**This article has been adapted from the original post by Fitmo Coach, Robbie Farlow here. A few things have changed since Robbie wrote this. Check the update at the bottom for the new details**
For a little over a month, my wife and I have been using Blue Apron. The weekly subscription box service that delivers dinner to your doorstep.
Every Tuesday, we get a box packed with three different meals.
We have the option of choosing from 6 different meals on Blue Apron’s website or we’ll receive meals based on our dietary preferences that are set during sign up.
One of the biggest selling points of services like Blue Apron, Plated, or HelloFresh is that each box comes packed fresh seasonal vegetables.
Most of Blue Apron’s meats and veggies are certified organic by the USDA. And their meat suppliers raise their animals without antibiotics.
Subscription box services have exploded in the last few years. You get fresh and delicious meals delivered to your doorstep that could cost you three or five times as much if you went out.
Numerous studies have shown that people who eat at home more often, have an easier time losing and keeping the weight off.
As a fitness coach, who happens to be pretty damned good at the nutrition side of things, Blue Apron’s offerings intrigued me. Could it be a viable solution I could promote to clients, family, or friends trying to lose weight?
So far, I’ve enjoyed what Blue Apron has had to offer. In regards to whether it’s a good solution for those on a fat loss protocol, the jury is still out.
Before I dive into the nuts and bolts of calories/macros and weight loss, let’s look at taste, prep time, the variety of meals, and cost.
How’s it Rate?
Confession: I may be the most boring eater ever.
When I cook at home, I like quick meals; hence why I’m such a taco nerd, they’re simple and quick to make.
I don’t mind experimenting with meals every once and awhile. But that’s not very easy as my wife is picky. And by picky, I mean like little kid picky. (As she’s said before, “I know what I like and I like what I like.”)
For my wife, Blue Apron’s presented new and exciting tastes for her pallet. About half of the meals she’s been “meh” about and the other half, she said she’d love to have again.
It’s food, it doesn’t taste like dog shit, so I’m good.
So, overall, on a scale of 1-10, I’d leave most meals at a 7. (To get a 10, your food has to give me an orgasm as it hits my taste buds).
Prep time usually says about 10 minutes. Cooking times range anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
Ignore those ranges. Plan for an hour no matter what.
Reading directions to make sure you’re following the recipe takes time. And if you’re trying to keep the amount of dishes you use to a minimum, then you need to add in time to wash and dry your cutlery.
There’s a lot of chopping involved as well. So add a little more time if your knife skills are a bit rusty. You don’t wanna slice off part of your thumb, trust me, it’s not fun.
Compared to a microwaved dinner or grabbing fast food, yes, it takes longer. But you’ll be more connected to your food and probably more proud of the dish YOU created.
Variety of Meats and Veggies
What’s great about a box service like Blue Apron is their use of seasonal produce.
That means throughout the year, you’ll be consuming a wider array of vegetables. So you don’t have to worry about getting pissed off that you’re eating broccoli, again.
For instance, our first month of Blue Apron included a lot of corn. Now we’re getting a bit more kale and collards.
If you happen to be a super picky eater who only likes a small variety of veggies, you’re out of luck on this one.
Where’s the Beef?
You have a few choices when you set up your dietary profile:
No red meat
*Currently, Blue Apron doesn’t have a gluten-free option.*
Each week, meat eaters receive chicken and some sort of fish. Beef and pork rotate from week to week, though not always. And from time to time, you may have the option of lamb as well.
Depending on the choices you make, some meals can’t be chosen as a part of your combination for that week.
I’m assuming the reasoning behind this has something to do with availability or the ease of combining certain ingredients.
Not a huge issue 95% of the time. But you may have to give up one meal you’re super interested in due to combination restrictions.
Blue Apron costs $60 per week.
Designed to be shared between 2 people, that means each meal costs $10.
Unless you’re ordering off the value menu at McDonalds or grabbing a $5 footlong at Subway, you’re not going to go out to most places for less than $10.
And if there is a place like a Chili’s or an Applebee’s that does offer a $10 meal, remember you also have to tip.
I’ll be honest. At first, I was skeptical of the value and cost for Blue Apron.
But so far, we’ve decreased our grocery bill a few dollars each week.
Now, let’s get into the main question I want to address…
Is Blue Apron a viable solution for anyone who’s trying to lose body fat and stay in a caloric deficit?
Total Calories in Meals
Of the meals we’ve had, only 2 or 3 have been under 650 calories while the rest came in anywhere from 700-810 calories per person.
Going out only affords you a handful of lower calorie options at many chain restaurants.
