Meal delivery services provide a convenient way for vulnerable seniors to get the nutrient-rich food they need to maintain optimal health.
But meal delivery is not just for seniors. Busy professionals, people recovering from injury or illness, diabetics, those watching their weight, and those who just want to expand their gastronomic horizons also use meal delivery services.
Below are the best meal delivery services of 2020.
1. Silver Cuisine
Silver Cuisine meal delivery is tailored toward seniors and features an incredible array of familiar and exotic dishes. Heart-healthy meals, allergen-free dishes, diabetic meals, and much more, Silver Cuisine has them.
What we like: Silver Cuisine is all about providing safe, nutritious, and delicious food at reasonable prices. There’s no long-term commitment required and no minimum order. They also offers AARP discounts, and their delivery rates don’t change day to day.
Flaws: Their fixed delivery rate means those close to the source pay the same as those a thousand miles away.
2. The Magic Kitchen
The Magic Kitchen specializes in niche cuisine with a plethora of dishes, full meals, and specialty menus to suit everyone’s dietary needs. They ship to all 50 states and internationally. All food items are created by hand in small batches.
What we like: Whether you need senior-specific, diabetic, dairy-free, dialysis-friendly, vegetarian, or other specialty meals, the Magic Kitchen has them. Their meals and dishes are flash-frozen and can be reheated in a conventional oven.
Flaws: Portions can be quite modest. Some will love that others won’t.
Freshology combines an impressive menu with ordering flexibility. They offer everything from heart-healthy meals, to keto-friendly items, to well-considered specialty food items catering to the needs of diabetics, and much more.
What we like: All the items on the Freshology menu are health-conscious creations that fuse flavor with fitness. This is a good choice for people of any age watching their weight, or those with special dietary needs.
Flaws: Not the place for traditional comfort food.
4. Mom’s Meals
Speaking of comfort food… Mom’s Meals provides maybe the closest thing you’re going to get to it, while at the same time not losing sight of the special dietary needs of seniors and others. From meat and potatoes to pureed foods, they have it all.
What we like: The folks at Mom’s Meals go out of their way to ensure that even their most emotionally satisfying meals are nutritious and devoid of empty carbs, excess sodium, and refined sugar. Mom’s also strives to keep costs down.
Flaws: The flat-rate shipping penalizes those close to the source.
With Diettogo, the name pretty much says it all. This meal delivery service is all about healthy, low-cal, nutrient-rich food. They’re also one of the few meal services we’re aware of that provides a health coach for those wanting a bit of extra support.
What we like: They deliver freshly cooked meals right to your door. Or, if you want to save on delivery, you have the option to pick your food up in some locations. The menu is thoughtful and varied and accommodates a range of special needs.
Flaws: You don’t have as much flexibility as you do with some other services.
6. Top Chef Meals
Top Chef Meals provides you the opportunity to tweak their offerings to suit your individual tastes and needs. They cater to the over 60 set by offering a straight 15% discount for seniors and free shipping if you order 21 meals.
What we like: All meals are guaranteed cooked and frozen the day before they ship. The meals account for the specific dietary needs of seniors but never lose track of the fact that everybody wants food that tastes great.
Flaws: The free shipping offer tends to break down west of the Mississippi.
Regardless of their age, people need to keep their weight in check if they want to avoid debilitating health problems. Medifast provides a simple, reasonably affordable way to do that with their generous array of low-cal, high nutrition meals and weight loss plans.
What we like: Medifast keeps the focus squarely on losing or controlling your weight and offers numerous tools to help in that regard. But the primary tool is the food itself, which is intended to keep your taste buds happy while you burn fat.
Flaws: Don’t contact MediFast looking for traditional comfort food.
SendaMeal may have the most diverse menu of any meal delivery service. From every imaginable kind of individual dish to full meals, specialty items, meal plans, meals for one, meals for groups, and, well, you get the picture.
What we like: The variety is impressive. The quality is first-rate. Delivery is prompt and dependable. We love the constant stream of specials and meal deals. And when you really want to indulge, go to the ‘desserts’ page.
Flaws: Some of the seafood dishes are a bit hit-or-miss.
