The Best Athlete Meal Delivery Services (Without the Weird Diets)

  Feb 17, 2021  |  #Sports Nutrition

Meal prep for athletes is a common thread of discussion with my clients, specifically endurance based athletes.

As I preach relentlessly over and over again, there is no best diet for endurance athletes – just a way of eating that works for YOU. It doesn’t need to be labeled “paleo” or “keto” or “whole30” for it to be adequate, enjoyable and sufficient. 

I think that meal delivery services are one of the trends that will skyrocket in 2021. While the pandemic has encouraged more cooking at home, meal prep companies are also doing well for their ease and convenience.

I’ve recommended many meal prep companies for athletes to several clients, especially those who don’t cook at home much or don’t enjoy it. Why not utilize a home meal delivery for athletes?

Because who wouldn’t want to get all of the ingredients delivered to your door each week? Seriously, a meal service for athletes makes life so easy! 

overhead view of carry out meal delivery options, like pasta with chicken and salmon

We used meal delivery companies for the first two months after Hannah was born and our home birth experience – I’m not kidding. I had absolutely no desire to cook or grocery shop.

Freshly was wonderful because we didn’t have to do any cooking – we just reheated meals, and they have quite a variety of healthy options! Freshly Fit is one of my favorite options for healthy meal delivery for athletes. 

We have also tried several other meal delivery services, so I thought it would be helpful to compare them for you! Whether you’re looking for healthy meals for teenage athletes or just ways to make meal prep easier for your sport and lifestyle, meal delivery options can be helpful and cost-effective. 

chopping vegetables on cutting board for meal prep | Bucket List Tummy

How Are Meals for Athletes Different?

Well, depending on the intensity and duration of training, meals for athletes likely need to be larger ad higher in protein and carbohydrates. In fact, many of these meal delivery services would meet macronutrients for an athlete, but an athlete may need to eat 2-3 servings. 

That’s why meal prep for athletes can be important to save time and energy, and help fuel the athlete adequately. Meal prep for muscle gain requires eating enough protein and carbohydrates, and a variety of food all around. 

There’s also a difference between pre workout vs post workout nutrition, and most of these sport food delivery services would be used to refuel post workout. 

Fitness meal prep is common for bodybuilders, but I think it’s just as important for endurance athletes!

Breakfast for athletes is easy to do at home, but lunch and dinner is where I see many athletes faltering. 

healthy bag of groceries on countertop

I know looking at ALL of the meal delivery services out there can be intimidating, so this post aims to simplify the best athlete meal delivery services out there.

While these opinions and fitness meals are geared towards athletes, a lot of active individuals can benefit from finding the best workout meal delivery service that works for them. 

And there are several prepared meals for athletes to choose from that may fit your lifestyle, depending on your values, budget, food preferences, etc.

While some of the links I share below are affiliate links, I purchased all of these meal kids individually to test them out – this is not a sponsored post. 

Pros of Meal Prep Services for Athletes

I see several benefits for meal delivery services for athletes in using some of the sports meals delivered services listed below. 

  • Lots of options for diet type, or time you want to take to cook 
  • Since you’re cooking, you have options to modify and/or reduce sodium, fat in sauces, etc. 
  • Send ingredients in exact sizes so you don’t have to buy big amounts of things you may not use much (even if you have a fully stacked pantry, you may not always have every single ingredient)
  • Make fancy seem easy, confidence builder for cooking
  • Can be cheaper than the grocery store

I’ve seen studies showing both that meal delivery services are more expensive and less expensive than grocery shopping, and I think it depends on the person/family.

Consider the amount of time you save by not having to mentally plan meals or buy ingredients for those meals, especially if you only the option to buy that ingredient in a large size. It could lead to food waste, which would be a waste of money. 

While gym food subscription services may be popular, having them delivered to your home is much more convenient. 

brown paper bag with plastic wrapped food ingredients for meal prep

Fitness Meal Delivery Needs

Something that all of these meal prep companies have in common is that they offer single serving meals. You can choose how many single serving meals you’d like for each recipe. Athletes and active individuals will likely need more servings, or more food on the side. 

