Home-delivered meals can be a valuable tool for dietitians to recommend to their patients. Under some circumstances, individuals may find themselves unable to cook or prepare nutritious meals on their own. Connecting them with a home-delivered meal service can help bridge the gap between limited cooking ability and adequate nutrition. This article will discuss a few different types of home-delivered meal services and patient populations who may benefit from them.
Meal Kit Delivery Services
There are several companies that offer meal kit delivery services, which typically include a box of ingredients and recipes that are sent to a consumer’s home and allow them to easily prepare healthful meals without having to go to the grocery store or plan what to cook. To receive the kits, individuals must sign up for them and pay a fee. These are a convenient option for individuals who live hectic lifestyles but desire to eat healthfully. Delivered meal kits are quite costly, so they’re best recommended to those who have the financial means to purchase them. Additionally, they work well for people who are generally healthy and have the energy to cook the food on their own with the provided ingredients. A few examples of companies that provide meal kit delivery services include HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Plated. There also are services that provide meals that have already been prepared, including MagicKitchen and Freshly.
Choices for Older Adults
The Home-Delivered Meals Program, or Meals on Wheels, is part of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs. Meals on Wheels is a useful tool for vulnerable older adults who are at risk of malnutrition. Individuals who enroll in the program may receive meals for up to five days during the week, and each meal provides one-third of their dietary needs. Older adults who are homebound with functional limitations that inhibit their ability to shop and cook for themselves may benefit from a referral to Meals on Wheels. Several studies have demonstrated that participation in Meals on Wheels is associated with an improvement in several factors, including overall nutrient intake, quality of life, and food security among older adults. Furthermore, Meals on Wheels may help older adults maintain their independence by preventing hospital and nursing home admissions simply by providing adequate nutrition. There’s a small cost associated with Meals on Wheels, which varies from program to program. (In general, it’s around $5 to $6 per meal.)
Selections for the Chronically Ill
There are several meal delivery programs throughout the United States that tailor to individuals with chronic illnesses. Most of these provide healthful meals, free of cost, to people with specific diagnoses, such as cancer, who also have limitations that inhibit their ability to cook meals on their own. These might include food insecurity, cognitive issues, surgery, or depleted energy levels. Meals from these programs are typically designated by a dietitian to be appropriate for participants based on their health conditions, medications, and food allergies. Some examples of programs that provide these types of services include God’s Love We Deliver, Open Arms of Minnesota, and MANNA.
Dietitians work with a wide array of patients, many of whom could benefit from a home-delivered meal service. This includes individuals who are generally healthy and still have the ability to cook on their own but for whom time constraints limit their capacity to prepare nutritious meals. Meal kit delivery services are a great option for dietitians to recommend for these types of patients. Furthermore, patients who are at nutritional risk, such as older adults and the chronically ill, are often appropriate referrals to home-delivered meal programs such as Meals on Wheels. All of these programs have the potential to improve health outcomes and a variety of other lifestyle and socioeconomic factors and may be an important step in reducing overall health care costs.
— Brianna Elliott, RD, LD, is a nutrition specialist for Open Arms of Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that delivers medically tailored meals to individuals with chronic illnesses. She also authors her lifestyle blog, Fresh Fit Flourish, and contributes her writing to several nutrition websites including Authority Nutrition. Brianna is in the process of finishing her master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from Mount Mary University. Her favorite part about being a dietitian is the wide array of paths that she can take in her career and the fact that she’s able to combine all of her passions: helping people, food, and writing!