With a generation of city dwellers now subsisting nearly entirely on Seamless come dinner time, a new kind of food delivery service has popped up to make the habit healthier. Cool, dinner-at-home companies are emerging nearly every day offering healthy recipe meal kits with pre-measured ingredients (a la the original, Blue Apron) or ready-to-heat meals that are perfectly portioned. Even high-profile chefs like David Chang are getting in on it.
To help you get dinner on the table, we answered the doorbell on numerous occasions to test out the offerings. Here, we bring you the need-to-know details on 11 services that deliver delicious healthy meals in the five boroughs (listed alphabetically).
Each is perfect for a different kind of eater—from the foodie who wants to learn how to (quickly) cook the food she’s always Instagramming to the Paleo dude who needs fast fuel after CrossFit. Just be prepared for a freezer full of ice packs. —Christine Yu, with Lisa Elaine Held and Molly Gallagher
For: The smoothie aficionado.
Need-to-know: You love your smoothies, but let’s face it, the last thing you want to do in the morning is wash, chop and prep your ingredients. Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver frozen, ready-to-blend smoothie mixes right to your door. You supply the blender. Just add the pre-portioned ingredients, your liquid of choice, and voilà—smoothie served.
Healthy factor: Daily Harvest’s chef- and nutritionist-designed blends include a hearty dose of fruits and veggies (flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness), functional superfoods like wheatgrass and flax seed, and tasty add-ins like nut butters. Ingredients are organic and non-GMO wherever possible. Choose from 14 super fun flavors like Matcha Colada (think piña colada with matcha, plus extra hints of coconut, vanilla, and good-for-you kale) or decadent Chocolate Lovahhh, a mix of blueberries, bananas, dates, maca, raw almond butter, spinach, kale, and pink Himalayan sea salt.
Delivery details: Daily Harvest delivers to 32 states across the U.S. Smoothies arrive in sturdy pre-portioned cups that can be easily stored in your freezer.
Cost: Shipments come in 6-, 12- or 18-smoothie packs and cost $7.99 per 16-ounce smoothie.
For: The gluten-free foodie.
Need-to-know: Diced’s founder Tinsley Meloy wanted to make the gluten-free world a little bit more convenient and easier to navigate, so she created this 100 percent gluten-free meal kit. Everyone from vegans and vegetarians to carnivores will find something to drool over on the core seasonal menu or the weekly specials (which do sell out!).
Healthy factor: Diced’s meals lean toward the fresh and healthy and replicate some of your favorite meals like General Tso’s Chickpeas and Vegan Quinoa Chili with Cornbread. Ingredient and calorie counts are available online for all meals.
Delivery details: Diced delivers to New York City, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The best part? Order before 6 p.m. and your meal kit will be delivered the next day (Monday through Friday).
Cost: $10.95–$15.95 per serving. No subscription is required and you can purchase single servings too. You can also subscribe and receive three meals per week for $35.85.
3. Fresh Direct
Meal kits and prepared meals
For: The on-the-go CEO who prioritizes meals at home.
Need to know: You know them for their groceries, but choose a meal kit and you’ll find the food is fresh and yummy, and the recipes are easy to follow. From Sustainable Salmon and Green Tea Soba to Tofu and Veggies with Black Bean Sauce Stir-Fry Kit, there are choices for carnivores, Paleo eaters, and vegans. They also offer ready-to-heat meals, and, hey, you can stock your pantry at the same time.
Healthy factor: The in-house nutrition team works with chefs to create balanced meals, and you can sort them by nutritional need (low cholesterol, low sodium, etc.) before you order. Plus, each meal comes with a full nutritional breakdown that highlights its shining-star nutrients, like the Yogurt Chicken and Roasted Vegetables Meal Kit, which is high in vitamin A, calcium, and iron. Veggies aren’t 100 percent organic, but they use antibiotic-free chicken and sustainable salmon.
Delivery details: Fresh Direct has delivery experience, and it showed, proving it to be uber reliable, key for someone with a busy schedule. Two-hour time slots run every day of the week from about 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and they call or text you to let you know if your delivery is running late. They deliver throughout New York City, as well as in Long Island, Westchester, and parts of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware, plus in the Hamptons and Jersey Shore during the summer.
Cost: Meal kits and ready-to-heat meals range from about $6.99–$16.99, with delivery fees ranging between $5.99 and $7.99 (fees are higher for delivery to the Hamptons and the Jersey Shore during summer months).