For some of the fitness meal delivery subscriptions, you can add on other things, like sides or desserts, or even order larger portions for family style.

All of the meal deliveries used a non toxic biogradable gel pack to keep things cold, vs. dry ice. Also, all come packaged in a large cardboard box and use brown paper packing, all of which you can recycle, which I think is important. 

Freshly

How it Works: Freshly is a little different from most meal subscription services because the meals are pre-cooked. All you have to do when they arrive is reheat them in the microwave, so they make for one of the best premade meal delivery services for athletes. 

So, you literally have a meal ready in minutes, which is what a fitness meal delivery service should do. Freshly also launched Freshly Fit, which is a similar premise, but meals catered specifically for active individuals. 

This is definitely appealing for busy athletes (especially during marathon training), new parents, etc. 

Plus, if you shop with Ratuken, you’ll get $7.50 back for your order. 

Stack of Freshly boxes in refrigerator

Taste: 7/10 

First time customer deal: Get $50 off your first 5 orders ($10 off each week)

Meals Per Week: 4, 6, 10, 12 

Price: Ranges from $8.49/meal to $11.49/meal

Packing and Recycling: Freshly‘s boxes, meal containers and cardboard sleeves are all recyclable. The insulation is 85% biodegradable also.

I also love how the plastic around the gel ice packs is recyclable and the ice packs are non toxic (if you have kids, you know). They also share how you can recycle your packaging

Dietary Things: All Freshly meals are certified gluten free, so if you’re a gluten free athlete, this would be a great meal delivery service to try. Most meals are around 400-500 calories and 20-30 grams of protein.

Athletes who are in intense training may also need to add some small sides (likely carbohydrates) to meet increased nutrient needs. 

Thai-Ish Lemongrass Bowl with nutrition label and cooked meal from Freshly

Pros:

  • All prep is done for you, just have to microwave! 
  • Meals are ready in minutes, which is great for a busy athlete and HUNGRY runner!
  • Easy meals that cater to 1 person, while most meal delivery services offer meals for two – you can order different meals for you and partner if desired
  • Decent portion size
  • Freshly meals will never contain gluten, refined sugars, or artificial additives. Meals arrive fresh, never frozen. Since they are certified gluten free, those looking for gluten free recipes for running will love this.
  • Little food waste
  • Easy to order, skip meals in the app
  • Offer delivery on all 7 days of the week

Cons:

  • Meals are all individually wrapped, but they do give options for recycling
  • No family portions 
  • High in sodium (although this may be beneficial for athletes – athletes need more electrolytes!)
  • All meals have a lower carbohydrate content, which isn’t ideal for athletes and active individuals
  • May be more expensive, paying for individual meals rather than meals for 2/4 people

Sun Basket

Personally, I really loved the taste and flavor of Sun Basket meals. I found that they were visually appealing, fancy-sounding and very flavorful, but not overwhelmingly difficult. 

Over 99% of the produce Sun Basket ships is organic. I think that’s really neat and commendable that they are a USDA certified organic handler (that certification can be a rigorous and expensive process).

They also source antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, and sustainably sourced seafood (wild-caught, and recommended as Best Choice or Good Alternative by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program) from suppliers.

Tofu is also made from organic, non-GMO soybeans. 

Here’s an example of a meal we ordered. 

glass noodle recipe card from Sun Basket in front of paper bag

Taste: 8/10 

First time customer deal: Get $35 off plus 4 Free Gifts

Meals Per Week: 3 recipes per week, available in 2 or 4 person servings.

Of the meals we ordered, I really loved the sheet pan pork sausages with roasted apple and delicata squash. It was the perfect autumn meal, which is when we enjoyed it.

It was a beautiful mix of fall flavors, vibrant colors and a tasty combination! I’ve bought pork sausages a few times since this meal to recreate this recipe on my own. 