Be honest, how often are you ordering the Spicy Jalapeno Blue Cheese Burger versus the Grilled Salmon with Broccoli and Rice?
Unless it’s notated as a “low-calorie option” most of the meals on the menu at chain restaurants or your favourite local establishment can range anywhere from 600-2,000+ calories.
In a majority of the cases, this would make Blue Apron a far better option.
But is it?
For men, these meals aren’t bad. But for many of the women I coach, these meals could take up 40-60% of their overall total calories for the day.
That would mean to fit them in for dinner they’d need to have smaller meals during the day and eat zero snacks.
What about the individual macro (protein, fats, and carbs) breakdown? How does Blue Apron fair for macro counters?
Carbs are pretty moderate with these meals. The meals I’ve had that included rice gave my wife and I each 1/4 cup serving—the standard serving size for rice.
This also applies to the other grains we’ve eaten like farro, quinoa, or gnocchi.
In total, you might be getting around 35-55 grams of carbs per meal.
Whether you have chicken, fish, beef, or pork each meal has (from meat alone) around 20-28 grams of protein. So not too shabby.
Add in a few grams from grains, nuts, or other knick knacks included in the meal and your total protein comes out to around 30-40 grams. Again this depends on the ingredients of your meal; vegan options are usually much lower in protein.
This is where I have some issues with Blue Apron.
Each meal uses a lot of oil to cook with. Anywhere from 1-2 teaspoons per step, to 2-3 tablespoons overall.
Add that on top of the cut of meat you receive and you could have anywhere from 31-50 grams of fat per meal.
Fat isn’t bad. You need it for important bodily functions, but if you’re tracking macros, specifically, and your macros allow you 45-68 grams of fat a day, you’d be consuming nearly all your fat macros in one meal.
If you choose to eat low-fat throughout the day, not a huge deal. Still, it’s something macro counters would need to be aware of.
We Might Have a Problem
Of course, my brain wanted to put the meals to the test and see if the calories ascribed were correct.
And I think they’re off.
I never came close to the count that Blue Apron had on their recipes.
Counting all the ingredients, except for veggies and herbs, and the oil used per the directions I came up on average about 200-250 calories under what they estimated.
Blue Apron could be counting the veggies and herbs. But their total calories wouldn’t amount to much. So I’m not sure what’s going.
Again, this is anecdotal, and I could be completely wrong and Blue Apron’s calorie count is right. But still, an interesting data point to leave here.
Who’s Blue Apron For?
Overall, if you’ve been used to eating TV dinners, fast food, or meals at chain restaurants, I think Blue Apron is a great transition to eating more food at home.
Each meal provides step by step directions (complete with pictures) with all the ingredients portioned out for you, minus any oil it instructs you to use.
Remember color by numbers as a kid? Well, Blue Apron is essentially “cooking by numbers.”
I can see Blue Apron being perfect for:
Newly married couples
Recent college grads
Busy professionals who want healthy meals without having to plan
Anyone looking to transition into eating more whole foods
So is it great for anyone looking to lose body fat and get lean?
Sure. You can fit these meals into your calories/macros for the day and still lose weight.
Women? I don’t know?
Some of the higher calorie meals may be more difficult to fit into a fat loss plan for women.
Especially, when you consider some dinners could take up 40-60% of your caloric intake for the day.
Should You Put on the Blue Apron?
Overall, if you’re looking to cook more at home but find cookbooks intimidating or aren’t sure where to start, I think Blue Apron is a great choice.
The meals are delicious, easy to prepare, and most of all, it’s affordable.
One added bonus is that after a couple of months of Blue Apron, you’ll have plenty of recipes to pull from even if you decided to cancel your subscription in the future.
Since I wrote this article, Blue Apron has changed a couple of things.
The recipes now come without the calories listed on the individual recipe cards.
However, a full list of the Nutrition Facts comes in the bottom of the Knick Knack bags for each recipe. There is one thing you’ll need to pay careful attention to, though.
Some recipes will show a serving size of 1/3 of the cooked meal and not the standard half. In that case, you’ll need to add up the full calories and macros then divide by half.
By Fitmo Coach, Robbie Farlow
I am a gamer and for years, I gave up my pursuit of health and fitness. My body became like the unplayed games on my shelf, forgotten and unused. I had zero confidence, my stomach was beginning to ooze over the top of my pants, and I felt like a stranger was looking back at me in the mirror. Then I realized that I could accomplish these goals if I turned the process into a game and made it an adventure that played out like games that I spent hours pouring into. I’m now an online personal trainer and I see my role as your sidekick. A companion who assists and helps make your quest easier to complete.