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If you're looking for ways to focus on cleaner eating habits and developing a well-balanced diet this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges, a meal kit company can help you eat better while learning skills for cooking nutritious food at home.

As you'll see from a quick glance, just about every meal kit company claims to be a "healthy" one. Slick marketing lingo and glossy images help argue the case, but some meal kit services are leaps and bounds ahead of others when it comes to the quality of ingredients, nutrition and overall healthiness. Nearly all of the meal kits I tested offer healthy meal delivery services week-to-week and provide nutritional information. That means tracking carbs, calories, proteins and the like will be easier (though it is worth noting that calorie counting has come under fire lately), but some of these meal kits are just plain better for healthy eating, offering more nutritious recipes, better ingredients and health-focused features that fit a particular diet or meal plan. Others just let you fend for yourself a bit more and will tempt you with more unhealthy meals. 

Read more: Catch the best seafood delivery services of 2021

Since proper nutrition is undoubtedly tied to health, I'm always on the lookout for healthy hacks. A food delivery service that offers wholesome premade food or ready-to-cook meal kits are both good ways to save you from yourself. But it's not all business and broccoli: Meal kits also mean having some fun in the kitchen, learning new cooking techniques and discovering your new favorite meal recipes, especially for a beginner cook. 

The case for healthy meal kits over fad diets

Healthy meal kits and meal delivery services offer delicious, curated meals catered to your personal tastes and nutritional needs. One reason folks -- like me, for instance -- tend to prefer meal kits and meal delivery over classic diets is they take away some of the potential for human error and self-sabotage. 

If you order three healthy meals or meal kits at the start of each week, for instance, there's a good chance you'll actually eat those meals and less of a chance you'll make a knee-jerk decision to have greasy pizza or heavy pasta. Using one of these services for meal planning is also protection against the unavoidable whims and pitfalls that emerge as you wheel your cart down the grocery aisle. Ordering those healthy meals for delivery in advance helps set up your week with quality, nutritious food -- at least for a few meals anyhow. Plus, meal kits and meal delivery services offer nutrition accountability, letting you track exactly how much you're eating and the nutritional information of each meal.

Some of the services listed here are healthy prepared meal delivery, sending fully cooked meals -- often frozen or partially frozen -- and ready to eat when you receive them. Others include health-focused meal kits with measured and portioned ingredients all boxed up and ready for easy weeknight cooking. There's a stark difference between meal kits and meal delivery but both make dinnertime easier and can translate into healthier eating choices for you in 2021.

Meal kits

While Blue Apron may have been the first big player in the meal kit delivery sector, specialized kits and delivery services tailored with menu options for organic, low carb, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles followed close behind. Meal kit delivery company startups such as Green Chef, Sunbasket and Purple Carrot offer vegetarian-friendly sustainable and organic meal kits for healthy eating. These healthy meal delivery services differ in offerings and target audiences, but all can be tailored to keep tasty meal kits coming week after week, even for a picky eater on a special diet.

Prepared meals

Prepared meal delivery companies such Veestro, Freshly, Splendid Spoon and Trifecta have taken things a step further, delivering delicious, healthy and fully prepared meals, frozen soups, grain bowls, breakfast items and more on a weekly or monthly basis. Healthy prepared meal delivery services can take the guesswork out of breakfast lunch and dinner, which is key when you're short on time, limiting trips to the grocery store or tired of falling back on the same recipes and takeout menu options. These services help people -- even those with a special dietary preference or specific dietary restrictions such as food allergies -- stay on track with good diet and nutrition thanks to some inventive menu options and full nutritional transparency.

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As mentioned above, many of these healthy meal delivery services have a unique health bent or diet specialty, so no matter what version of healthy food you're looking for, we've got you. Beyond a low-carb or vegetarian option are meal delivery kits for keto and paleo meals, organic or vegan diets, and low-calorie meal plans that aid in losing weight. So, if you're looking to avoid refined sugar, go vegan or start a paleo diet, these can definitely help kick start your plan while ensuring you eat a delicious meal.

I've personally tested each and every meal kit delivery and prepared meal service before making these recommendations. I also did a dive into the specific meal plan offerings and menus as they relate to health and diet as well as the various plans and pricing details for some of the most popular meal delivery services for 2021. 

Bon appetit!