9. Home Bistro
Home Bistro tries hard to elevate the meal delivery service experience. And for the most part, they succeed. The dishes on offer are fashioned from the highest quality ingredients, are nutrient-rich, very tasty indeed.
What we like: They get the food to you quickly regardless of where you are. The dishes and meals are uniformly excellent. Prices come in at the more reasonable end of the meal delivery service spectrum, and customer support is generally good.
Flaws: Some of the portions are very modest.
10. Martha & Marley Spoon
Up to now, we resisted meal kit services, mainly because seniors choose meal delivery services because they either don’t want to or are unable to cook. But Martha & Marley Spoon may bring a few folks back into the kitchen.
What we like: There’s no arguing with the quality of the ingredients or the finished product. Even the condiments are top-notch. But the real show-stopper here is the price, which typically works out to less than $10 per meal.
Flaws: It’s a kit. So you’ll have to do the cooking yourself.
Who Needs a Meal Delivery Service?
Seniors often have a difficult time getting out to the market to shop. And if they are slowed by arthritis or other health issues, cooking for a couple of hours a day may simply not be possible. Until recently, these folks had few options. Some became dependent on their loved ones to cook for them, others relied on the well-meaning but often unreliable Meals on Wheels, and still others simply went hungry. In fact, the number of seniors who regularly go hungry has more than doubled since 2000 (1).
Meal delivery services started popping up as the internet became more and more pervasive. And in the past decade, they have become a dependable way for seniors to get the delicious, nutritious meals they need and deserve. And while it is true that some of these services are not cheap, there are Medicare Advantage (2) plans that may pick up a significant portion of the cost. Just keep in mind that there will need to be some type of medical justification.
But meal delivery services are not only for seniors. Anyone who just wants a break from toiling in the kitchen will enjoy what meal delivery services have to offer. Likewise, anyone whose busy lifestyle leaves them precious little time to cook, people returning home after a hospital stay who are unable to cook, and bereaved families can all benefit from using a meal delivery service.
How We Ranked
First off, we put the menu of each service under the microscope. We wanted to see a wide variety of standard offerings and gave extra points if a service added new items on a fairly regular basis. Daily or weekly specials also got our attention and earned brownie points. The quality of the ingredients was of paramount importance, and we wanted nothing to do with empty carbs, MSG, refined sugar, or huge doses of sodium.
Next up, we looked at whether the service accommodated people with special dietary needs. Considering that as many as 1/3 of all Americans have some type of special requirements, this is important. A top meal delivery service should make a good-faith effort to accommodate the most common of those needs, such as providing meals that are safe for diabetics and offering vegetarian options.
We only featured services that emphasize high nutrient content, and we expected meal services to be aware of food allergens and to at least try and purge as many as possible from their offerings. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (3), were another major issue. We understand that it can be hard for a food prep company dealing with multiple sources to completely avoid GMOs these days. But we gave extra points to those who did.
Finally, we weighed the cost and the size of the service area. We took a pass on services that seemed to revel in their price exclusivity, and instead gave the nod to those who made an effort to contain their prices. If they also offered regular discounts and deals, then even better. As for service areas, we wanted services that covered all 50 states and took a pass on those services that were decidedly regional in nature.
Meal delivery services help seniors unable to cook for themselves.Too many seniors are going to bed hungry every night. They have arthritis that prevents them from cooking. Or they have mobility issues that prevent them from food shopping. Or some other malady interferes with their ability to buy and prepare the food they need. Meal delivery services enable these folks to get the high-quality, nutrient-rich food they need to maintain optimal health.
A meal delivery service lets you rest easy knowing your loved one is eating well. The children of elderly parents often have conflicting priorities. They have to take care of themselves and their kids, but they also have elderly parents who may no longer be able to cook for themselves. Trying to balance these interests can be too much. Meal delivery services let you rest easy knowing your parent or parents are getting the high-quality meals they need.
