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I've Sampled Dozens of Meal Delivery Services, and Fresh N Lean Is Still the Best I've Tried

I've scarfed down more than 30 of Fresh N Lean's premade meals. Here's why I think it's the best subscription to try in 2023.

Updated Nov. 11, 2023 6:00 a.m. PT

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Written by  David Watsky
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David Watsky Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now, he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or researching the best way to make bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
Expertise Kitchen tools, appliances, food science, subscriptions and meal kits.
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Fresh N Lean
9.2/10 CNET Score
See at Fresh N' Lean
fresh-n-lean
9.2/ 10
SCORE

Fresh N Lean

See at Fresh N' Lean
Pricing Starting at $10/serving
Type Prepared meals
Meal options per week 18
Good for Keto, paleo, Whole30, gluten-free Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, high-protein

Score Breakdown

Taste/results 9/10Value 8/10Recipe variety 10/10Healthiness 10/10

Pros

  • Most of the meals I tried was good or great
  • Food looked appetizing upon arrival
  • Healthy, whole and mostly organic ingredients with lots of variety
  • Good for specialty diets and eating plans
  • All the food freezes well
  • Competitive prices and shipping is free
  • New keto snacks are an excellent addition

Cons

  • Menu choices are largely preset, except for expensive a la carte plans
  • Changing your meal plan requires a phone call or email
  • Avoid the breakfast meals

Meal kits are ideal for people who want to cook but don't care to do all the planning, shopping and prep. If cooking isn't a hobby you're interested in undertaking, or you'd like to do less of it, prepared meal delivery services send meals that are ready to heat and eat. The problem then becomes which meal delivery service to choose. By my count, there are now more than 30 meal subscription options with national reach. After tasting my way through nearly all of them, I've found that Fresh N Lean stands tall as the most consistent and healthy meal delivery service, with fair prices, an intuitive ordering platform and an impressive menu of excellent meals and snacks.

There are other meal services that might be a better fit if you've got particular tastes or dietary restrictions. But if you're looking to have a regular cache of healthy, premade meals in your fridge and freezer, you'll want to check out Fresh N Lean. It's earned our Editor's Choice Award (again), and it tops our list as the best meal delivery service in 2023.

How Fresh N Lean works

four Fresh and Lean meals

Meals come vacuum-sealed for max freshness. 

David Watsky/CNET

This meal subscription service is aimed at people who are looking to eat healthy, with plans for keto, paleo, organic and plant-based diets. Fresh N Lean is a mostly organic service. Unlike with a "cook it yourself" meal kit service, you'll get premade and vacuum-sealed meals that are ready to eat and are sent to your door every week. 

When you sign up, you choose one of nine meal plans: Protein Plus, Keto, Paleo, Vegetarian, Standard Vegan, Low Carb Vegan, Mediterranean, Whole30 or a bulk plan that sends large portions of meats, veggies and grains for mixing and matching and DIY meal planning. Next, you'll choose how many days per week you want meals (five or seven) and how many meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner or any combination of the three). You can easily change meal plans after you've signed up.

The price per meal doesn't change regardless of whether you choose five or seven days of meals, but it does vary significantly based on how many meals per day you opt for. For instance, choose only dinners for the Protein Plus plan and it'll be about $15 per meal but the price drops down to $10.82 per meal if you get breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days per week. 

vegan-tofu-before

One of Fresh N Lean's vegan offerings: Tofu with chili-lime rice and broccoli. 

David Watsky/CNET

Meals are delivered every Friday unless you choose to pause your subscription or skip for any particular week. A pause or week skip must both be done by Sunday of the previous week. 

Two pro tips: Fresh N Lean's standard subscription is for weekly deliveries, but if you call the customer care line (888-420-4080) they'll adjust your plan to bi-weekly -- a good way to test the service, or if you don't want five meals every week. Likewise, if you want to change to a different meal track (say, from Keto to Low Carb Vegan) you'll need to call that number or email "hello [at] freshnlean.com." Note that neither change can be done online. 

Fresh N Lean meals are cooked in the brand's kitchen in Moosic, Pennsylvania, where they're portioned, packaged and delivered fresh, not frozen as with some services. All meals are fridge- or freezer-ready, and it might sound obvious but don't forget to pop any meals in the freezer that you don't plan to eat within a few days.

Fresh N Lean has a la carte meal options too, but these are significantly more expensive -- about $15 per meal -- and you'll need to meet an $85 minimum. You can also add a la carte items to your order delivery each week, but the prices remain the same (expensive). 

