Packaged/Delivered Meals Practice

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Some portion controlled diets offer pre-packaged or pre-made meals that can be delivered to your home or picked up from a center. This is a very effective weight loss method as there is an exact daily calorie intake. Additionally, packaged diets and meal delivery have been found to work better for many people because they teach fundamentals of portion control, balanced meals and eating healthy foods by actually providing examples and helping to create healthy habits.

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You can Expect: simplified meal planning, quick preparation, tailored plan that suits your individual needs, possible weight loss.

Level of Effort: Moderate

Time Involved: 15 minutes a day


Getting Started:

  1. Determine a healthy weight for your body and decide how much weight you want to lose.
  2. Know your weight loss goals.
  3. What you need to know about yourself before choosing a plan.
  4. Choose a provider.
  5. Consider your maintenance plan.


What to Consider:



1. Determine a healthy weight for your body and then decide how much weight you want to lose.

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) is a statistical measure of an individual's weight scaled according to his/her height. Basically it is a simple index of weight-for-height and is a useful tool and for most individuals to classify their current weight and determine an ideal or happy weight for themselves.

Calculate Your BMI

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) You can also calculate the number of calories your body actually needs in order to function. If you understand the amount of calories your body needs to function then you can determine how many calories are needed to maintain your current weight and then how many to lose weight. There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you're trying to lose, maintain or even gain weight. Knowing your BMR can also help you think about how much exercise you are willing to do.

Calculate Your BMR


2. Know your weight loss goals

Make a commitment to yourself, after that you can take steps to make the process habitual. Ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to do this?
  • Is my motivation coming from within?
  • Can I deal with occasional setbacks or lack of progress?
  • Can I focus on weight loss fully? (If you're in the midst of a job change or other distractions, for example, it might be better to resolve those issues, and then focus on weight loss efforts.)
  • Am I committed to exercising on a regular basis?
  • Finally, be sure you're committed to losing weight for yourself -- not because someone else is pressuring you to do so.

Assuming you are making the choice to loose weight as a part of a long-term goal to be fit and healthy, it is important to include that as a goal of the diet. That way as you are going through the plan you can remind yourself to pay attention to what the plan is trying to teach you about healthy eating. It will also help you choose a plan because you want to ensure that you truly are learning about portion control, creating balanced meals and finding healthy foods that you enjoy eating.


3. What you need to know about yourself before choosing a plan

Determine your weight loss plan budget - Prepackaged and meal delivery can be a more expensive weight loss option but it is not much more than the cost of cooking your own healthy meals. Make sure whatever plan you choose will fit your budget for the entire duration of the diet. Weight loss programs offering pre-packaged meals tend to cost more than other diet programs, since they're providing so much of your food. You can expect to pay $250 and up monthly for many pre-packaged meal programs.

Most prepackaged meal plans consist of a pre-planned menu, of food options for meals, snacks and desserts, along with a variety of weight loss tools. Meal delivery would go an additional step and deliver frozen or freshly prepared foods. A monthly subscription for a diet food delivery program ranges from around $10 to $40 per day based on your level of service and meal plan. You may also need to purchase your own additional servings of fresh produce and dairy products, which increases the amount you spend on meals each week. Some companies offer promotions or discounts for ordering online or purchasing meals for the whole month. For instance, Nutrisystem offers free shipping and a 10% discount to members involved in the automatic delivery program.


Determine the Time Commitment you can make - Since the plans are designed around a set menu the time required is low. Prepackaged foods make planning your meals simple; meals are prepared in the time it takes to heat your meal. This makes the time commitment to your diet much less, all you have to do is pay attention to the lessons the diet is teaching you. Depending on the amount of freedom you would like in your meals there maybe more time required. For example, if you would only like to have prepackaged meals for breakfast and lunch, but want to cook dinners for yourself and your family, it will require more time planning these meals.


Support - In conjunction with the amount of time you want to spend you should consider if you desire a program that includes in center support, online support or any support at all. Attending these meetings will also be a time commitment on your part. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you prefer to diet on your own, or do you like getting support from a group? If you like group support, do you prefer online support or in-person meetings?
  • How much are you willing to figure out or do you want detailed instructions?


Think through your home and work responsibilities - If you have a family that you cook for on a nightly basis you will need to consider if you are willing to prepare separate meals for your family or if you can include cooking for them as part of your plan.


Understand your personality and how it affects your choice - Personality plays a role in our attitude towards food. Therefore, if you are aware of your tendencies you will be better able to choose a plan that works with your lifestyle and helps you conquer temptations. Pre-packaged meals may work for your weight loss program if you have difficulty controlling cravings and preventing yourself from taking seconds while at the table.