A meal delivery service may be covered by Medicare Advantage. Many seniors are not aware of it, but Medicare may pay for their meal service, if they can prove a medical necessity. Some Medicare Advantage plans (4) specifically cover home food deliveries to seniors in need. So if you were drawn to meal delivery services out of physical necessity and you have Medicare Advantage, check to see if your plan will cover the cost.
Meal delivery services save you trips to the grocery stores. Even for young, healthy individuals making the trek to the grocery store can be an unwanted ordeal. It takes time, you have to search for parking, jostle with crowds, wait in checkout lines. It’s all too much. For seniors, it’s even worse. Whether you’re 26 or 76 meal delivery services save you the time and trouble of the supermarket shuffle.
A meal delivery service makes it easy to eat well. Whether you are a senior living on your own or a busy professional trying to juggle home and career, it’s not always easy to get the nutritious food you need to maintain optimal health. In fact, sometimes it can be nearly impossible. Meal delivery services enable you to meet your nutritional needs in a safe and convenient way, that also allows you to expand your culinary horizons.
Meal delivery services provide healthy, well-balanced meals. A lot of people, young and old, default to fast food because it’s, well, fast. It’s also familiar and, let’s face it, it tastes good. The problem is, with fast food, taste and nutrition aren’t really on speaking terms. Most fast foods are loaded with empty calories, salt, carbs, and sugar (5). None of which do seniors any good. Meal delivery service meals are typically low in calories and nutrient-rich.
There’s a meal delivery service to suit your tastes. Want a vegetarian meal? No problem. Want something low in sodium? You got it. Looking for straight-up comfort food like mom used to make? You’ll find a meal service that can provide it for you. The variety of foods offered by meal delivery services these days is staggering. So no matter what you have in mind, you’re sure to find it.
Meal delivery services are convenient.This is another significant draw when it comes to meal delivery services. You simply order the food you want for the next week, weeks, or month and then get on with your life. The food arrives in a few days, and any time you want a delicious, nutritious meal, you have it right there at your fingertips. A few minutes in the microwave, and you’re ready for gastronomic bliss.
A meal delivery service is a great idea for keto dieters. The low-carb keto diet (6) is simple in concept and guaranteed to work if you stick to it. But while the keto diet is simple, it can be difficult to find low-carb foods that are both delicious and nutritious. Not to worry. Meal delivery services like SendaMeal offer plenty of delicious keto-friendly items, while other services allow you to check the carb content of items before ordering.
Meal delivery services are the perfect complement to your busy lifestyle. For a lot of people, a 9-5 life is a quaint idea that went the way of the dinosaur around the turn of the century (7). They work harder and longer than their parents ever imagined. And they often don’t have time to prepare nutritious meals, even if they work from home. Meal delivery services enable these dedicated professionals to get their work done and provides them a tasty, nutritious treat when it comes time to eat.
A meal delivery service can help people achieve their weight loss goals. The CDC and WHO have both declared obesity an epidemic (8)(9). Hundreds of millions of people are now obese, and the implications for both individuals and healthcare are grave. Losing weight has become a priority for many people, and meal delivery services can help with healthy, low-cal, highly nutritious foods delivered right to their door.
Meal delivery services can help prevent obesity. Speaking of obesity, it’s not a phenomenon confined only to the young. More than a third of all seniors are now considered obese (10), but it has little to do with them eating too much. It has to do with them defaulting to calorie-rich, nutrient-poor fast food because it tastes good, frees them from cooking, and is readily available. Meal delivery services provide healthy, nutrient-rich meals for seniors that can help prevent them from putting on excessive weight.
A meal delivery service fulfills an essential need in times of crisis. Grieving families need time to heal, and often the last thing on anyone’s mind is cooking. Yet they still have to eat. A meal delivery service can ensure that everyone eats well and keeps up their strength during trying times.
Meal delivery service meals figure out the portion control for you. Often times people put on weight simply because they’ve lost track of how much they’re eating. In addition, many people who do a lot of cooking find themselves sampling the product before it gets to the table. This can also contribute to unwanted weight gain. Meal delivery services take the cooking out of your hands and do all the portion control for you.
