review of the meal subscription service Fresh n' Lean

I Ate Microwavable Meals for 2 Weeks Using a Prepared Meal Delivery Service—Here's What I Thought

If you're looking for a relatively easy way to follow a keto, paleo, or vegan diet, this meal delivery service is for you.
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Let me start off by saying that I was skeptical about Fresh n' Lean's ready-made meal plans when I decided to embark on a two-week trial of the subscription meal service. Was a microwave really all I needed to follow a keto, paleo, or vegan diet? That's what it sounded like. I have seen friends and family have wild success on their fitness journeys by counting macros—the amount (in grams) of carbs, proteins, and fat consumed in a day—but, frankly, the work required intimidated me. When I discovered that Fresh n' Lean provides those numbers for each of its meals, making the tracking process so much easier, I was ready to sign up.

Based in Anaheim, California, Fresh n' Lean was founded in 2010. Its mission is to transform the way people think about food by showing how changes in eating habits can improve your daily life. The culinary brains behind this operation know that most diets are doomed to fail, which is why a group of nutritionists and chefs take care of the planning and meal prep—all you have to do is eat.

The company uses organic, non-GMO ingredients and free-range, certified-humane animal proteins, which really appealed to me. Everything is fresh, not frozen, when it arrives on your doorstep each week, and there are five consistent meal plans to choose from: Protein+, Keto, Paleo, Standard Vegan, and Low-Carb Vegan.

To top it off, every Fresh n' Lean meal contains local and regional produce, some of which is grown on the company's own farms, so you know you're getting high-quality ingredients. But how does the food taste? Scroll down for my detailed review.

My overall rating for Fresh n' Lean: 9.2 out of 10

Sampling the service

In order to give an honest review of Fresh n' Lean, I ordered two weeks' worth of meals using the a la carte option, which allowed me to sample dishes from all five plans. I also spoke with a registered dietitian and a nutritionist, who have no connection to the company, to get their thoughts about the various offerings and advice on what to look for (and avoid) when signing up for a meal delivery service.

Pros

  • Meals are delicious 
  • Large variety of choices
  • Generous portions
  • Option to purchase proteins and sides in bulk
  • Two vegan menus
  • Add-ons like snacks and additional meals

Cons

  • Some meals are expensive
  • No dedicated vegetarian menu
  • The plastic coverings on the meals can be difficult to take off

Signing up for Fresh n' Lean

It takes just a few minutes to sign up for a Fresh n' Lean subscription, though you may want to spend a little more time reviewing the menus if you're new to the service. (Bonus: Health readers get $20 off their first delivery when they use code HEALTH20 at checkout.) 

Once your account is set, you can dive into any of the menus and click around to see every meal available (the a la carte option allows you to mix and match from different plans).

Fresh n' Lean delivers anywhere in the US, including Alaska and Hawaii, but you cannot list a P.O. box as your address (sorry, college students). There isn't a Fresh n' Lean app, but the website is mobile friendly, making it easy to maintain your subscription via a phone or tablet.

Fresh n' Lean meal plans

Credit: Fresh n' Lean

If you count macros (carbs, proteins, and fat) for each meal, Fresh n' Lean will help you find a meal plan that meets your daily requirements. Here are the options (note: Each meal comes in a single serving).

  • Paleo
  • Protein+
  • Keto
  • Standard Vegan
  • Low-Carb Vegan
  • A la carte (limited choices, though it has something from every menu)
  • Whole30 Approved (newly added)
  • Bulk (precooked proteins and veggies to be used in your own meal prep)

New York-based registered dietician Jeannie Houchins, RD, who used to serve as the head of communications at the Institute of Food Technologists, says her favorite part of the Fresh n' Lean website is the Performance section. It features a number of #TeamFreshNLean superstars from a variety of sports, including race car driver Danica Patrick. If you click on Patrick's picture, you'll find her daily macros, plus the Fresh n' Lean meal plan she orders.

"I love the macro breakdowns," says Houchins. "It's really important for somebody who's thinking about performance nutrition or how they're really taking care of their bodies to get the best performance possible." 