These products and services are independently chosen by our editors and periodically updated. 

The best healthy meal kits

Sunbasket

Sunbasket's healthy meal delivery service focuses on high-quality ingredients, mostly organic produce and easy-to-cook recipes, many of which are designed specifically for various diets and dietary restrictions. Sunbasket meals include options that cater to low-carb, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, keto, paleo meals and Mediterranean diets.

Each week this meal kit delivery service offers 15 to 18 dinner options on the menu. Many are interesting but not complicated to prepare, such as a shrimp paella, turkey-cranberry meatballs with roasted Brussels sprouts or sweet potato taquitos with a black bean salad. My personal favorite was a light and simple pan-seared chicken thigh with Balinese spice and a cool mint-cabbage slaw. You won't be tempted by loads of mashed potatoes or thick heavy sauces in most weekly menus, though an occasional comfort food recipe does appear.

Sunbasket also has an entire market of healthy grocery items to add to your order in the form of snacks like red pepper hummus, miso broth, sous vide egg bites as well as fresh fish, chicken breast, deli meats and more. This is a really handy service, one of Sunbasket's big differentiators and why I personally chose it as the best healthy meal kit service overall.

Pricing and subscriptionEach serving runs about $12, but varies depending on how often you have meals delivered. Three dishes per week (six total servings) will run you about $72. The family plan offers better value but less selection, with just six meals to choose from per week; however, the meal delivery kit portions serve four adults (with leftovers). For the family plan, three fresh meals (12 total servings) costs about $132.

Home Chef

With more than 35 weekly meal kits and recipes to choose from on its menu, including convenient one-pan dinners and oven-ready meals that require almost no prep, Home Chef is a good choice for having simple and delicious low-carb, keto-friendly meals delivered. But with so many meals per week and customization options, you can make Home Chef work for any diet or nutrition goal.

Speaking of which, with Home Chef you can easily substitute the protein and sides in your meal kit, so if a certain dish sounds tasty but you're not a big pork person or don't want potatoes, you can swap in some chicken, fish or veggies as one of the recipe components. Home Chef also allows you to order double the protein in your meal without doubling the overall portion, so it's a great low-carb meal kit option for keto or paleo diets. You can also choose to order antibiotic-free protein from the menu instead of the standard version for an added cost.

Home Chef does have a fair amount of comfort foods that aren't so diet-friendly like meatloaf and potatoes or heavier pasta dishes in addition to the healthy stuff, so you'll have to filter them out to remove temptation or rely on self-control. (That's a thing, right?)

Pricing and subscriptionMeals start at $7.99 per serving with additional premium Home Chef recipes and add-ons offered at market price. You can add fruit for a few extra dollars, for instance, the perfect defense against those 3 p.m. cravings or late-night snacking woes. If you order now, you can get $20 off your first four boxes.

Green Chef

Green Chef is a healthy organic meal-kit delivery service that will tailor your plan to maintain a paleo, keto, vegetarian (plant-powered) or just a steady balanced diet. Roughly 90% of the fresh ingredients included in Green Chef's meal kits are certified organic and its meats are sustainably fished, farmed and raised without hormones or antibiotics.

Like Blue Apron or Sun Basket, Green Chef provides all the organic ingredients needed for cooking a fairly simple meal -- generally in less than 30 minutes -- and thoughtful recipe cards with photos make following instructions easy, like with the simple teriyaki pork meatballs or parmesan-crusted chicken. There are some meal kit services on this list with more total options each week, but Green Chef definitely scores points for quality, healthiness and ease of use. My favorite Green Chef meal was the artichoke crab cakes with quinoa and zucchini, but everything I made was light, fresh and tasty.

Pricing and subscriptionGreen Chef's organic offerings start at around $8 a meal and allow you to customize or skip weeks when traveling and so on.

Blue Apron

Probably the most recognizable of the meal kit services, Blue Apron has a lot of healthy, fresh options on the menu -- and just a lot of options, in general. Blue Apron recently teamed up with Weight Watchers for easy-to-cook healthy recipes like sheet pan tandoori-style chicken and tilapia in lemon-caper sauce. These recipes align with its point system, making it easy for those in the program to have a healthy diet meal plan and keep track. Blue Apron offers customers roughly eight to 12 delicious meals to choose from per week including more than one vegetarian recipe option as well as a few that were created for the Weight Watchers Freestyle program. 

