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Paleo Diet Meal Delivery Services

Elaine K. Howley

Millennia before we got smartphones and the ubiquitous over-packed schedule, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who spent their days hunting and gathering. Killing the occasional mastodon and collecting fresh fruit and vegetables in season was their full-time job. Though our daily activities have evolved to include conferences calls and a boatload of email, some proponents of the paleo diet point out that our bodies haven't had enough time to adapt on an evolutionary level to our modern diets of processed food and always-available produce. For some people, the spate of health problems and obesity that plague modern Westerners are tied to this change in diet.

What Is Paleo?

To address these issues, the paleo diet was born. "It's a diet based on the idea that we're supposed to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors, before farming and food factories," says Lori Chong, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The diet cuts out grains, dairy, processed foods, refined oils and sugar, and "typically, the strictest paleo diets will prohibit potatoes, beans and lentils too," she says.

Bottom line, if our Paleolithic ancestors, aka cavemen, didn't eat it, then we shouldn't eat it either, proponents of the paleo diet say. "During this period of time, extending from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, people ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, insects, roots and meat," says Cathy Leman, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Dam. Mad. About Breast Cancer, a nutritional consulting firm aimed at helping breast cancer patients and survivors. "These foods varied depending on the season, availability and where the hunter/gatherers lived."

This philosophy of eating has been around since the 1970s, and "the idea of Paleolithic nutrition was introduced to the general medical community in 1985 by two anthropologists, Eaton and Konner," Leman says. But it came to widespread attention alongside the rapid proliferation of CrossFit gyms across the county over the past decade that espoused it as the perfect complement to their style of exercise.

Today, it's touted as a way to lose weight and boost health. "The premise behind 'going paleo' is that eating our current Western diet contributes to a number of chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease," Leman says.

When compared to the standard American diet that's full of processed foods, sugar and bad fats, the paleo diet offers some advantages. "Just about anything is better than the standard American diet," Chong says.

Specifically, the paleo diet's "focus on choosing whole foods, deliberately increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables -- Americans' daily fruit and vegetable intake is woefully low -- and the reduction or elimination of processed foods, excess salt and added sugar, a paleo diet has the potential to be a healthy alternative to the standard American diet," Leman says.

[SEE: The 10 Best Diets for Fast Weight Loss.]

Food Restrictions Can Lead to Deficiencies

However, as with any tightly-structured diet, there are some downsides, Leman points out. "The recommendation to cut out grains and legumes, including soy, also cuts out considerable amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals that current research shows are beneficial." Chong agrees that cutting out "beans and lentils, which are the best sources of fiber," can be problematic. Fiber offers both gut health and heart health benefits.

Following a restrictive diet like the paleo diet can also lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients. "A lot of research these days is focused on the microbiome and how it affects our health. We don't know everything there is to know about it, but what we do know is that people with the most diverse microbiome are healthier. People who are chronically sick have less diversity" in the gut microbiome, and because paleo removes whole food groups, this can contribute to a less diverse population of gut flora. As such, Chong says she never recommends the diet to patients she works with.

[See: U.S. News' 41 Best Diets Overall.]

Leman also notes that the paleo diet ranked #33 out of 41 on U.S. News & World Report's 2019 list of best diets. "While there are good things about the diet, and promising health benefits seen in a handful of very small human studies, the diet restricts foods that do, in fact, provide nutritional benefit. More robust human studies are necessary to scientifically determine health and other benefits."

Nevertheless, for some people, it might be a good option, particularly if you're "open to liberalizing the diet with small amounts of whole grains, legumes and dairy (if warranted) to make it sustainable in nutritional value and in order to follow long term," Leman says.

Companies That Deliver Paleo Meals

"For someone short on time or cooking skills, a meal delivery service can certainly help," Leman adds. These companies can take some of the guesswork and challenge out of keeping paleo. "That is, as long as the only foods eaten are those delivered to the doorstep. Dining out, eating at parties, eating on days when the supply of the delivered foods runs dry is up to the individual," she notes.

If you're thinking of going paleo and want some help, the following meal kit and prepared meal delivery services may be able to help. "The convenience factor is why it's good for some people," Chong says. Meal delivery plans "take the thought out of having to make a meal plan or decisions about meals on your own."

Pete's Paleo

-- Seasonal menu.

-- Easy weekly subscription options.

-- Not frozen.

-- Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.

Pete's Paleo ships fully-prepared, seasonal meals nationwide. The menu changes weekly and follows patterns of seasonal availability of produce, which promises a large variety of food items across the year. Paleo meals contain 5 ounces of protein and 7 ounces of vegetables each and use all-organic produce and grass-fed and pastured animal products. All meals are delivered fresh (not frozen) and are gluten-free, dairy-free, sweetener-free and soy-free.