What are Fresh N Lean meals like?

Fresh N Lean has lots of variety while keeping everything pretty healthy. There are very hearty dinners like grass-fed steak with bearnaise and sweet potato along with lighter fare including chicken thigh with curried spinach and sesame cod with bok choy. 

The vegan menu features a few tofu stir-fries each week along with rice or bean bowls and also some faux meats like seitan or plant-based chicken used in various ways. The food is not heavily seasoned but there are plenty of interesting flavors, spices and sauces plucked from popular world cuisines.

Most Fresh N Lean meals fall somewhere in the 400-to-500-calorie range. The keto meals are, of course, low in carbs and make frequent use of cauliflower, eggplant and other hearty vegetables. Fresh N Lean meals are all made with real, mostly organic ingredients, and there was nothing mysterious on the labels to decipher -- something I always like to see.

I found Fresh N Lean portions to be adequate but not excessive, which I assume is to encourage portion control for those trying to watch calorie intake. I wouldn't expect leftovers, and big eaters may find them to be on the small side.

med-chicen-label

The ingredients list for my Mediterranean chicken.

David Watsky/CNET

How much does Fresh N Lean cost?

There are many pricing combinations, depending on the meal plan and frequency. Too many, perhaps. For a snapshot, Fresh N Lean meals start at around $8.49 when you pick three meals a day from the Standard Vegan plan. Keep in mind that would mean receiving 15 or 21 meals per week. If you choose just two meals per day for five days a week (10 meals total) the price jumps to $10.50. Meal plans with meat are about a dollar more per meal.

bulk meats from website

Bulk items include cooked chicken breast, seared salmon and turkey burgers.

David Watsky/CNET

Whole30 meals are priced differently and purchased in bundles of five, seven or 10 meals. bulk proteins and sides are also priced a la cart and require a weekly delivery minimum order of $85.

Fresh N Lean meal plan pricing

Price per meal (3 meals per day) Price per meal (2 meals per day) Price per meal (1 meal per day)
Paleo $10.60$12.60$15.49
Protein Plus $10.32$11.49$15.49
Keto $10.66$11.99$15.49
Low Carb Vegan $10.66$11.99$15.49
Mediterranean $10.32$11.49$14.49
Vegan Standard $8.49$9.00$12.00
Vegetarian $8.49$9.00$12.00

If you want meals with meat, it'll be about $13 per meal for two meals per day (10 or 14 meals per week) and closer to $15 per meal if you choose only one meal per day (five or seven total meals per week). So, yeah, the more you order the cheaper it gets, but don't forget that trick I mentioned about scheduling bi-weekly boxes instead of every week. Our little secret.

tofu-chili-lime

Chili lime tofu with rice and broccoli. 

David Watsky/CNET

What I ate and how I liked it

hand holding lentil bowl meal

This lentil bowl is one of the only Fresh N Leans meals out of dozens I've tried that I found a tad boring.

David Watsky/CNET

Now for the fun part. I tested two more weeks' worth of Fresh N Lean meals, all of which were preselected for me. This is in addition to a previous round of testing, where I tried another 12 meals. In both deliveries of meals, I found all of them to be, at the very least, good and most were better than that. Proteins were all cooked well and not rubbery, stringy or tough. Even seafood dishes such as salmon filets and shrimp didn't taste overcooked or mealy.

Overall, Fresh N Lean had the best-tasting meals of any service I've tried, and it's not particularly close. My food was all fresh and the meats were (mostly) cooked nicely and not dry or tough. The same goes for vegetables, which were rarely mushy -- an issue I've encountered often in these tests.

Tofu with shitake mushrooms and cauliflower fried rice: Tofu from meal delivery services is often tough and inedible. Fresh N Lean's is silky smooth and completely delicious.

fresh n lean tofu meal

I'm not typically a big fan of tofu but Fresh N Lean's version was soft, buttery and delicious.

David Watsky/CNET

Chicken thighs with olives, kale and tomato: I loved this one and found it rather unexpected from a service like this. It reminded me of a nice light lunch you might get at a Greek restaurant. A bit of a risky recipe since not everyone loves olives, but it worked like a charm on me.

med-chicken

Boneless chicken thigh with kale, tomato and olives.

David Watsky/CNET

Chili-lime tofu with rice and broccoli: Being a harsh tofu critic, I had extremely low expectations for this one, but it ended up working well. Both the broccoli and tofu had the right texture -- not mushy or tough -- which isn't always easy to do, and the flavors were bright and balanced. 

