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For my second home delivery food service, I decided to try Sun Basket. Their positioning around organic and non-GMO ingredients appealed to me, as well as their Gluten-Free and Paleo meal plans. I hoped I would end up with some more vegetable intensive meals that would be more in line with how I prefer to eat and feed my family.

I set up my account to feed four adults with a “classic menu” with three recipes per week for $11.49 per meal. This means I skipped over the “family menu” which was supposed to offer kid-friendly meals because typically that’s not an improvement in food quality. I then could further select between chef’s choices, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, breakfast or lean and clean.

I selected lean and clean for our option, specifically because I’m always interested to see how people define lean and clean and I wanted to be sure to see what their protein offerings included. I deliberately didn’t choose paleo because it often ends up being super high fat, which isn’t part of my routine either.

For context, my diet is typically 30 percent protein, 25 percent fat and 45 percent carbs. I work out about 8-12 hours a week, which is part of what drives my carbs up, but I get 90 percent of my carbs from fruits and vegetables. The rest are from sugar in my coffee, fuel for my long rides or runs, an occasional treat, and coconut water post workout. I’m pretty light on grains and sugar because if I’m given a choice between a banana or rice (or any other grain), I’ll take the banana every day of the week. Or apple. Or kabocha squash. And then other carbs – like plantain chips are so delicious I can’t stop eating them, so I keep them out of the house completely and just try to avoid them altogether.

This framework, plus the fact that as a population, we are woefully under consuming vegetables and fresh fruit, really influences my reviews and perspective on what makes up a good addition to your dinner routines.

I did Sun Basket orders for three weeks, so I had a chance to try a range of options. 

On the whole, there was a lot I liked about Sun Basket.

In reviewing menu choices, I could see nutritional content of the meals as prepared, a complete list of ingredients and cooking directions whether I was on the app or the website.

Most of the grains included with the meals were whole grains.

Directions frequently included cooking tips like how to make it leaner, which were pretty basic along the lines of reducing cooking fats or trimming meat.

Vegetable portions per meal were almost always substantial.

Protein servings per meal were typically at least 4-6 ounces of meat.

I saw all of this as a substantial improvement over my experience with Blue Apron. I also started getting marketing emails, focused on working out and staying healthy, instead of getting emails about cookware and ordering wine.

The flags I’d raise are that some of the meals were too still high in carbs and fat, but I found the meals were easy to modify or I’d skip the menu choice altogether. To be specific, I saw one steak option that was 70g of fat.  That’s way too high for any one meal, so I didn’t get it at all. Some of the chicken came skin on, so I’d trim it thoroughly before cooking to reduce the fat there and some of the grains I’d just skip altogether or make in smaller portions. BUT unlike Blue Apron, after making those cuts there was still enough vegetables and protein in front of you to have a filling meal. This was a huge difference. In fact it seemed like my fridge was overflowing with vegetables whenever a delivery arrived. I could also cook each meal in about 30-40 minutes and found the guidance in the app to be thorough and easy to follow for cooking purposes.

The food itself was tasty, and I enjoyed trying a bunch of different seasonings and sauces that are not in my usual routine, like marash chile flakes, green Romanesco sauce, lemongrass paste and sambal oelek. The sauces also came with information about what is in them in the paperwork that came with each shipment or on the app, so there was full transparency on that front. There weren’t any red flags to me on the ingredients there either. For example, the lemongrass paste was ginger, garlic, turmeric, olive oil and salt. I didn’t feel like they were trying to cut corners with lower cost oils or sugars in some of the more prepared items.

Some of the meals we enjoyed most throughout the trial period were:

  • Thai turkey lettuce cups (35g protein/modified to 22g fat/38g carbs)
  • Garlic pork with ginger-plum sauce and endive salad (42g protein/modified to 15g fat/39g carbs)
  • Shrimp pad thai (37g protein/20g fat/68g carbs)

The nutrition breakdowns listed seemed to be as prepared based on my calculations versus as packaged. I did find some of these as entries in MyFitnessPal too, but I think they were entered by users and while they had calories included, many of them didn’t include the macronutrient break down, so pick your entries carefully if you don’t also modify the recipes.

Probably the truest measure of whether I thought Sun Basket was useful, was that I was a little sad to stop the subscription to move on to another review. That’s how much I was enjoying the meals. Sure some things my family didn’t like, but some things were a huge hit and new, which was fun! I also really liked the variety and the food itself. Since I concluded my Sun Basket orders, I’ll note I have also made some of their vegetable presentations again, so the recipes really were easy to make and later recreate.

The one thing I find really frustrating with all of these that isn’t unique to Sun Basket, is the volume of packaging involved. Here we’ve done all this work to move away from plastic grocery bags, but there’s a lot that goes into getting still cold produce and meat to your front doorstep in the Texas summer and keeping it packed up. I have recycled most everything that I can and saved a lot of the little jars and containers which I’ll use for packing kid lunches this fall, but it’s still a lot. I have no idea how to measure the impact of this versus minimizing food waste from unused produce or excess purchasing from the grocery store, but I think this is likely a big check in the grocery store column for buy what you’ll use and use it all over time.

Next up: Hello Fresh! This is a direct result of requests on Facebook, so if you have a request or blog topic idea, please do let me know.

 

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