Pete's Paleo offers an easy weekly subscription option that features five, 10, or 14 meals for an individual and a five-meal family plan that includes 20 servings per week. Order your food choices by Monday and they'll ship on Wednesday. The weekly cost starts at $123 for five meals. They also have bundles and special packages to reduce cost or jump-start a healthy eating program.

Sample meal: curry roasted chicken with roasted broccoli and butternut squash.

-- Calories: 360.

-- Fat: 15 grams.

-- Protein: 38 grams.

-- Carbohydrates: 19 grams.

[See: The Most Environmentally Friendly (and Healthy) Meats.]

Factor 75

-- Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.

-- Choose your own meals or have a nutritionist do the thinking for you.

-- Subscribers can schedule a free, 20-minute nutritional consultation with one of Factor 75's nutritionists.

-- Bulk order discounts available.

Factor 75 offers a paleo diet option that includes no processed foods, no processed oils, no refined sugars, no grains and no dairy products. Its meals are gluten-free and feature high-quality ingredients, including grass-fed and free-range animal protein and lots of fiber. Factor 75 notes on its website that "we have our own nutritional philosophy, based off of cutting edge research and feedback from our advisory board. Though we aren't strictly Paleo, we do provide some excellent Paleo meal options."

The company notes that its definition of paleo meals includes:

-- Larger portions of meat and vegetables.

-- No grains, soy or chemicals.

-- Increased fiber content.

-- Zero added sugar.

-- Free-range and grass-fed produce and protein.

-- Includes sweet potatoes and ghee/clarified butter.

-- Sample meal: paleo burger.

-- Calories: 530.

-- Total Fat: 32 grams.

-- Total carbohydrates: 29 grams (6 grams dietary fiber and 10 grams total sugars).

-- Protein: 36 grams.

-- Cholesterol: 160 milligrams.

-- Sodium: 510 milligrams.

Green Chef

-- Gluten-free, non-GMO, paleo-friendly meals.

-- Choose three meals per week.

-- Family-friendly options serve four.

-- Easy to assemble and cook recipes.

Sticking to a paleo diet with Green Chef means you can still do some cooking without the hassle of shopping and meal planning. Subscribers can choose three meals from five recipes weekly. Green Chef's paleo meals include organic and non-GMO ingredients that do not contain any pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids. The company also promises "quick and easy recipes," with step-by-step instructions, tips and photos.

Green Chef's pricing is "based on the plan you choose and how many people will be eating each dinner." The two-person plan includes three dinners for two people or six servings per box. With the family plan, each box contains two dinners for a family of four or eight servings per box. The paleo plan costs $12.99 per meal, but doesn't include shipping, handling or sales tax. Green Chef offers new subscribers $75 off and free shipping on their first order. The company delivers to most of the continental U.S., but doesn't serve Alaska, Hawaii and parts of Louisiana.

Green Chef was acquired in 2018 by HelloFresh, the largest meal kit delivery service in the U.S. Its easy-to-assemble meals typically take about 30 minutes to prepare and require basic cooking skills and some utensils.

Sample meal: shrimp scampi with grain-free fettuccini and Brussels sprouts and salad.

-- Serves: two.

-- Prep time: 25 minutes.

-- Calories 468 per serving.

-- Fat: 16.6 grams.

-- Total carbohydrates: 40.4 grams (8.8 grams dietary fiber and 6.9 grams total sugars).

-- Protein: 44.2 grams.

-- Cholesterol: 378 milligrams.

-- Sodium: 660 milligrams.

Sun Basket

-- Choose from 18 options per week.

-- Organic produce and "clean ingredients" such as wild-caught seafood.

-- Family option serves four.

-- Quick recipes designed for busy people.

-- Everything is delivered in recyclable or compostable packaging.

Sun Basket offers a paleo diet plan that features "quality proteins" and "clean ingredients" that contain no antibiotics, added hormones, gluten, grains soy, dairy or added sugar. Meals contain about 550 to 800 calories per serving and 20 to 25 grams of protein. They're considered high in fiber with 5 grams or more of fiber per serving.

Sun Basket also serves up "good fats" that are " rich in omega-3s" sources from olives, nuts, seeds and avocados. The company sources wild-caught seafood that is recommended as Best Choice or Good Alternative by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program and also touts organic produce and "awesome sauce," which it describes as "our own signature sauces in-house to kick up the flavors a notch." Some cooking skills and equipment are required to assemble Sun Basket meals.

Sun Basket also offers a variety of other diet-based meal plans, including keto, vegan and gluten-free. Its classic menu, which is the most popular plan, offers subscribers the option to choose two, three or four recipes from 18 options each week. The price per serving is $11.99. They also offer a family value package, which includes two, three or four recipes each week from six family-friendly options. Those packages feed four people and cost $10.99 per serving. Sun Basket ships to most of the U.S. but excludes Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and parts of New Mexico.

Sample meal: Thai turkey lettuce cups.

-- Menu: carb-conscious, paleo, dairy-free, soy-free, family-friendly and gluten-free.