Separate from Weight Watchers meals, their vegetarian options get high marks in the reviews I read, but if you are full-on vegan or vegetarian, there are likely better vegetarian specialty meal kits and meal delivery services with more daily or weekly plant-based options and ingredients. Blue Apron also has one of the most user-friendly meal plan interfaces of all the meal kit services and optional wine pairings, too. 

Pricing and subscription: Price per serving ranges from $7.49 and up, with options to prepare two to four recipes per week and two or four servings per recipe. Keep an eye out for special offers.

Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot is the original plant-based meal kit service and this healthy food delivery service has a loyal and growing customer base. The 100% vegan meal kit service scores points for its inventive and interesting fresh meat-free ingredients and meal prep options like cauliflower and quinoa kofta or sticky apricot seitan stir fry. 

Purple Carrot makes it easy to sort its offerings into high protein or gluten-free meals that satisfy even nonvegetarians. Do be aware that some of the Purple Carrot meals take a bit of time and some skill to prepare but if quality, homemade vegan meal kits are a priority for you (and extra trips to the store are not), this is probably the best meal kit for you. 

In addition to the tasty vegan meals, you can add extras like banana chia pudding or overnight oats with apricot, goji berries and cashew butter to your weekly delivery.

Pricing and subscription: Purple Carrot meals cost you roughly $12 per serving, which isn't exactly cheap for vegan food, but you can choose between two plans designed for either singles or couples (three two-serving meals per week) or a family (two six-serving meals per week). 

The best healthy prepared meal delivery 

Trifecta

It's not hard to tell that Trifecta is born out of the Cross-Fit movement. From the brand's motto "Eat Like You Train" to the fitness imagery and, of course, the food. Trifecta offers a huge menu of lean meals with lots of protein such as grilled salmon and green veggies, chicken and quinoa bowls and flat iron steak. Trifecta uses very high-quality ingredients too, including grass-fed beef, free-range poultry and sustainably-caught seafood. 

There are several plans including Clean Eating, Paleo, Keto, Vegan and Vegetarian meal plans, and while Trifecta meals are not the most inventive I've had, they all tasted solid and fresh -- which is key for any prepared food delivery service. If you're just looking for well-portioned, high-protein meals without a lot of fuss or out-of-box flavors for after your cross-training session, this is a great meal delivery for athletes. You can order breakfast from Trifecta too but my suggestion would be to stick to lunches and dinners. 

Pricing: Plans start at $108 per week for seven meals. This may seem pricey for what it is, but considering the quality of ingredients, it's not terribly expensive. You can order as many as 28 meals per week if you want Trifecta to deliver four meals a day, perhaps for a friend or, ahem, second dinner. Four per day for one week will run you about $386.

Freshly

Freshly is a simple yet consistent ready-to-eat meal subscription (not a meal kit). And it's fresh, like the name says. Freshly's meals eliminate any prep needed for services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh, serving single-portion meals for the health-conscious person who may not have time or interest in cooking. 

Freshly's meals come frozen, to be heated up in a microwave or conventional oven. The average meal option has about 500 calories per serving and is gluten-free, all-natural and free of refined sugar. A few ready-to-eat meals from Freshly's menu include a hearty penne Bolognese bake, chicken with coconut curry and turkey mushroom meatloaf. While not every meal would be considered healthy (by most standards, anyway) most are, and you can easily feed yourself or your family nutritious meals without repeating dishes over and over.

Pricing and subscriptionFreshly meal plans start at $50 for four meals ($12.50 per meal) and get cheaper the more you order. If you go big with the 12-meals-per-week plan, each one breaks down to just $9.

This is definitely the best meal delivery for ready-to-go, healthy breakfast and lunches. Splendid Spoon is hoping to entice folks who want to keep it simple, easy and nutritious for breakfast and lunch with its ready-made smoothies, soups and grain bowls delivered to your door weekly. 

Splendid Spoon puts an emphasis on nourishing ingredients but doesn't slack on taste because of it. Soups include cauliflower tikka and Mexican tomato, while smoothies come in tasty combos like almond butter and jelly, blueberry acai and a green matcha smoothie with spirulina, ginger and turmeric. Soups and smoothies are loosely categorized by their overall intended effect, like "heal," "energize" and "refresh." Splendid Spoon also offers a full-day soup cleanse add-on to "reset" your system.