She notes that for people who just started counting macros, meal planning can be very confusing. "But even if you're somebody who's well versed in that particular diet, [Fresh n' Lean] makes it very easy and turnkey," adds Houchins.

Instead of choosing a particular plan, I went with the a la carte option in order to try a little bit of everything—though it's the most expensive route. Prices per meal swell to $13 and up, which rivals some restaurants, plus each meal is just one portion. If you're worried about cost, Fresh n' Lean does let you order some of the food items in bulk, including precooked proteins by the pound (like shrimp, bison and venison burgers, and salmon steaks), oatmeal, and vegetables.

It bears noting that while I don't have any food allergies, I did encounter some unexpected ingredients. Almond slivers and chopped walnuts are present in numerous meals, and though I found them to be a delicious and crunchy surprise (especially in the Beanless Chile con Carne), anyone with tree nut allergies would probably disagree.

The good news: Fresh n' Lean is a gluten-free kitchen and customers can have up to three ingredients removed from their meals, including nuts, eggs, soy, and other common allergens. For additional support, contact customer service.

Experts weigh in on Fresh n' Lean

Along with Houchins, I spoke to San Diego-based certified nutritionist and personal chef Lisa Drew to get her take on Fresh n' Lean. Though she encourages her clients to cook for themselves as often as possible so that they can control the ingredients they're consuming, she understands the benefits of a meal delivery service. "The goal is to make [people] comfortable and realize what healthy living is for them and what is doable for them in the present and moving forward," Drew tells Health.

Houchins likes that Fresh n' Lean does the work for its customers. "You don't actually have to think about all of the breakdowns of 'Does this go with this, does that go with this?' If you're not schooled in the kitchen or if you're not comfortable in the kitchen, a lot can go wrong, and [meal planning] can be very intimidating," she notes.

Drew adds that prepared foods tend to be high in sodium, and Fresh n' Lean's meals average 550 milligrams of sodium (it's recommended that adults limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day).

Fresh n' Lean delivery and packaging

Credit: Fresh n' Lean

All my meals for the week arrived on my doorstep in one box. You can either refrigerate or freeze the meals depending on when you plan to eat them. If you go the freezer route, Fresh n' Lean recommends that you move the food to the fridge 24 hours before you plan to consume it. 

The packages are sealed tight and each meal comes in a flat compact container that's recyclable (hooray!) and easy to stack (bonus!). The gel ice packs that help keep the box cool are also recyclable.

Fresh n' Lean meals: no actual cooking required

The service's meals are microwavable, so all you need to do is poke a couple of holes in the plastic wrap covering the food container before you stick it in the microwave (Note: You can also heat up the meals in a conventional oven if you first transfer the food over to an oven-safe dish). Many of the labels say to season the entrees with salt and pepper, but apart from adding a pinch of salt to the eggs in one of the breakfast meals, I felt the food already had enough flavor.

Fresh n' Lean flavor and quality

Overall, Fresh n' Lean exceeded my expectations when it came to taste and texture. I expected dry chicken, but instead got moist, flavorful chunks of white or dark meat (depending on the meal). I expected my salmon to be overdone, but it was cooked to perfection. Here are some of my thoughts about specific meals I tried.

Favorite dish: It's a tie between the Beanless Chili Con Carne (Keto plan) and the Kung Pao Chicken and Brown Rice With Sweet Potatoes (Paleo plan). My husband makes a mean chili, so I was prepared to turn up my nose at this beanless recipe, especially after discovering that it contains chopped walnuts. But the nuts provided a nice crunch that really enhanced the meal. As for the chicken and rice dish, the meat chunks were tender and tasty.

Honorable mentions:

  • Quinoa Bowl With Beyond Beef Meatballs (Vegan plan)
  • Sweet Pepper Beef Chili With Cilantro Brown Rice (Protein+ plan)
  • Sauteed Cauliflower With Beef Patty (Paleo plan)
  • Fajita Bowl With Ground Beef (Keto plan)

Least favorite dish: I wasn't a huge fan of the Tofu With Coconut Curry Brown Rice (Vegan plan). Though the tofu was cooked well, I didn't enjoy the flavor and the meal was an unappealing purple color due to the cabbage.