Keeping a food journal for a week is a great way to learn more about your food personality. It will help you identify patterns and understand your relationship with food better. When thinking about your personality, ask yourself if any of the following apply to you:

  • Impulsive - If you have a tendency to be impulsive, you might see a pint of Ben & Jerry's in the freezer and go for it. As a result you are a dieter who needs to remove those temptations.
  • Oblivious - If you tend to not pay attention when you eat - do you eat on autopilot a lot, not really remembering eating? Are you a snacker, do you snack in front of the TV or computer? If so, you need to avoid such situations if you want to control portions. Additionally you will want to focus on mindful eating.
  • Uptight - If you are highly anxious, you will probably have more difficulty. Those who are anxious, nervous, and depressed might eat to feel better.
  • Tenacious - Certain personalities don't find it that difficult losing weight. If you are highly self-directed, cooperative, and have a lot of willpower, you are going to have an easier time.


Do you have any special needs or considerations? Most packaged food diets or delivery services can accommodate these considerations or may even have a special meal plan for your needs, but you will want to be sure and check.

  • Do you have a health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or allergies?
  • Do you have specific cultural or ethnic requirements or preferences when it comes to food? These are important factors that should help determine which diet you choose.


Do you have any past diet insights- If you have tried diets in the past it is helpful to evaluate what you did and did not like about them.

  • What did you like or dislike about past diets?
  • Were you able to follow the diet?
  • What worked or didn't work for you on this diet?
  • How did you feel physically and emotionally while on the diet?


4. Choosing a provider

Prepackaged and/or delivered foods offer simplified meal planning and quick preparation. New and established companies in the industry offer prepackaged meals for dieters who want to lose weight without counting calories or cooking meals. Most prepackaged meals are kept frozen, ready to reheat in your microwave or oven. These plans make planning your meals simple; meals are prepared in the time it takes to heat your meal. Most companies provide the option of choosing meals from a variety of foods, allowing members to select foods that fit their preferences or dietary needs. Several diet food delivery plans provide options for individuals, dieters, families and members who have health concerns such as diabetes. There is no single provider that will help everyone who tries it, but if you consider your personal preferences, lifestyle and weight goals, you may be able to find or tailor a plan to suit your individual needs.

There are a ton of diet plan providers, using the items above that you have determined about yourself will help narrow down the list. Keep in mind that just because it's popular or your friends are doing it doesn't mean it's the best or safest weight-loss approach for you.


Program Elements

Long-term success with weight loss will require making permanent changes in your eating and exercise habits. Therefore, it is important that the plan you choose teaches you these skills. The plan you choose should contain these basic elements:

  • Flexibility. The plan may shift at some point starting out being rigid and then becoming more flexible as you reach certain milestones. But it is important that at some point the plan prepare you for everyday life after you reach your goal or end the diet. Look for a plan that doesn't forbid certain foods or food groups but instead includes a variety of foods from all the major food groups. A healthy diet includes vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, nuts, seeds and even an occasional sweet indulgence.
  • Balanced nutrition. If you are eating a balanced diet then you should feel satisfied and not be hungry. A weight-loss plan should include proper amounts of nutrients and calories for your individual situation. Diets that leave you feeling deprived or hungry may create irresistible cravings, or worse yet, may leave you feeling like giving up. Additionally if your weight-loss plan doesn't encourage permanent healthy lifestyle changes, the pounds you do lose could quickly come back once you stop dieting.
  • Enjoyment. A diet should include foods you like and that you would enjoy eating for the rest of your life, not just for several weeks or months. If you don't like the diet, if it's overly restrictive or if it becomes boring, you're probably not going to stick to it.
  • Physical activity. Every weight-loss program should include recommendations to increase physical activity. Exercise plus portion control can help give you the weight-loss edge. Exercise also offers numerous health benefits, including boosting your mood, strengthening your cardiovascular system and reducing your blood pressure. Additionally, exercise has been found to be the most important factor in maintaining weight loss. Studies show that people who maintain their weight loss over the long term get regular physical activity.
  • Steady pace. A slow and steady approach is easier to maintain and usually beats out fast weight loss for the long term. An average weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week is the typical recommendation. In some situations, faster weight loss can be safe if it's done the right way, such as during a brief quick-start phase of a healthy-eating plan that offers lots of healthy and safe strategies at once. If a diet touts that you will loose large amounts of weight in a short period of time it is usually considered a "fad diet" and should be avoided.


Evaluate providers

Keep the elements you determined previously in mind when you review providers. Be sure to carefully evaluate your provider before choosing one, in order to find the diet that best fits your needs.

  • Number of Servings - determine if you want the food included in your diet plan to be for you alone or include portions for your family. Many companies will provide food to feed two to four people or single servings. Be sure you find a company that delivers food in the serving sizes you desire.
  • Customer Satisfaction - look for customer reviews on the company. Check if the company has a guarantee and stands behind its products and services. Signs of credibility are if a provider is willing to refund your money and give you a credit for any food that you are not satisfied with.
  • Shipping Fees - You pay shipping fees on top of the cost of the food. You will get more value for your money if you can make less frequent, larger orders, instead of frequent smaller ones.


