Tried and Tested – Diet delivery food

In the run-up to Christmas, it can pay huge dividends to watch your weight now so you don’t pile on the pounds over the weeks to come. The other bonus with starting now is you don’t have to cut back as everyone else is sampling lots of treats at home, at work and out socialising. But sticking to a diet can be hard. Often, it’s because you need to cook for others, or it’s all too easy for portion sizes to expand. Also, meals can become samey if you have to diet-shop and then cook for yourself without being tempted to snack. That’s why more and more companies do all the calorie counting, food shopping and prep for you so you don’t have to be tempted to overeat as you cook or work out the right portion size or number of calories for your weight goal. If you eliminate the guesswork, cut down on the supermarket’s temptations and save time on cooking, you can start being more focused and train your body to eat less. Here’s how we got on…

Diet Chef

Starting weight of tester, who is 5ft 9in 13st 3lb

Final weight after four weeks… 11st 11lb

Total loss 1st 6lb

HOW IT WORKS: You log on to the website, take the BMI assessment and it says how many calories you should aim for. You then choose which plan to sign up for. Our tester chose the 12-week Premium Plan, which had an offer on at the time, and then began to choose which meals she wanted from the 110-plus options on offer.

WHAT IT COSTS: On the Premium Plan, it’s £129 for the first four weeks followed by £229 for the second and third four-week sections. For this you get 28 breakfasts, 28 lunches and 28 dinners plus one snack a day for women and two snacks a day for men.

SUPPORTING DIET INFORMATION: You get a booklet that helps to explain what you can add (see below) with a helpful leaflet you can stick to your fridge to remind you what a typical portion of fruit and veg is. No follow-up emails or phone calls.

WHAT YOU CAN ADD: The meals and snacks which are provided by Diet Chef are designed to be supplemented by your adding five portions of fruit/vegetables a day, two dairy portions and one carbohydrate portion. This will bring you to the 1,200 calories a day so you may then be able to add a number of extras to bring you up to the right number of calories for you. Our tester was on a 1,400-a-day plan so could even add a cheeky gin and slimline tonic and still be within her limits.

IS THERE A MINIMUM SUBSCRIPTION PERIOD? Your payment will contintue to be taken out unless you cancel after the period of time you’ve signed up for. If you sign up for the 12-week plan, you can cancel within this time for a £50 fee.

WHAT IS THE CHOICE LIKE? There is a huge amount of choice, from muesli to porridge and pancakes for breakfast, pastas and soups for lunch and a huge choice of main meals from curries and casseroles to traditional dishes such as lasagne, hotpot and so on.

IS IT GOOD FOR VEGETARIANS? Yes – there are 50 options to choose from.

WHAT DOES THE FOOD TASTE LIKE? On the whole it was really tasty. Our tester added salt and pepper but not everyone would need to do this. There isn’t a huge amount of texture to the food and the amount of meat/fish that was included was quite small with lots of tasty sauce so extra vegetables are important to add texture and to fill you up. The food is quite processed and heat-treated so it can be kept in a cupboard rather than a fridge. The cardboard packaging can be recycled but the plastic microwave containers have limited recycling.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: There was no need to contact the company at all as there were no problems. The tester wasn’t bombarded by upselling emails, either.

OVERALL VERDICT: The portions are very small. Think airline-meal size – without the treats. It’s so important to stick to the diet despite feeling hungry at first as it helps to shrink your stomach. Adding fruit and veg was a great way to add texture and bulk to meals on hungry days. The flexibility of extras also helped as you could plan calorie-counted snacks ahead of time, which suited our tester as grazing healthily regularly through the day helped her to stay on track. Weight loss came off quickly in week one (losing 6lb), then stabilised to just over 4lb for each of the subsequent weeks.

Result Plan

Starting weight fo tester, who is 5ft 8in 12 st 3lb

Final weight after four weeks… 11st 4lb

Total loss: 13lb

HOW IT WORKS: Via the website you have to put in your height, weight and age to get a BMI reading before you can access the rest of the site. The result gives you the recommended diet plan for you – in our case this was the 750-1,000 kcals-a-day plan. Our tester felt 750 was too low as she had tried a 500 kcals diet before with bad side effects so opted for the 1,000-1,200 version. From delivery you keep two days’ worth of food in the fridge and freeze the rest, taking it out as needed.

WHAT IT COSTS: £280, plus two lots of fortnightly delivery charges of £5.99, so £292
in total – £73 a month. For this you get 14 breakfasts (muesli, granola, porridge and so on), 14 light lunches (a good variety of pasta, bean salad, rice and noodle dishes high in protein and fresh veg), 14 dinners (from 30 options including curries, turkey burgers, fish, veggie options) and 14 sweet snacks (brownie or shortbread bites) delivered every two weeks.

SUPPORTING DIET INFORMATION: A ten-page printout with storage information and an explanation of how to follow the diet. It’s no-frills and very straightforward.

