Warning: Fresh n’ Lean has changed their business model since 2015 when I did this review. They are no longer an all-vegan service. Even their plant-based plant avoids using the word vegan and I can’t confirm whether eggs, honey, etc. are used. I would suggest taking your business elsewhere because my review clearly does not represent the quality of this service in 2019.
As I have mentioned, probably ad nauseam, things have been very busy for me at my day job, in addition to a few weekends spent traveling and some personal life changes as well. These things have left me with less time to play around in the kitchen (seriously, those of you who are parents, I do not know how you do it). I have been favoring really simple, easy meals, generally with a less refined flavor than the recipes you find on my site. I am still eating plenty of veggies and a pretty balanced diet, but it isn’t always glamorous.
I am also currently living by myself so all of the cooking and cleaning and meal planning (and eating!) duties fall to me and it can be overwhelming at times! I am a big believer in mostly avoiding processed food* and sticking with a whole-foods-centric, always-plant-based diet. Sometimes that means that a food option that would otherwise be convenient and even cheap, is something that I pass over. I am aware that the restrictions I put on my own diet can occasionally contribute to having a more difficult time with things, but to me it’s completely worth it. *I do however, always keep Trader Joe’s vegan frozen meals stocked in my freezer :).
I say these things because I want to be honest with you about where I have been at with my eating habits and cooking, in hope that it will lend some more credence to the following review. A little while ago, Fresh n’ Lean contacted me asking if I would like to review their plant-based meal delivery service. Given all of the things I mentioned above, it seemed like the perfect time for me to try out a healthy meal delivery program and assess the costs and benefits. Following is a short overview of Fresh n’ Lean, pictures (most taken with my phone – sorry!) and descriptions of some of the meals I tried, and my personal opinion of the value, pros and cons of the service.
Fresh n’ Lean offers a variety of ordering options, the best value being the three-meal-per-day plan which is priced at $27.99 per day. All meals are vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, low-sugar, and organic. The meals arrive in individually-sealed, microwave- and oven-safe containers, with cooking instructions and nutrition information printed on the package. They contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives. My particular shipment included 5 days’ worth of meals, which were shipped all at once in a styrofoam container with ice packs. Suggested consume-by dates were labeled individually on the meals and most of them were at least a week out.
Please note: Because I was attempting to use Fresh n’ Lean like a normal person and not like a food blogger, I wasn’t always able to take a picture of what I was eating, so only a selection of the meals are photographed.
Morning glory muffin – I was surprised by how good this muffin was considering that it was premade and stored, as well as gluten-free. The texture was a bit crumbly and dry, but this is to be expected given the low fat content and use of gluten-free flour, and I certainly enjoyed it. I’m not sure why the ingredients didn’t list the specific gluten-free flours used. Someone with allergies may need to inquire further about ingredients. At 280 calories, this is not enough food to constitute a breakfast for me. I went ahead and carried on with my day after eating the muffin, and was hungry about 1.5-2 hours later. Normally I consume approximately 700-800 calories for breakfast, so this made me question whether the Fresh n’ Lean breakfasts in particular are a good fit for me.
Blueberry banana chia (not pictured) – This was a meal consisting of pretty much only blueberries, banana, chia seeds, and a bit of maple syrup. The instructions said that it could be enjoyed either heated or cold, so I tried it cold. I don’t think I would choose this meal again, it was pretty one-note and it’s only trivially more difficult for me to make something like this myself (and without added sugar). This one contained 2 servings.
Hearty granola (not pictured) – This also contained 2 servings. I really enjoyed the granola, it was low-fat and sweetened with maple syrup, and included dried fruit and almonds.
Lunches and dinners
Barcelona vegetable rice bowl – The first dinner that I tried. Made with whole grain brown rice, packed with veggies, and seasoned humbly to highlight the natural flavors of the ingredients. I really enjoyed this rice bowl. It came in at 530 calories and kept me full for several hours afterward.