For: The Paleo eater living in non-Paleo times
Need to know: No, there’s nothing ancient about getting packaged food delivered, but who has the energy to cook after a crushing CrossFit session? Kettlebell Kitchen makes eating balanced, fresh, Paleo-centric meals—like grass-fed beef with sauteed kale—super easy by partnering with fitness spots like CrossFit boxes and UFC Gyms for pickups.
Healthy factor: Not surprisingly, meals lean toward the meaty, and attention is paid to quality, with 100 percent grass-fed beef, antibiotic-free chicken, and wild salmon filling the menus. Produce is not all organic, but every dish has detailed nutrition facts for you to check before you order.
Delivery details: This one’s unique in that you can’t get it brought to your door. Instead, you pick up your meals at one of nearly 300 partner locations in and around New York City, Long Island, New Jersey (the Shore and Northern Jersey), and northern Delaware, most of which are fitness spots. You have to place your order five days in advance and deliveries occur twice a week, but you can set a recurring order that will have meals waiting for you every time you show up to squat and snatch. And keep on the lookout—they’re planning on launching home delivery soon!
Cost: $4.95–$11.95 for individual sides, snacks, and meals. You can get a 10 percent discount if you sign up for a 30-day meal plan.
For: The fashion world working girl.
Need-to-know: Pretty, patterned, biodegradable packaging makes Munchery’s tasty meals a statement piece for your desk as much as a lunch time-saver. Dishes are designed by talented chefs and range from vegan Moroccan vegetables to Asian beef stew. Same-day meals sell out quickly, though, so the ordering process can be slightly frustrating.
Healthy factor: Nutrition and ingredient sourcing comes second to foodie flair and convenience, but ingredients feel fresh and there are plenty of healthy options to choose from, you just have to find them. Choose the chilled sake-poached salmon over the classic American cheeseburger, for example. They make it easy to do that by listing all ingredients and nutrition facts, and labeling each meal with easy takeaways like gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
Delivery details: Delivery is currently available in Manhattan (below 116th Street-ish) and parts of Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and Westchester. You can order on-demand to get your food in about 30 minutes (although as we discovered, many items sell out), or order meals up to a week in advance. FYI, Munchery also delivers in Seattle, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cost: About $5–$15 for individual snacks, sides, entrees and desserts.
For: The time-pressed real food advocate.
Need-to-know: Picnic’s founders are on a mission to help you step away from the processed food by making healthy eating super convenient. The best part? For every meal purchased, Picnic donates a meal to someone in need through the Food Bank for New York City.
Healthy factor: Picnic’s meals are made from minimally processed, seasonal ingredients sourced from trusted local farms. All dishes are grain-, dairy-, and gluten-free, not to mention contain no refined sugars or preservatives. Choose from a rotating menu of dishes with clever names like “Let’s Beet Reel” (teriyaki salmon and baby bok choy over beet-infused cauliflower rice) or “Impasta” (spaghetti squash and meatballs with bruschetta sauce). Currently, there are a limited number of meals available, but Picnic expects to expand its menu in the coming months.
Delivery details: Order by 11 a.m. for same-day delivery. The downside? Picnic currently delivers only to the Financial District and Battery Park, but uptown expansion is planned.
Cost: $12 to $15 per meal, which includes tax, tip and delivery. There’s a minimum order of $12. You can also order coconut water, kombucha, or green tea to go along with your meal.
For: The kitchen newbie.
Need-to-know: Plated is a pretty close to cousin to better-known Blue Apron, with even more fresh, high-quality ingredients. And its easy-to-follow instructions make it a great choice for those who truly need their hand held on the way to making healthy dinner (and don’t mind looking like a pro when it’s time to serve it).
Healthy factor: Recipes are balanced, with lots of veggies, and you can choose from nine seasonal dishes each week, from poultry, seafood, vegetarian options like Red Lentil Daal with Smoky Eggplant and Garlic Naan, or beef options like Seared Skirt Steak with Rainbow Carrots, Red Wine Sauce, and Whipped Goat Cheese. Ingredients aren’t organic, but the produce feels fresh (it’s local “when possible”) and they use sustainable seafood and antibiotic-free meats (our chicken was Pat La Frieda). Bonus: Nutrition labels for meals are available on Plated’s website.
Delivery details: Delivery is available throughout New York City between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., depending on your zip code. It comes in serious refrigerated packaging that can sit on your porch for up to 24 hours, which helps. You can also schedule your deliveries weeks in advance. Need to skip a week? Put in your request up to six days before delivery.
Cost: Starts at $12 per plate, but varies depending on servings and how much you order each week, with free shipping if you spend at least $50.
For: The organic devotee.