As much as I loved all of Splendid Spoons soups and smoothies, do be aware that many can be high in sugar, so if cutting back on the white stuff is a goal in 2021, you may want to look elsewhere.

Pricing and subscriptionSplendid Spoon offers a few options, like a breakfast plan with five smoothies per week (most are relatively low in sugar) or a lunch plan, which is five days of veggie-packed soups, stews or grain bowls for $65. Or get the whole shebang: An entire five days' worth of smoothies and lunches (soups and grain bowls) for $95. It is a subscription, but you're free to cancel at any time, including after the first week if you want to just try it out. The brand's most popular plan called the Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Reset includes five noodle bowls and the one-day soup cleanse for $185

Eat Clean Bro

You can tell by the name, Eat Clean Bro, is after a particular segment of the population: bros. And where do bros hang out? Gyms. So this prepared meal service -- as you might have already guessed -- focuses on clean, healthy, protein-packed meals to support that gym life. 

"Bros" who use the prepared meal delivery service (available in select markets only) pick a minimum of five prepared meals to be delivered on the next delivery day. The meals are categorized by protein type (salmon, chicken, pork and so on) or into popular diet categories such as clean, lean, under 400 calories, keto-friendly, vegetarian and more.  

I found most of my meals plenty tasty (with a few misses) but generally not as good, fresh or consistent as Trifecta, which is surely after the same audience. Similar to Trifecta, the meals aren't adventurous but if it's the protein you're after and not culinary revelations, Eat Clean Bro is a good pick. 

Pricing and subscription: Meals start at $8 for meals and go up to $13 for dishes like salmon and steak. High-protein snacks start at $4. It's one of the more budget-friendly prepared meal services available.

Hungryroot

While it's not a traditional meal kit or meal delivery, Hungryroot melds AI and healthy groceries to send a curated heap (based on your preferences) of high-quality groceries, snacks and proteins for quick meals -- or more intricate meal-making if you choose. This is a good option if you like cooking and are looking for some healthy kitchen inspiration, but you find meal kits a little too restrictive. Like, maybe you just don't want tilapia tacos with lime crema tonight. 

Hungryroot is banking on the fact that you'll love its expert suggestions for fun, high-quality grocery store products such as wild mushroom chicken meatballs, Thai peanut sauce or a crunchy carrot-lentil mix. The initial consultation is pretty basic, just accounting for dietary restrictions and allergies. But don't worry, you can fully customize your order after checkout, so if you hate beets, you don't have to eat them. Hungryroot will also send recommended recipes that can be made with some of the items you're receiving.

Pricing and subscription: Small grocery deliveries are $69 and include groceries to make three to four two-serving meals, plus snacks. Medium deliveries are $99 and should make roughly four to five two-serving meals, plus snacks, while large deliveries go for $129 and are enough for five to six two-serving meals, plus snacks.

Veestro

Prepped, frozen and vegetarian (meaning there's no cooking or assembly required), Veestro's meals are shipped and can be heated up in either a microwave, skillet or conventional oven (conventional oven or skillet suggested by me). Veestro's frozen meal delivery service is to be one of the more affordable meal delivery company options, with 15 meals a week (three meals a day) clocking in at just $130. Veestro has a truly massive selection of vegetarian meals, and you build a box of 10, 20 or 30 meals at a time to be delivered in bulk when you want.  

If calorie-counting is important to your health goals, Veestro tries to keep the three daily meals in its "Weight Loss" program around or less than 1,200 calories with dishes like veggie red curry with tofu, seitan soba noodles, meatless shepherd's pie and breakfast burritos. Once you get your first plan, you can start to customize, reordering dishes you liked and skipping those you didn't. 

I thought the quality of food was fairly high for what it is and Vesstro uses more interesting ingredients and flavors than some of the others I tried. I wouldn't eat them every night, but to have three or four on hand in the fridge or freezer for those busy nights is heaven when you need it most.

Pricing and subscriptionThere are several options. A custom or chef's choice plan of 10 meals cost $117. Twenty meals cost $217 and 30 meals will cost you $297. The weight loss plan, which includes three meals a day for five days, recurring, is $176 for five days' worth of meals or $227 for seven days' worth of food. 

More food and health delivery recommendations

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.