A few months ago, Vanessa reviewed the Fresh n' Lean Meal Delivery Service, a company that sends single-serve healthy organic vegetarian meals straight to your door. They've now developed IONutrition, a sister company that follows the same business model and nutritional standards, but for those of us who'd prefer healthy, organic foods that include meat protein along with quality vegetables and carbs in moderation.
From what I understand, these thermal cubes are being used regularly by companies that need to ship food products that require refrigeration - this is my first experience with such a shipment and the vision of quickly piling up a mountain of styrofoam sent me running to Pinterest - sure enough, people are coming up with all sorts of ways to repurpose them to avoid excess waste.
(Seriously - upholstered storage ottomans, planters, even outdoor cat shelters!)
I did notice that the cold packs and remaining open space in the cooler had led to some tumbling of the food containers in transit. Each packet is very well sealed in sturdy plastic, so there was no breakage or spilling but the food inside had slid to one side or covered the clear plastic cover, creating an aesthetic issue with the appearance of the food. It didn't impact the taste at all, but I think perhaps a bit of crumpled newsprint to fill in the loose gaps in the cooler would help prevent that.
Rather than eating dinner separately from my husband, I decided to use my entrees for lunch, when I am alone, and looked forward to enjoying one IONutrition meal a day, instead of vaguely thinking I should eat something, not getting around to it until mid-afternoon, and then scouring the cabinets in case their might be chips lurking somewhere.
Not that I do that... (ahem)
This was a really substantial, large bar (at least 3"x4") about the consistency of a thick brownie. The fruit notes were subtle - it was pleasantly sweet without yelling "Sweeet!!!!" at you. I really liked the crunchy seeds that topped it, and was only able to eat about half of it before I felt quite satiated, and that feeling held through lunch. I put the rest away and nibbled on it over the course of the afternoon.
I only made one mistake with this one - I thought I'd try the leftover part warmed, and microwaved it for a few seconds, and the result was not great - it immediately toughened up and became very dry. So ... don't do that. Enjoy this one straight out of the package.
The ingredients are chia seed, coconut cream, coconut milk, maple syrup, raspberry, blackberry, almond, cinnamon, nutmet, cardamom, vanilla, sea salt, and filtered water.
Nothing scary there, right? I hesitantly took a bite and - I loved it! The pudding was cool and soft, and the berries and nuts added a lot of flavor and a bit of crunch. The seasonings were well balanced, and the result was both tasty and sustaining.
Its appearance still scares me a little, but I plan to try making this at home. In the end, this was my favorite meal of the five and I would happily enjoy it on regular rotation.
Made with Garbanzo beans, carrots, sweet potato, cauliflower, kale, celery, garlic, tomato, coconut oil, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, chipotle powder, nutritional yeast, cumin, pepper, salt and filtered water, this dish had the consistency of curry, and the seasonings were flavorful, but not strongly spicy.
This was very similar to something I might make from scratch, and the portion size was more than I could eat in one sitting.
The one problem I had with it is that the Garbanzo beans were a bit underdone for my taste.
And in fact, this turned out to be the case with the legumes in each of the three entrees, even though each used a different variety of bean.
I am not sure if this is a matter of taste or a general tendency to undercook the legumes, but I have a few digestive issues that make me very leery of eating underdone legumes. I notice that they've begun to offer a Paleo menu (which would not include legumes at all), and if I use this service again, I'll stick to that meal plan.
The next one I tried was the White Bean Mushroom Medley Quinoa with Salmon. This is a really generous portion of salmon which was flaky and cooked perfectly, and a quinoa pilaf made with white beans, carrots, onions, zucchini, cremini mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, broccolini, sun dried tomatoes, extra olive oil, coconut amino, garlic, oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil, lime, paprika, red pepper flakes, sea salt and filtered water.
Next to the chia pudding, this was my favorite - and had the beans been a bit more cooked, it would have been perfect. Here again, the seasoning is deftly handled, well balanced and neither overwhelming or bland. I was very impressed with how well the salmon was cooked, and the quinoa medley made this feel like a great deal of food while still coming in at under 600 calories.
Due to a trip I needed to make, I asked my husband to try the last entree for me, and he brought it with him to work for lunch. This was the Dual Bean Rosemary Chili & Beef. This is made with white beans, adzuki beans, onion, carrot, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, coriander, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, sea salt, and filtered water.
His impressions were very similar to mine - somewhat undercooked beans, but a generous serving of meat, well balanced and flavorful seasonings. Spiced but not hot, and the packaging was very convenient for transporting to work, and heating at lunch time.
So why might someone want to have their meals delivered? There are several reasons why this service would be desirable, either for a short while or longterm. These are just a few I can think of:
- If one is attempting to lose weight, these meals provide a healthy, nutrient rich method of controlling portion sizes and avoiding non-optimal eating habits.
- If you eat differently than others in your household, this would be a way to keep to your own routine without the family cook needing to make two separate meals.
- If you are struggling with healthy options for lunch, these are a great way to avoid the burger and fry routine (or worse, the 'what's in the vending machine' routine!).
- If you live alone and find it difficult to cook good meals for one, this is an alternative that - again - keeps you from less desirable options.
- If you're recuperating from a significant health event, such as injury, illness or giving birth, these meals would provide you with healthy, nourishing meals at a time when you would have little energy to prepare them yourself.
- If you travel a lot - IONutrition will deliver wherever you ask them to, including hotels! As fun as it is to eat out occasionally, being stuck with it regularly can be bad for both wallet and waistline. As long as your room has a microwave and fridge, you've got a way to eat some nutritionally sound meals in your room rather than seeking out the nearest restaurant (or vending machine).
One of the things I like best about IONutrition is how flexible it is to use. There are several dishes available for 'A La Carte' purchasing, and a variety of Meal Plan options, ranging from the 5 Entree Lunch Box (5 entrees) to 7-Day Week Plan (7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners). And my favorite - the Paleo Meal Plan, offering 5 or 7 portions of breakfast, lunch or dinner, all Paleo-compliant.
In all cases, shipping is included in the pricing, and the price per meal varies according to which plan you choose. (It is significantly less expensive per meal when you select more than one meal per day.) Which specific meals turn up in your weekly box will be a surprise, but they have a large and growing menu that focuses on seasonal flavor palates and in all cases they will be made according to IONutrition's healthy standards. If you have any specific food issues, you just let them know when you order, and they'll make sure that food doesn't wind up in your box.
If you'd like to give IONutrition a try, you can get your first order for 15% off by using the promo code RCH - this doesn't include the a la Carte menu.