Need-to-know: Have you ever dreamed of having your own personal chef? Portable Chef makes that happen. The company is all about getting organic food from the farm to your table, customized to your individual likes (and dislikes) and dietary requirements.
Health factor: “We try to keep people healthy by relying on the only piece of dietary advice that absolutely every diet agrees upon: that vegetables are good for you and you should eat a lot of them,” says founder Uri Attia. According to Attia, all meats and produce are sourced from producers who grow their ingredients organically—no chemical pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, or hormones of any kind (although some ingredients from small farms aren’t USDA-certified)—and the company lists local farms it sources from on its website. Portable Chef has also received Slow Food NYC’s Snail of Approval for quality authenticity and sustainability.
Delivery details: They deliver throughout New York City on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Cost: $92 for a full day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks), $32 per serving for lunch or dinner or $20 for breakfast plus a $22 delivery fee for drop-offs in Manhattan and several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. Delivery is available to other areas for an additional cost.
For: The clean-eating fiend with zero time to cook.
Need-to-know: One look at Provenance Meals’ website and you know that the company prioritizes seasonal eats and ingredients your grandmother would recognize. Order from their weekly menu of prepared meals, with nourishing options for vegetarians, vegans and Paleos alike (debuts every Tuesday)—like the Vitality Bowl of the Week (which, on a recent week, included millets, chickpeas, greens, and roasted roots with Romesco sauce). Or, if you need to detox, sign up for their super popular Whole Food Detox box. You’ll receive three clean, plant-based meals a day for one, three, five, or 20 days—your choice!
Healthy factor: Provenance Meals starts with unprocessed ingredients sourced from local farms and organic providers, wherever possible, and meat and poultry that have been grass-fed and pasture-raised. From there, they make everything from scratch, including their own nut milks, kimchi, pickles, and sprouted beans. As for GMOs and added refined sugars? You won’t find them in your meals either.
Delivery details: They deliver every Monday and Wednesday to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, parts of the Bronx, and New Jersey (along the Hudson River between Hoboken and Fort Lee). Choose to receive your order (packaged in recyclable and compostable packaging) between 6:00 a.m. and midnight.
Cost: A la carte prices range from $7 to $28 for sides, soups, salads, and entrees plus delivery ($14.99 for orders under $40 and $4.99 for orders over $40). Bundles start at $99.
For: The busy vegan.
Need-to-know: If veggies in every color of the rainbow served in creative ways make you happy, then you’ll love The Purple Carrot. With former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman on board as chief innovation officer, and star guest chefs like Chloe Coscarelli designing many of the weekly-changing menus, the meals are tasty and filling. (Think Pizza Burgers with Avocado-Arugula Pesto.) One word of warning to kitchen newbies: The recipes can be a bit hard to follow at times.
Healthy factor: It doesn’t get much healthier than plant-based meals made with whole foods, and a team nutritionist looks over the recipes submitted by guest chefs. They source organic ingredients “whenever possible,” with a focus on using local farmers.
Delivery details: Purple Carrot delivers throughout New York City (and 33 other states). They ship on Mondays and you can expect to receive your box in one to two days.
Cost: $68 for three meals that feed up to two people, and $74 for two meals that feed up to four people—shipping included.
11. Sakara Life
For: The chic health coach.
Need-to-know: Sakara is the go-to service for downtown women who work out at ModelFit, live in Lucas Hugh leggings, and are no strangers to green juice. Expect delicious, fresh, creative salads, soups, and sandwiches—stuffed to the brim with trendy superfoods. They switch up the menu weekly (and seasonally), so if you’re planning on becoming a regular, you won’t get bored.
Healthy factor: Sakara was created for the busy, stylish New York woman, and founders Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise take pride in ensuring that each meal serves a healthful purpose. “We source the highest quality ingredients, ensuring not only that every food we work with is free of any harmful additives, but that they come packing an even higher nutrient density,” says Tingle. Ingredients, again, are whole-food, plant-based and “mostly” organic and local. Meals are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, meal, and seafood. And for those on the East Coast and Southern California, Sakara Life can accommodate up to three allergies for an additional fee.
Delivery details: Delivery is available across the continental U.S., and your food will come in two or three deliveries per week.
Cost: You can now choose to “Taste It” (a one-time meal order for three or five days) or “Live It” (a weekly subscription of Sakara Life’s clean eats). Depending on whether you want just breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a combination of two, or all three, the three-day Taste It plans start at $80. And five-day Taste It plans start at $125, plus delivery. You can also subscribe for $69 a day and receive breakfast, lunch and dinner five days a week.
This story was originally published May 15, 2015. It was updated March 7, 2016.