1493182083800 - Expensive meal plans not needed for weight loss: Nutritionist

Expensive meal plans not needed for weight loss: Nutritionist

New Zealanders are being told healthy eating does not have to mean forking out hundreds of dollars a week for pre-prepared food and meal plans.

Food delivery company My Food Bag has launched a Fresh Start option, aimed at people wanting to lose weight. Each meal is low in carbohydrates, has no refined sugar and is less than 450 calories.

For a family of four, it costs $200 a week, including delivery, for five meals.

“For many Kiwis, managing weight is an endless battle,” said co-founder and dietitian Nadia Liam.

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“As we age, we tend to become more health aware in terms of our dietary needs, but it can be a challenge to improve our eating habits and consistently stick to them. As a dietitian, I’m passionate about helping Kiwis to eat better, and this new range takes the guess work out of ingredient shopping, meal preparation and calorie-counting.”

It is another option in a busy marketplace for diet food options.

Jenny Craig charges about $23 per day in food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack, plus a weekly fee, for its members. Other plans, such as Isagenix, offer meal replacement shakes, bars and other supplements, which can cost hundreds of dollars a month.

Claire Turnbull, Healthy Food Guide nutritionist, said the Fresh Start option from My Food Bag was better than some because it showed people the sort of portion sizes they should be cooking, and included fresh vegetables and other whole foods.

“At the end of the day, for someone to lose weight, they need to change the way they eat and create habits that last over the long term,” she said.

My Food Bag was an expensive way to eat, she said.  But its success proved that people were willing to pay for the convenience of having the decision-making done for them.

A cheaper option was to set aside some time each week to do a meal plan and shopping list. Basic, healthy meals could be made for about a tenth of the cost that of those offered through the Fresh Start bags. 

“That will create a habit that will save you money. People have these ad hoc things but it’s the habit formation that is the most important part of getting good food on the table. If you get into a routine it will save you money.”

She said many people assumed eating well was expensive because they thought they had to buy only organic, free-range ingredients.

“It can be incredibly cheap to eat well. If you go back to the basics of whole food, eat less meat, buy in-season fruit and vegetables, use spices for flavouring, it’s very cheap. You can buy a pumpkin for a couple of dollars and make lunch for an entire week. Or a casserole with lentils and chickpeas for a couple of bucks.”