A meal delivery service is perfect for diabetics. According to the CDC 25% of those over 65 have diabetes (11). Every one of them needs to keep a close eye on what they eat. Unfamiliar foods, a change in eating schedule, eating more or less than usual, vitamin B3 levels, and more can all send the blood sugars through the roof. Most delivery services offer numerous items designed specifically to meet the dietary needs of people with diabetes. They can help take the guesswork out of mealtime and restore blood glucose order.
Meal delivery services help older folks stay in their homes longer. One reason some seniors are forced to give up their homes and wind up in assisted living facilities is because they are no longer able to shop for food or cook for themselves. Meal delivery services can put an end to that trend and enable seniors to stay in their homes where they are typically happier and enjoy a higher quality of life (12).
A meal delivery service reduces food waste. Regardless of age, people often prepare more food than they need. This excess food often winds up in the garbage disposal. Food waste is a hidden cost most people absorb without even being aware of it (13). Meal delivery services can dramatically reduce the amount of food waste in a house, with the savings offsetting the cost of the meal service.
Meal delivery services are dependable. Meal delivery services like the ones on our list do not mess around when it comes to delivery. They use proven delivery services, including FedEx, UPS, DHL, and others with rock-solid reputations for dependability. If the meal delivery service says your food will be there Tuesday, it will be there Tuesday.
A meal delivery service is a step above normal take out. Take out is fun. And supporting a favorite local restaurant is always a good idea. But sometimes you want something more. Something different. The incredible variety offered by most meal delivery services puts them head and shoulders above average, everyday take out. You’ll expand your culinary horizons while also reaping the other benefits listed above.
Meal delivery services can be surprisingly affordable. While some meal delivery services are relatively expensive, others are surprisingly affordable. And because there are so many high-quality meal delivery services on the market today, you are sure to find one that will fit your budget. As we mentioned above, some are covered by Medicare Advantage plans, which can reduce the price to less than what you’d pay to cook yourself.
Q: What is a meal delivery service?
A: A meal delivery service is a company whose mission is to provide pre-cooked meals or meal kits to seniors or others who, for whatever reason, are not able to cook for themselves. But anyone can take advantage of what these companies have to offer. People throwing parties, bereaved families, professionals who work long hours, and others who just don’t feel like cooking can all benefit from meal delivery services.
Q: Why do seniors need a meal delivery?
A: Cooking is a straightforward, even enjoyable task until you are stricken with arthritis, or you are unable to stand for any length of time, or you simply are not able to get out to the store to shop for food. Unfortunately, many seniors find themselves facing these difficult realities on a daily basis. And the result is an ever-increasing number of seniors who go to bed hungry (14). Meal delivery services answer the call for many of these folks.
Q: Can I pick and choose the foods I want?
A: The variety of different meals being offered by meal delivery services these days is staggering. Within the menus of individual companies, you will find an embarrassment of riches. Most services have daily or weekly specials, allow you to choose buffet-style, accommodate food allergies and offer different portions depending on if you’re eating alone or feeding a crowd. So, yes. You can pick and choose whatever foods are available.
Q: Do meal delivery services require a long-term commitment?
A: Each meal delivery service is different. Some require you to commit to weekly or bi-weekly deliveries. Some require a long-term commitment. Others let you opt-out after a month or two or even less. Still others require no commitment. They let you pick and choose and order individual meals. As a general rule, meal ‘kit’ delivery services are more likely to ask for a long-term commitment.
Q: Will a meal delivery service accommodate my food allergies?
A: More than 10% of Americans have food allergies of some type (15). That’s more than 35 million people. As such, meal delivery services need to take food allergies into account. And most do. What usually happens is that when you first sign up for a service, you will be required to answer a series of questions related to food allergies. Once the service has your info, the choices they present should be filtered to account for your allergies.
Q: Are meal delivery services expensive?
A: Meal delivery service prices run the gamut from surprisingly affordable to pretty expensive. But even some of the more expensive services offer plans that provide all your food for a week or more at a significant discount. In addition, services like Mom’s Meals have an entire line of meals that conform to various Medicare Advantage plans, so you can obtain the high-quality food you need at a price you can afford. Keep in mind that no matter the service, there will be a delivery charge added to the bill.