-- Serves: two.

-- Prep time: 20 minutes.

-- Calories: 540.

-- Protein: 27 grams.

-- Fat: 35 grams.

-- Carbohydrates: 34 grams (dietary fiber: 5 grams, total sugars 12 grams).

-- Cholesterol: 75 milligrams.

-- Sodium: 880 milligrams.

Kettlebell Kitchen

-- Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.

-- Meals are dairy-free, soy-free and contain no artificial sweeteners.

-- Includes a nutritional guide and a 30-minute consult with a nutritionist.

Kettlebell Kitchen's Pure Paleo program offers meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner Subscribers can select plans that include six, 12, 18 or 24 meals per week. They range in price from $9.86 to $11.95 per meal.

In addition to sending fully-prepared, healthy meals to your home, every meal plan also includes a free nutrition guide and a 30-minute consultation with a nutritionist. New subscribers can get $25 off each of their first two orders of $50 or more. All meals are dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free and free of artificial sweeteners.

Sample meal: bacon chicken Waldorf.

-- Calories: 430.

-- Carbohydrates: 20 grams.

-- Fat: 18 grams.

-- Protein: 50 grams.

Trifecta Nutrition

-- All organic produce.

-- Meal plans and a la carte options.

-- Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.

-- Wild-caught seafood and grass-fed meat.

-- All packaging is FDA-certified food safe and 100% recyclable.

Trifecta Nutrition offers fresh, fully prepared "sugar- and grain-free meals using sustainable proteins and organic vegetables. True to a Paleo diet, these meals feature no processed ingredients," the website states. The paleo meal plan offers up to four meals per day and starts at $108.43 per week (for seven meals). You can also order meals a la carte.

The company aims to be a sustainable operation and is working towards making all of its packaging 100% biodegradable within the next 24 months. It also uses a three-step supply chain rather than a tradition five-step chain used by most retailers to reduce its carbon and packaging footprint by up to 40%. Trifecta Nutrition delivers to the entire U.S. and offers a money-back guarantee of a full refund for up to 10 meals if you're not satisfied with your order.

The Trifecta Nutrition website also includes motivational before and after photos and profiles of some of their subscribers who've had success using the program.

Sample meal: coconut curry beef with sweet potato. Average nutritional values for their paleo meals are:

-- Calories: 350.

-- Protein: 32 grams.

-- Fat: 14 grams.

-- Net carbohydrates: 23 grams.

Freshly

-- Meals average about 500 calories each.

-- Choose from a rotating list of weekly options.

-- Ready-made meals, just heat and eat.

Freshly offers a wide range of dishes and options. Subscribers can order four, six, nine or 12 meals per week, and you get to choose the meals you'd like from a rotating weekly list. Meals range from 300 to 650 calories each. Prices range from $8.99 per meal to $12.50 per meal, depending on the plan. The company offers free shipping.

Freshly offers a "paleo-friendly" meal program. While Freshly doesn't specifically aim to make most of its meals paleo, "many of Freshly's meals are inspired by the paleo diet (lots of whole, nutrient-rich foods)." But the company does "add in some rice, beans and cheese for variety and to cater to many different customers' needs." Still, some items on the menu sport a "Paleo" label, which means the item is free of dairy, grains, soy and legumes. If you're being strict about your paleo diet, you'll need to double check all ingredients.

Sample meal: slow-cooked beef chili.

-- Calories: 340.

-- Carbohydrates: 31 grams (8 grams dietary fiber, 12 grams sugars).

-- Protein: 28 grams.

-- Fat: 12 grams.

-- Cholesterol: 100 milligrams.

-- Sodium: 870 milligrams.

Other Services

Other paleo-diet-compliant prepared meal services include:

-- Paleo on the Go.

-- The Good Kitchen.

-- Fresh n' Lean.

-- Caveman Chefs.

-- Eatology.

Know Before You Start

Before you start any new diet, it's imperative that you talk it over with your health care provider or work with a dietitian or nutritionist to make sure you've got a solid plan that will meet your individual nutritional needs. Leman recommends first asking yourself, "what are you trying to accomplish by following it?" For example, are you trying to lose weight? Improve your cholesterol levels? Keep prediabetes from becoming full-blown diabetes? Once you're clear on why you want to try the diet, "seek out a qualified registered dietitian to help you liberalize the diet for adequate calories, vitamins, minerals and fiber to prevent nutritional gaps and deprivation or boredom with the eating plan."

And she notes that "the diets of early humans varied drastically depending on where they lived." This has led to the development of different versions of the paleo diet. And, she adds, there's some evidence that not all cavemen were in the savage good shape that we've come to idealize them as being. "Depending on the region, some Paleolithic hunter/gatherers indeed showed signs of atherosclerosis," she says, a condition that's also called coronary artery disease, in which the arteries become clogged with plaque. It can lead to heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems such as strokes.



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