Fresh n' Lean prices

Fresh n' Lean's prices start at $8 per meal, but pricing is contingent on the plan you choose. The Standard Vegan and the Low-Carb Vegan plans are the cheapest if you're looking at price per meal (they start at $8 and $9 per meal, respectively). The more meals you buy each week, the lower the cost per entree. Someone ordering lunch and dinner on the Keto plan for five days will pay $130 per week, which is $13 per meal, while a subscriber who orders breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the Keto plan for seven days will pay $210 per week, which is $10 per meal. These prices are on the higher end—weekly rates for Freshly meals, which are also single serving, fall between $46 and $102. However, Fresh n' Lean customers do receive free shipping.

If you decide to go a la carte, like I did, each individual meal will cost you upwards of $15, so my recommendation is to stick to a plan. The good news is you can switch plans week-to-week if you're looking for a little variety. Right now, Health readers will receive $20 off their first delivery when they use the code HEALTH20 at checkout.

Credit: Fresh n' Lean

Fresh n' Lean customer service

I did not spend a lot of time interacting with customer service, but unlike other meal delivery companies, customer service issues aren't a common thread in Fresh n' Lean reviews. It appears that Fresh n' Lean representatives are a great resource if you don't know where to start when picking out a plan. You can contact the company from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT, seven days a week by calling 888-420-4080 or by emailing hello@freshnlean.com. A sore spot for some subscribers is the lack of a mobile app, which would make it easier to pause or adjust orders on a weekly basis. In order to do that now, you must contact customer service.

Fresh n' Lean customer reviews

Fresh n' Lean has an average 4 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot based on more than 3,000 reviews. Here are some recent comments from real-life customers:

Fresh n' Lean: my final take

Fresh n' Lean has changed the way I think about pre-made meals. The fresh ingredients and bold flavors officially ruined freezer meals for me, and the convenience of the 3-minute cook times can't be overstated.

This service is an excellent choice for those looking to follow a specific diet (like keto or vegan) but don't know where to start. With Fresh n' Lean, you don't have to worry about shopping for the food yourself or learning new cooking techniques. Even if you're looking for a bit more flexibility in a meal plan, Fresh n' Lean is a better alternative to the sodium-heavy commercial options available in the freezer case at supermarkets. However, it bears noting that customers who are mainly in it for the convenience should opt for the Paleo menu and avoid the Keto. The high amount of fat in the keto dishes is consistent with that diet, but an unwitting customer who combines keto meals with non-keto snacks might experience unexpected weight gain. If you're concerned about which plan to choose, talk to your primary care physician or a nutritionist before getting started.

My overall rating for Fresh n' Lean: 9.2 out of 10.

Factors What it means Numerical ranking (1 - 10)

Taste

Meals have a balanced and delicious flavor and consistency.

8

Ease of Preparation

The service provides easy-to-follow instructions for preparing and cooking the meal.

10

Quality of Ingredients

Ingredients are high quality and fresh. They are in good shape when they arrive.

10

Dietary Customization

There are options for users to note dietary restrictions and preferences. Choosing these options is easy to do, and there are plenty of meal/food options for these preferences.

8

Meal Variety

This service provides a variety of meals, cuisines, and flavors to avoid meal repeats and provide users with new dishes to explore.

9

Health

Meals are healthy and provide balanced nutrients.

10

Availability

The service is available to consumers in a variety of locations.

10

Portion Size

Portion sizes are reasonable and filling. You don't need to supplement the meal with additional food because you're left hungry.

10

Price

The price is reasonable for the quality of food you receive.

6

Subscription

The subscription/plan offers reasonable customization. You're able to adjust or cancel your order within a reasonable time frame.

8

Shipping

The meals arrived on time. The packaging kept things fresh and in good condition. You're able to provide delivery instructions if needed.

10

Customer Service

How quickly customer service responds to queries, the level of detail they provide, and how helpful the team is overall.

10

Social Impact

Takes into consideration a company's social missions, charitable causes, and sustainability efforts. Products are sourced ethically. Packaging is recyclable or sustainable.

10

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