The other two recipes were good too, and I loved the sauces they pair with the meals. 

Rice and tofu with broccoli served in blue serving bowls

Price: The price starts at $10.99 per serving. There is a $7.99 shipping fee, but the first week shipping is always free. 

Packing and Recycling: Sun Basket‘s boxes are made from recycled and virgin craft paper and can go in your recycling bin. They also encourage you to reuse them, for compost bedding or art projects, which is a good idea.

The paper insulation is made from 100% shredded recycled paper and can all be recycled. The denim insulation can be recycled, though they both need to be recycled separately. You can also reuse them as a yoga bolster, dog bed, or cushioning for fragile items!

The ice packs can be refrozen and reused. The gel is 98% water (and can be thawed and used to water the garden) and 2% non-GMO cotton, and the liner is a low density polyethylene. More information on how to recycle the ice packs here

Dietary Things: Sun Basket has meal options for paleo, vegetarian, gluten free, pescatarian, diabetes-friendly, Mediterranean and more.

I appreciate that they have all of those options available to choose from, so you are likely to find a style that works for you. 

Sun Basket recipe card

Pros:

  • Certified organic handler
  • Offers direction for kids to include them in cooking
  • Several dietary preferences and eating styles to choose from
  • Also offers options for breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks
  • Has a pre-made meal delivery option 
  • Compostable denim for insulation 

Cons:

  • Small serving size (I was still hungry after eating – athletes that are in hard training cycles should take this into consideration and either have an extra serving or something on the side)
  • Deliveries are only available on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between 8am and 9pm 
  • Wine or butter is called for as an optional recipe item (you’ll need these)
  • If you have allergies or are sensitive to gluten, may want to avoid as Sun Basket recipes are packed in a facility that handles gluten as well as all major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

Butcher Box

Butcher Box is a staple when I’m marathon training because I want quality protein for recovery. Their meat is so good and I love the company. 

Taste: 9/10

First time customer deal: This is constantly changing – may look like a pack of wild caught salmon or lobster, NY strip steaks and bacon. All great quality. 

Meals Per Week: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 meals/week (2, 4 or 6 people)

Price: Amounts to less than $7 a serving

Packaging and Recycling: 

Pros:

  • So convenient to get quality meat delivered to your door
  • Grass fed and grass-finished beef, pork, free range organic chicken, wild caught seafood
  • Free shipping
  • Less than $6 per meal
  • Can create custom box or use classic box (up to 22 lbs of meat)
  • eco friendly, insulated box

Cons:

  • not really able to do a one-off order, although you can cancel after your 
  • a little expensive but again, you are getting alot of quality meats
  • people may not like taste/flavor of grass fed beef

With Butcher Box, if you shop with Ratuken, you’ll get $4.00 back for your order. 

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh is one of the original meal delivery services, or at least one of the first ones I remember learning about. I feel like you’ll always get a dependable meal with them.

If you shop with Ratuken, you’ll get $7.50 back for your order. 

Hello Fresh homemade tacos on paper plates

Taste: 8/10

First time customer deal: $90 off (combined) with your first 4 orders

Meals Per Week: 2, 3 or 4 recipes a week for 2 or 4 people

Price: $7.49-$8.99/serving (They also have a special discount for military personnel and veterans as well as healthcare workers)

Packing and Recycling: The packaging is made of a variety of ingredients that Hello Fresh details out. The gel packs are made of a water soluble gel and recyclable plastic, while the box is made with recycled and virgin fibers. 

