Thistle Meal Kits Are Like Having a Plant-Forward, Personal Chef Who Delivers

Photo: Getty Images/ mixetto
There are dozens of companies trying to solve the ubiquitous pain point of deciding what to eat and finding healthy food three times a day. Among them is Thistle, a plant-forward meal service that aims to take the guesswork out of breakfast, lunch, and dinner by delivering already-prepared meals to your door.

I recently had a chance to try a Thistle meal kit for myself, and though not vegan or vegetarian, Thistle takes a decidedly plant-forward approach to its meals and overall operations. The meals themselves are all gluten-free, dairy-free, and largely (though not entirely) organic. Thistle doesn't use any beef or dairy because of the higher carbon emissions and environmental impact associated with their production (including deforestation and freshwater and land use), says Shiri Avnery, Thistle's, president and co-founder.

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  • Shiri Avnery, Shiri Avnery is the president and co-founder of Thistle. 

The brand mission is focused on sustainability, especially by limiting energy usage and food waste. “Last year we upcycled over 20,000 pounds of excess food into nutrient-rich, plant-powered soups,” Avnery says. “We also donate extra meals weekly to community partners that serve those in need.”

How the Thistle meal kit works

Unlike most healthy meal delivery services, Thistle offers twice-a-week shipments. Though this may sound like a lot of shipping and delivery, it does help ensure that you’re eating super-fresh meals that haven’t been sitting in their containers for days and days. You also return your shipping cooler and ice packs with each delivery, which are reused. In the first half of 2023, Thistle saved about 263,277 pounds of waste from ice packs and bags. That said, the meals are all packaged in individual plastic containers, which don’t get sent back, but they are recyclable.

All in all, I thought that the ingredients and recipes were high-quality and certainly healthy.

Menus are available a week in advance and include breakfast, lunches, dinners, snacks, sides, and cold-pressed juices. Customers select how many of each meal they’d like, then indicate their preference for plant-based protein, meat-only, or a mix of meat and plant-based protein. You can also indicate an allergy or dietary preference. Depending on where you live, the meals come on Sunday and/or Wednesday nights.

Customers can select specific meals to customize their menu each week (or leave it up to the Thistle team to choose meals for them).

How much does a Thistle meal kit cost?

Three days of plant-based breakfast, lunches, dinners, and two snacks cost $130.20, including shipping. That’s $11.25 per breakfast, $13.25 for each lunch and dinner, and $6 for snacks. Meat-containing meals cost an additional $2.25. Delivery costs $4.95 each time. If you order more than three days' worth of meals, expect two deliveries a week.

Okay, but what about the meals themselves?

I was impressed by the variety of meal types to choose from. Breakfast choices include smoothies, sweet potato hash, and baked oatmeal cakes. Snack options range from hummus and kelp chips to a beautiful purple Okinawan sweet potato bar.

During the three days that I enjoyed my Thistle meal kit, however, I wasn’t blown away by the variety in the dishes themselves. Every lunch was a salad with quinoa, a protein, and some chopped raw vegetables. I like quinoa, but it’s not something I need to eat every day. The salads were bountiful, however, and the dressings were quite tasty.

The dinners offered a bit more diversity, with a few pastas thrown in and a tasty Moroccan-inspired chicken tagine, a North African stew, named after the earthenware pot in which it is traditionally cooked, known for its aromatic blend of spices and tender slow-cooked ingredients.

All in all, I thought that the ingredients and recipes were high-quality and certainly healthy.

What about nutrition?

Thistle’s meals are designed by registered dietitians and chefs and follow a whole food-first framework. Lunches and dinners have 450 to 600 calories per meal, along with a minimum of 20 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber. The breakfasts are fully plant-based and contain 250 to 450 calories, 10 or more grams of protein, and at least 8 grams of fiber.

The bottom line

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to stock your fridge reliably every week with healthy meals, Thistle is an excellent option if you can afford the convenience it offers.

The major downsides I see are the lack of flexibility around delivery dates and times, which may be difficult for people with inconsistent scheduling. Plus, the large amount of plastic packaging is not ideal, though it is recyclable.

Realistically, I see Thistle meal kits being the best fit for people who live alone and want to try a variety of recipes per week—but don't want to eat multiple servings of the same thing. I also think it'd be suitable for anyone with a busy schedule who doesn't want to live on take-out but is used to buying at least one or two of their meals per day since the cost will likely be comparable.

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