Vegan cheese taco bowl with rice: This was true vegan comfort food. The plant-based cheese melted exactly like dairy cheese and the medium spice level was right on the money.

vegan taco bowl meal
David Watsky/CNET

Braised beef with vegetables and coconut-cilantro sauce: This was one of the best prepared meals I've tried from any service. The beef was restaurant-tender, and all the flavors worked. It was the only one that didn't look so appealing, but once I dug in, I couldn't have cared less.

Citrus marinated shrimp with squash and mushrooms: I'm always worried that the seafood from a prepared meal service is going to be scary. This shrimp still had its snap, and the keto side dish was simple but satisfying.

Hang holding meal in package
David Watsky/CNET

Chicken breast with cremini mushrooms and tomatoes over rice: This meal had really nice flavor and reminded me of a light chicken cacciatore, and the veggies were cooked nicely. My one complaint is the chicken breast was a tad dry. 

Turkey breast with cauliflower, cranberry and celery hash: An obvious nod to Thanksgiving. I was surprised at how tender the turkey breast was and assume it must have been prepared sous vide. The flavors were mild but classic, and it proved to be a very solid meal. 

turkey-dinner

A surprisingly moist turkey breast over cauliflower and cranberry hash.

David Watsky/CNET

Fresh N Lean has added gluten-free, keto-friendly snacks, and they rule

One of the best new additions to Fresh N Lean's growing menu is a fleet of snacks that can be added to your order at an additional cost. As a gluten-intolerant person, I tried three of the brand's gluten-free noshes that also happen to be keto-friendly. The coconut macaroons were the biggest hit and the bag of chewy cookies disappeared in a day or two. I also received a bag of keto peanut butter cups that were noticeably less sweet than a Reese's cup but just as satisfying. Finally, a bag of barbecue roasted almonds proved to be the perfect midday protein pick-me-up, and it didn't contain absurd amounts of sodium like many packaged nuts do.

coconut macaroons

These coconut macaroons were made with monk fruit sweetener instead of sugar. The bag did not last long in my home.

David Watsky/CNET

Breakfast meals are the only weak spot

fresh n lean eggs meal

The scrambled eggs with potatoes were edible, but certainly nothing special.

David Watsky/CNET

Though nearly all the dinners I tried were good or better, the breakfast meals were just OK. Many of Fresh N Lean's breakfast options focus on scrambled eggs, which just aren't ever particularly tasty when premade and reheated later. I'll say that I've definitely had worse, from other services -- and even a few hotel breakfast buffets -- but I probably won't be ordering more breakfast meals from Fresh N Lean anytime soon.

The verdict on Fresh N Lean meal delivery

I'll keep it simple. If you're looking to try a prepared meal service to keep to a health or nutrition goal or just to have some ready-to-eat meals on hand for those crazy days, Fresh N Lean ticked the most boxes of any service I've tried and is the one I'd recommend. From vegan tofu stir-fries to slow-cooked beef dishes, everything I tried over my two-week test run was at least good and most meals were far better than that.  Not to mention the excellent, healthy snacks subscribers can now add to an order.

Save for one slightly dry chicken breast, it's clear that the brand keeps meals to a high standard. An impressive feat considering the food is cooked ahead of time, vacuum-sealed, packed on ice and flown across the country. The meals were all made with simple, healthy ingredients too and everything looked appetizing upon arrival.

Fresh N Lean may not be the cheapest prepared meal service, but it's also not the most expensive either. If you opt for 10 meals per week, it's about $12 per meal and even cheaper if you order more meals per day or choose a plant-based meal plan. This puts Fresh N Lean squarely in the same price range as some other meal delivery services I've tried and most of them weren't nearly as good.  The vegan meals are even cheaper and will come in under $9 a meal if you order three per day.

Why I'm so confident in my assessment of Fresh N Lean

At last count, I've tested somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 prepared meal services. Some have been reliable and consistent, offering crave-worthy and comforting recipes, but their offerings have packed a few more calories than you might want. Others have the health thing down, using wholesome, organic ingredients in healthy recipes, but their meals come at a hefty price, and some of those meals just aren't great. All the services have strengths and weaknesses, but none has ticked as many boxes as Fresh N Lean has.

Mosaic Foods is another favorite and might be a better choice if you're eating a vegan or vegetarian diet, since its meals are 100% plant-based. CookUnity has slightly more-inventive recipes. But for my money, Fresh N Lean still offers the best value for a typical omnivore who's seeking healthy, easy meals to stock the fridge for busy days and nights.