Q: Are meal delivery services just take out food?
A: No. Take out food typically comes from a nearby restaurant or fast food outlet. You call your order in, and within a half-hour or so (sometimes a bit more), the delivery person is at your door with the food. On the other hand, meal delivery services are not usually associated with any brick and mortar restaurant. (Although there are a few notable exceptions to this rule like SendaMeal.) And they are rarely located right down the street from where the person is calling. You may, in fact, have to order your food several days in advance.
Q: Are pre-cooked meals delivered hot and ready to eat?
A: No, and this is one fundamental difference between meal delivery service meals and take out food. With take out, you expect it to arrive hot and ready to go. Meal delivery services pre-cooked meals have been cooked, but you will need to heat them before eating them. This usually doesn’t entail anything more than popping them in the microwave for a few minutes. Of course, with meal kits, you’ll need to cook the meal yourself.
Q: Are meal delivery service meals healthy?
A: All of the meal delivery services that made our list did so, at least in part, because they offer high-quality food that is not loaded with salt, sugar, and artificial preservatives. Many of them offer an array of vegetarian and vegan-friendly (16) meals as well. There are even entire meal delivery services such as Medifast, whose mission is to provide people with particular dietary needs the nutritious food they need to maintain good health.
Q: Do meal delivery services delivery to all US locations?
A: Most do. Although some focus more on a particular region. They will still deliver meals outside that region, but it will take longer and cost more. This is one of the most important considerations when choosing a meal delivery service, so make sure the company you choose can get the food to you in a timely and affordable fashion.
Q: How do meal delivery services ensure freshness?
A: As a general rule, pre-cooked meals from a meal delivery service come packed in dry ice and frozen. If you do not intend to eat them right away, you should pop them in the freezer. There are some services like Freshology, that give you a choice of a fresh hot meal or a frozen meal. If you choose the fresh option, it usually comes with an expiration date stamped on it (typically 3 or 4 days from the day you receive it).
Q: Do I have to eat the meals as soon as they arrive?
A: It depends. Certainly, if you have signed up for a meal kit service, the ingredients should keep for some time. However, you should read the instructions that come with the kit to be sure. As for pre-cooked meals, the length of time the meal remains viable can range from a couple of days to a week. If you freeze them upon receiving them, they should be good for up to a year in most cases. Again, though, read the instructions that come with the meal to be sure.
Q: If I don’t like a meal, can I return it?
A: No. It’s not possible to return meals. And that is the case whether you choose a pre-cooked meal or a meal kit. Also, most every meal delivery service stipulates that once meals are on the way to you, the order cannot be canceled or returned to the service. There are just too many potential problems when it comes to perishable food to allow returns or cancellations. If you’re not happy with the service, you can choose another one.
Q: Is there any way to get a discount on meals?
A: Some meal delivery services will offer discounts to veterans. And some will occasionally run promotions on new dishes etc. But for the most part, the prices you see on the website of the meal delivery service is the final price. If you have any questions or think you deserve a discount, contact the individual service.
Q: Can I set up regular deliveries?
A: In most cases, yes. You can arrange to have meals delivered on a regular basis. A lot of folks choose this option because it negates the need to spend time constantly re-ordering. They know what they’re going to get and when they’re going to get it, and they can plan accordingly. That type of convenience is one of the main draws of the meal delivery service.
Q: Is it possible to get vegan or keto meals delivered?
A: Yes. Most meal delivery services offer vegan, vegetarian, or keto-compliant meals. They also offer meals tailored to diabetics and people with specific food allergies. If you have particular dietary needs, you will find a meal delivery service on the above list that will accommodate you.
Meal delivery services can be a much-needed lifeline to vulnerable seniors, providing them with convenient, delicious, nutrient-rich meals that help improve their overall quality of life.
Meal delivery services are also a smart idea for busy professionals, those who enjoy exploring new culinary avenues, party planners, people recovering from injury or illness who cannot cook, and bereaved families.
If you are looking for a safe, convenient way to ensure proper nutrition for yourself and your loved ones, meal delivery services are a great idea.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended meal delivery service, click here.