The questions below might be helpful in your provider evaluation:

  • What does the program consist of? 
    • Think about time commitment, what it teaches you and how it fits with your personality
    • Does the diet plan allow you a lot of freedom to choose your food or does it require you to follow specific menus?
    • Is it something you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle?
    • Does it teach you how to make positive, healthy changes in your life to help maintain your weight loss?
    • Does it help you adopt a lifelong, healthier approach to eating and exercise that will help you maintain weight loss permanently?
    • Do you go to a clinic, center or use a website for food ordering?
  • Does it offer support? If so, is it online or in-person support?
  • What results and benefits does the weight-loss program promise?
    • Does it claim that you'll lose a lot of weight in a very short time?
    • Does it claim that you can target specific problem areas of your body?
    • Does it tout before-and-after photos that seem too good to be true?
  • What are the risks?
    • Could the weight-loss program harm your health?
    • Does it require you to buy supplements, drugs or injections?
    • Are the recommended drugs or supplements safe for your situation, especially if you have a health condition or take medications?
  • Who created the weight-loss plan?
    • What are their qualifications and experience?
    • Do they have solid research and science to back up their weight-loss approach?
    • If you go to a weight-loss clinic, what expertise, training, certifications and experience do the doctors, dietitians and other staff have?
    • Will their doctors or staff coordinate care with your regular doctor?
  • Does the program offer a maintenance plan?
    • Most people can lose weight on almost any diet plan that restricts calories - at least in the short term. It's more difficult to maintain weight loss permanently. Most people who keep weight off for the long term are those who adopt healthy-eating habits as part of their normal lifestyle and who also get regular exercise.


Popular providers

Here are some of the most popular packaged and delivered meals diet providers, along with an evaluation table example.

Program Provider Budget Time Skills Taught Rigid or Flexible Support Plan Description
Jenny Craig Medium - High
Low - Moderate
Yes, in center or on phone
Dieters sign up for individual counseling and meal plans at company outlets, by phone, or online. Centerpiece of diet is eating Jenny Craig prepared foods of single-serving entrées and snacks, supplemented by dairy, salads, and other vegetables you prepare yourself. You work closely with Jenny Craig counselors to learn about portion control, healthy cooking and eating at home or while dining out.
eDiets Low - High
Low - High High - Moderate Rigid - Flexible
Yes, limited online
Online subscription diet site offers 24 meal plans customized for various eating preferences and desired weight loss. One of diets is a meal delivery service of prepackaged foods. For the price you receive a number of services; customized diet and meal plans, shopping list, email assistance, and access to online tools and calculators.
Nutrisystem Medium - High Low - Moderate High Rigid - Flexible Yes, limited online
A diet plan based on its portion and calorie-controlled pre-packaged meals and meal-delivery service. There are quite a few plan variations to choose from, all based around a system of low-glycemic foods, omega-3 fatty acids to promote heart health and fiber to promote satiety.
Bistro MD
High Low High - Moderate Rigid No
By combining the science of nutrition with culinary cooking, one can lose weight as a result of having portion-controlled and perfectly-balanced delicious meals. Bistro MD designs meals with an average calorie count of 1,200 a day. Servings can be for one or many people.
Chef's Diet
High Low High - Moderate Rigid No The program works by having a series of pre-packaged meals shipped to the mailing address of the customers. Since the meals are already planned, there isn't any need to do the calculations for different nutrients. The original concept based on The Zone Diet framework.

*For help researching more providers Everydiet is a website focused on just that:


5.  Consider your maintenance plan

Ensure that whatever diet plan you choose that it has a maintenance plan that you can follow. Successful weight loss requires permanent changes to your eating habits and physical activity. This means you need to find a weight-loss approach that you can embrace for life. Even then, you may always have to remain vigilant about your weight. But combining a healthier diet and more activity is the best way to lose weight and keep it off for the long term. Take your weight loss and weight maintenance one day at a time and surround yourself with supportive resources to help ensure your success.


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Be cautious

  • Be cautious of "Fad diets". Fad diets are diets that usually promise that you'll lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time, often without changing your eating habits or exercising. They may tout pills, supplements, skin creams, patches, fat blockers, special combinations of foods, or other diet aids. Fad diets, such as cabbage soup diets, grapefruit diets and lemonade diets, are popular because they may work for the short term - but you usually regain the weight once you stop the fad diet.
  • Be cautious of very low calorie diets (or liquid based diets). These diets drastically cut your daily calorie intake, usually allowing you between 400 and 800 calories a day. These are sometimes called modified fasts because your food intake is so low and because they're generally liquid diets. Your doctor may recommend a very low calorie diet if you need to lose weight quickly before a medical procedure or if you have serious health problems because of obesity. Don't try a very low calorie diet on your own. You need close monitoring by your health care team to avoid complications and to make sure you're meeting your nutritional requirements. Examples of very low calorie diets include Optifast and Medifast.

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