cook meal delivery services may be a good choice. You place your order online and pre-assembled meal kits are delivered to your home. The recipes are included, and the ingredients are already measured out for you. All you will need to do is follow the recipe and prepare the meal. There are several options to choose from and some offer first time discounts to get started. Most of the services allow cancellation or a pause in deliveries at any time.
Blue Apron offers prepared meal plans that can feed two people (or more) and are customized, to some extent, to meet your dietary needs. However, Blue Apron’s website does say that if you have a serious food allergy it may not be the best choice for you because of how the meals are prepared before they are shipped. Blue Apron Meals start at $9.99 for up to three recipes a week that you select.
Hello Fresh also offers two person (or more) prepared meal plans and will deliver to your doorstep every night of the week. The plans start at $8.99 and like most of the meal delivery services, the food is delivered in packaging that contains insulated liners and ice packs to keep things cool en route. If recycling is important to you, Hello Fresh packaging and ice packs (after the gel has been poured out) are 100 percent recyclable. All meal prep kits come with some level of nutritional information, but according to Consumer Reports, Hello Fresh provides the most nutritional information about its kits’ contents.
This meal delivery service is a little bit pricier than others, but it also offers a one-person meal option. It’s geared toward anyone who follows a vegan diet and claims its food is 100% plant based. Meals start at around $12 per serving.
Green Chef boasts meals that are made in 30 minutes or less. It also prides itself on the use of organic ingredients and the lack of GMOs, toxic pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones in its food. Green Chef offers seven types of meal plan options that cater to everyone from meat lovers to vegetarians. The meal kits will cost you between $12 and $13 each.
Sun Basket is a USDA certified organic handler and maintains that 99 percent of its produce is organic. If for some reason, the company is unable to provide organic products in your meal kits, they notify you. Sun Basket creates specialized meals in ten different categories – covering everything from lean and clean to gluten-free to quick and easy. Servings start at $11.99.
As you might expect, Consumer Reports has put meal prep delivery services to the test. According to the study, the ingredients contained in the kit are fresh and the meals are tasty, once prepared. One thing testers do warn to look out for with some of the meal prep kits is sodium. Consumer Reports tested meals in 2016 from Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Purple Carrot, and Green Chef. The organization says most of the meals it surveyed called for seasoning the food with salt multiple times. So, you may want to consider cutting back on the amount of salt the recipe calls for, especially if heart disease or high blood pressure are a concern for you.
Factor 75 says its food preparation is science based and can help your mind and body perform better.
Prepared Meal Delivery Services
Even the simplest things can become some of the hardest tasks in the later years of life. Some seniors choose going hungry over attempting to prepare a meal. That’s where prepared meal delivery services can help the most.
Silver Cuisine by BistroMD
Silver Cuisine delivers frozen, chef-prepared meals and snacks to your doorstep. The only prep you need to do is heating up the food. Customers can choose from the regular meal offerings or the heart healthy, diabetic, low sodium and gluten-free menus. The company was founded by a doctor who is board-certified in bariatric medicine and is actively involved in the meal planning and choices for the delivery service.
There is no minimum order and you can choose from 150 entrees. The meals run between 8 and 14 dollars each. Shipping will cost nearly 20 dollars or more, so, it is probably wise to order a maximum number of meals to cut your cost.
As soon as your meals arrive, it’s recommended that you unpack your order and put it in the freezer. The company says meals stored in the freezer are good for up to one year of the production date. Delivery is available in every state except Hawaii and Alaska.
Magic Kitchen meals are designed by a dietician and promise to be healthy and lower in sodium. Just like other prepared food, these show up at your home and are easily reheated in the microwave or oven. You can choose meals with one main course and one or two side dishes. You can order up to a week’s worth of one-person dishes, which will cost between $75 and $85.
Personal Chef To Go
Personal Chef To Go meals show up on your doorstep fresh instead of frozen, and the company says the food will stay fresh in the refrigerator between 10 and 12 days. The oven isn’t needed, and preparing the meal is as simple as punching in three minutes on the microwave and hitting start. Plans range between five and ten meals a week and start around $78. Shipping is free in the eastern part of the United States.
Factor 75 allows you to either choose your meals or they will make the choices for you based on your taste preference and dietary restrictions. The service delivers fresh meals to your home Monday through Wednesday. The meals do not have to be heated up and eaten right away. They can be stored in the refrigerator between five to eight days. Factor 75 says its food preparation is science based and can help your mind and body perform better. The company offers its customers access to dieticians to help plan and select the right food choices. Six meals will cost you around $77 per week.
Meals on Wheels serves food in senior or community centers in thousands of cities and towns across the United States.
Low Cost Food Options
Ordering and buying prepared meals may be appealing, but it can also be costly, and the monthly budget may not allow it to become a line item. There are also some more frugal options to consider, ensuring you are getting the nutrition your body needs.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is a nationwide program designed to provide nutritious, hot meals at little or no cost to any senior who needs one. If you have trouble getting outside your home, the program has voluntters who will bring the meal to you. But if mobility is not an issue for you, Meals on Wheels serves food in senior or community centers in thousands of cities and towns across the United States. You can call your local senior citizen center to find a Meals on Wheels serving site.
Aside from providing nutrition, Meals on Wheels gives many seniors who live alone an opportunity to see a friendly face and be checked on daily, allowing for longer independent living.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP)
You may be eligible for a government funded program that provides nutrition aid to Americans 60 and older, as well as the disabled. To receive SNAP benefits, you will have to meet certain requirements. Your monthly income, along with other factors, are used in determining if you are eligible for the program. Many times, seniors do not realize they are able to receive the benefits, so, it’s worth your time to check. All SNAP applications are processed and approved at the state level. These are the ways to apply:
Online applications can be found and filled out here.
Every state has a SNAP Hotline you can call for information and application. The state-by-state phone list can be found here.
You will likely be required to visit your local SNAP office before you are approved for the benefits. Phone and online applications just get the process started. Once you are approved, you’ll be given a type of debit card loaded with a predetermined amount of money allowing you to purchase breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products.
In a country with so much wealth and prosperity, it’s hard to imagine there are Americans who go hungry, but it’s a very real threat and seniors are no exception. Nearly one in every six seniors face the threat of poor nutrition or hunger. The hope is options and services, like those listed in this article, can help fight the epidemic. So much of the information we need and want these days is online. Instead of phone numbers, the service industry oftentimes refers you to a website. It can be tough for seniors who don’t have access to the internet or aren’t educated on how to use it to receive valuable information they need. They may require meal prep delivery services options but aren’t able to get it because they aren’t aware it exists or are qualified for Meals on Wheels or SNAP, but don’t know about the programs or how to begin applying for them. Share your knowledge with others – maybe you can do it over a meal.