WHAT YOU CAN ADD: Very little. The information pack that came with the plan recommended adding fruit to your breakfast options but no other supplementary food was encouraged.

IS THERE A MINIMUM SUBSCRIPTION PERIOD? You pay for exactly what you order so you don’t have to worry about cancelling or accidentally reordering.

WHAT IS THE CHOICE LIKE? Fantastic. All meals are balanced with a good portion of protein – usually chicken, turkey or fish, though there are Quorn versions for veggies. There are chillies, curries, burgers, pasta and so on.

IS IT GOOD FOR VEGETARIANS? Quite good – there were six different meals, so less choice, but they included risottos, halloumi burgers and Quorn teriyaki, which all tasted amazing. There are another five fish or prawn options so if you were a pescatarian you wouldn’t struggle.

WHAT DOES THE FOOD TASTE LIKE? It tastes amazing. All the food is freshly cooked and retains its texture, unlike with other diet plans. The flavours are out of this world and the food is not overcooked. The vegetables can be a little softer once they have been reheated from frozen.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: We had one query concerning billing, which was answered via email in less than an hour. The service is prompt and friendly.

OVERALL VERDICT:  Our tester loved the fresh-food approach, and the variety of foods and flavours on offer with this plan was excellent. Not being able to add extra vegetables or fruit through the day meant you had to be very strict not to snack. However, the portions were not the smallest that were tasted and if you kept yourself occupied in the evenings, the temptation to eat all the snacks that were provided in one go dissipated! There is quite a lot of plastic waste, though you can reuse and recycle the food containers. Weight did come off consistently, with the biggest loss in the first week – 6lb – followed by 2lb (there was a cheat day in there), then 3lb, and then 3lb again.

Jane Plan

Starting weight of tester, who is 5ft 6in… 12st 13lb

Final weight after four weeks… 11st 12lb

Total loss… 1st 1lb

HOW IT WORKS: You create an account on the user-friendly website and choose from three diet plans, taking into account how much weight you would like to lose – 1 stone, 2 stone or 3 stone – and whether you want to take weekends off. Then, you select 28 breakfast, lunch and dinner choices. We also liked the fact that you are able to order extra meals for partners. The plans average around 1,200 calories per day but can be personalised to an individual’s requirements.

WHAT IT COSTS: Our tester signed up for the three-month plan, which had a promotion for the first month at £110 and the remaining months at £220; the latter price works out at £7.85 a day for 28 breakfasts, 28 lunches, 28 dinners and 28 snacks. The deal on the four-month plan offered the first month at £99.50, with the following months at £199.

SUPPORTING DIET INFORMATION: A useful booklet for you to personalise with a food diary section, understanding weight loss, what to eat when dining out, fitness advice, a calorie chart and recipes.

WHAT YOU CAN ADD: Berries, milk or fat-free yoghurt to breakfast. A side salad for lunch with cottage cheese or hummus, and two handfuls of vegetables or one of salad with dinner. You can also have fruit during the day to snack on.

IS THERE A MINIMUM SUBSCRIPTION PERIOD? Your diet plan and payments will be taken every 28 days until you cancel. You do get an email reminder in good time once you complete the agreed minimum duration.

WHAT IS THE CHOICE LIKE? Excellent. There are more than 75 choices of breakfast, lunches, dinners and snacks, with wheat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian options. Breakfasts include muesli, granola and porridge. Lunches can be soup, salad or something such as a small chicken jambalaya. Dinners are a choice of traditional home-cooked favourites such as slow-cooked lamb with market vegetables, Mediterranean cuisine including chickpea tagine, and Asian-inspired dishes such as Jane’s aloo saag and Thai chicken curry. You can also have one Jane Plan snack a day from a choice of biscuits, cookies, shortbread, chocolate bars, corn snacks (our testers favourite) or mini oatcakes.

IS IT GOOD FOR VEGETARIANS? Excellent. On average there are 28 vegetarian options across lunch and dinner.

WHAT DOES THE FOOD TASTE LIKE? Each meal is bursting with flavour. The portions may be small but they definitely don’t skimp on taste. The spicier dishes were particularly liked, often getting favourable comments from non-dieters.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: Excellent, and there’s a nutritionist on hand should you need advice. You get a weekly call to see how you’re doing and to offer encouragement and advice, which is very positive.

OVERALL VERDICT: The food is packaged beautifully – it’s a small thing but unpacking them all is an absolute treat. The food is heat- treated so doesn’t need to be frozen or refrigerated – just store it in a cool, dry place. The portions are very small – it’s
a bit of a wake-up call to see what’s considered to be a normal portion – but it was easy to get used to and bulking out with permitted veg and salad didn’t leave you hungry. The food is delicious and it was so nice not to have to worry about what you might eat. It fitted around cooking family meals as the tester cooked as normal but saved veg portions to go with her microwave diet meal, so it didn’t create extra work. Tester loved how this worked and would use the plan again as weight loss was painless and consistent, with 7lb in week one, 3lb in weeks two and three, and 2lb in week four.

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