Sesame peppers and eggplant rice – I thought this meal had a great flavor, with all of the different vegetables coming through. Despite the fact that they were microwaved, all of the veggies, including the eggplant and broccolini, had a nice texture. This meal did not keep me full for quite as long as the other lunch/dinner meals did. I’m not sure why. I may have just been hungrier that day 🙂
Sicilian-style pasta – This was my favorite thing that Fresh n’ Lean sent me. I was really impressed by the taste and texture of the brown rice pasta, and loved the sundried tomato flavor of the sauce. There were a lot of vegetables in the dish, but it hardly felt like I was eating any, because the flavors came together so well. I sort of want to recreate this one at home. This meal was 600 calories. I brought it to work for lunch and I didn’t get hungry until I arrived home that evening, which is extremely rare for me, so that was a huge plus.
Coconut mushroom risotto (not pictured) – I am still a work-in-progress when it comes to mushrooms, though I have been trying them a lot recently. So I passed this meal off to a friend of mine, who reported back that it was very tasty!
Pinto beans and vegetables (not pictured) – This dish was not especially memorable, but it was (and I’m starting to sound like a broken record here) very vegetable-forward, tasty, and filling.
I enjoyed my experience using Fresh n’ Lean and I would consider ordering a meal plan. All of the food was healthy, easy to prepare, and good-tasting.
The $27.99/day price tag is going to be an issue for some folks, myself included. I completely understand the value of eating high-quality food. I also want to point out that being unsatisfied with one’s food can often leave to scenarios like ordering a bunch of Thai food for delivery for $40. Compared to something like that, this is a better deal, so when considering whether to participate in the Fresh n’ Lean meal delivery service I would urge you to consider your current food spending and any areas where you tend to splurge. That said, I could not personally afford to spend $28 per day on food and so if I were to order this for myself it would be on a part-time or temporary basis, and planned in a way that would combine it with other homemade meals.
In particular, I found a lot more value in the lunch/dinner meals than in the breakfasts. The breakfasts tended to be lower in calories per serving (which for me, is not a plus), and in my opinion not as nutritionally strong as the savory offerings. I do think that I would be more than satisfied and properly fueled for the day if I were to eat my own homemade breakfast, and two different Fresh n’ Lean meals for my lunch and dinner.
Some other pros and cons of this service:
- The lunches and dinners are made with limited oil which means more nutrients and quality ingredients, which is a plus when considering the cost-value proposition.
- The lunches and dinners are all extremely high in vegetable content which is hugely important to me. If you were living off of Fresh n’ Lean meals you would not have to worry about counting your servings of vegetables for the day. All of the meals have quite a lot, and the vegetables were always really nicely-cooked, too.
- All of the meals were very easy to prepare, with several different preparation options offered depending on your needs, and a container that you could eat directly out of. This was really handy for when I ate the meals at work.
- This has been mentioned above, but everything is preservative-free and vegan! These are truly made from fresh food, there were no red flags on any of the ingredients lists. All of the ingredients in Fresh n’ Lean meals are ingredients that I would cook with in my own kitchen. I wouldn’t feel concern or guilt over eating anything that I tried.
- New meals are continuously being offered – looking at the website today, the menu consists of a completely new and delicious-sounding lineup of meal options from the ones that I tried.
- While it is an inherent part of any meal delivery service, there is a lot of packaging, and it is worth thinking about the environmental impact. I did not find the package to be excessive in any way, but it’s still there, and worth considering.
- I found the plastic film on the meals difficult to remove after microwaving, though the microwave instructions stated only to puncture the film. I almost always had to use something sharp to cut off the film because it did not tear off easily as it seemed to be implied one should do.
- I acknowledge that this could easily be a matter of personal preference, but I kept a salt shaker handy while eating my savory Fresh n’ Lean meals because I found that every single one of them needed an extra pop of salt in order to really bring out the flavor of the food.
- As mentioned above, I found the breakfast offerings – while tasty – to be a little lacking as compared to the lunches/dinners, particular in terms of the portion size. Officially the meal plan is about 1555 calories per day including breakfast, and I personally require a higher caloric intake than that, so I would need to supplement with additional food.
- The company website shows a cost comparison between the $27.99/day delivery service and other alternatives. Organic home cooking is listed at costing $42.29/day. Yikes! While I don’t cook and eat completely organic, I can’t fathom how this estimate could be close to accurate. 42.29 per day for food was simply never in my budget at any point. 27.99 is clearly also more than what I would spend in a day even if I went out to eat. I can only assume they are calculating that nobody would ever eat leftovers 🙂
Disclosure: In exchange for this review, I received a complimentary shipment of Fresh n’ Lean meals. All writing and opinions are entirely my own.