Hello Fresh also has a whole page devoted to the Q&A for recycling

Pros:

  • One of the more well-known meal delivery options has been around for a long time
  • Generally delicious recipes
  • Great job with seasonings and flavorings and spicing up regular recipes (for example, chicken with peppers/onions on a hoagie, shrimp tacos)
  • Offers a special discount for healthcare workers
  • Up to 19 recipe options each week for all plans
  • Uses seasonal ingredients
  • App to customize/change orders

Cons:

  • Only have options for 2-4 people
  • No plan to tailer to specific allergies
  • No gluten free, dairy free or nut free meals (though customers can specifically order and cater to their dietary needs)
  • Use styrofoam in the packaging
  • Their email marketing is very extreme (expect a lot of emails)

Hello Fresh recipe card for saugies

Blue Apron

Blue Apron, like many other food delivery services, prides itself on quality ingredients, like sustainable seafood (recommended by Seafood Watch), no antibiotics or hormones and non-GMO ingredients. 

If you shop with Ratuken, you’ll get $7.50 back for your order. 

Taste: 7.5/10

First time customer deal: $80 off ($20 off each of your first 4 boxes)

Meals Per Week: 2, 3 or 4 recipes per week (each recipe can serve 2 or 4 people)

Price: $7.49-$9.99/serving ($6.32-$6.66/serving with new customer discount)

Packaging and Recycling: Blue Apron offers recyclable ice packs and packaging. For packaging, I also loved how they gave a big bag to reuse. 

Pros:

  • Can work well for larger families, with recipes that serve up to 4 people
  • Has a specific vegetarian option 
  • Great blog with recipes and tips on using ingredients
  • Premium recipes for those who want to learn specialty protein combinations, advanced culinary techniques, unique flavor twists (cost is between $14.99-$19.99/serving)
  • Market area to buy kitchen tools, cooking equipment
  • Partner with Beyond Meat products for specialty meal plans
  • New Meal Prep by Blue Apron option pending
  • App to customize/change orders
  • You can buy certain meals in the grocery store – they are part of the Kroger family

Cons:

  • Can’t cater to food allergies
  • More plastic use than necessary – lots of plastic around each ingredient rather than paper bags

blue apron meal subscription bag with ingredients

Home Chef

Home Chef meals were probably the most basic of all the meal delivery services, in my opinion. Their menu options weren’t as creative as some of the other programs, but basic can be great for athletes. 

Some of the meals, while basic to prepare, were absolutely delicious, like the cashew tofu and chicken scampi spaghetti. 

If you shop with Ratuken, you’ll get $7.50 back for your order. 

home chef recipe card

Taste: 7/10

First time customer deal: $80 off ($20 off each of your first 4 boxes)

Meals Per Week: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 meals/week (2, 4 or 6 people)

Price: $8.99+/ serving

Packaging and Recycling: 

Pros:

  • I liked how the meats came in one bag and the other ingredients came in separate bags (one bag for each meal)
  • Accurate timing – When the recipe card said 15 minutes, it really was 15 minutes – quick and delicious!
  • Home Chef has a customized function – where you can upgrade, swap or double up on your favorite protein on certain recipes (ie – if you don’t like chicken and would like beef instead in a recipe, you can swap it. I love this feature and it’s great for protein meal prep). 
  • Other options – meal kids, 15 minute meal kids, oven-ready meals, grill ready meals
  • Mobile app for easy ordering and changes and shopping list feature
  • Student discount available
  • Serves more people than many other meal delivery services

Cons:

  • The meals were packaged in plastic packaging (other meal delivery services used paper bags)
  • Doesn’t deliver everywhere in US
  • Some delivery days are not available so if you want meals on specific days, there may be limited availability
  • There was a recent security data incident impacting select customer information 
  • A few recipes didn’t clearly lay out instructions in order – For example, for the Pulled Pork Enchilada Skillet, directions did not mention to turn the oven on or broil. But the last step of the recipe directions was to broil on high. 

Home Chef meal and packaging in box

Some other meal prep companies for athletes include Trifecta.

There are sill some other fitness meal delivery services I’d like to explore, so comment below with which ones you’d like information about!

Here’s an infographic that compares them all.

infographic of athlete meal delivery services
Compare the best athlete meal delivery services in terms of price, macronutrients and ease of cooking to fuel your busy training seasons.

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