THE COST OF EATING TO LOSE WEIGHT

I’ve recently noticed a few “go-getters” starting their own businesses in the fitness environment. Whether it’s training programmes, meal plans, a hot-headed fitness guru or a healthy meal-delivery platform.

Elan, from SleekGeek, is an inspiration to pretty much anyone looking to lose weight.

Most prominent of these startups, SleekGeek is run by Elan Lohmann and offers it’s participants a fun and safe space to lose weight. After you send in your measurements and pay for you entry, you’re invited to a world of online training programmes, weekly check-ins, eating plans and diets, Facebook discussion groups, a boatload of somewhat useful shopping vouchers, advice and not to forget — weekly check-ins to ensure you’re on track and in pursuit of the winner’s prize — a R10 000 cash injection.

I tried SleekGeek but just two weeks into the programme I found myself getting horribly drunk in Thailand and eating all sorts of bad foods. There was no way I could continue on the programme so I figured I would just restart when I returned home.

Needless to say, that was in March and today we’ve just begun October — and I never rebooted.

In the time since my SleekGeek entry, I’ve had an opportunity to really think this through — every time I try lose fat I am reminded that “it’s all in the diet”. You can excercise three times a week — seven if you’re really into it — but if you’re not eating the right food, then forget it.

The SleekGeek website (above) is a plethora of information.

And so, I embarked on a journey to find a way to eat healthy. I spent many Rands at Woolworths looking for the right items to add to my new healthy eating plan — I had taken a diet off my SleekGeek page and swore to myself I’d follow it. It wasn’t long, though, until I started to get complacent and my evening meal preparations turned into binge watching series after a good dinner and a couple of beers.

But here I am… It’s October and I’m still no lighter on the Kilos. So I decided to take this search for healthy meals to the next step and peruse the options available thanks to the trend of startups in the fitness space.

I whittled my options down to two — iHealth Meals and FitChef — after much deliberation and research I opted for iHealth Meals. Mainly because I liked the idea of freshly prepared and packed meals delivered daily; to my understanding, FitChef only supply’s you with frozen food albeit at a cheaper price to iHealth Meals.

Although the FitChef (left) options are abundant, sometimes it’s better to just keep it simple for first-time users — the iHealth Meals (right) offer a much simpler option.

I have since also discovered Daily Dish although they don’t do specific weight-loss meal plans but more so seem to cater for the average Joe/Jane who is looking for a general meal. They also don’t cook the meals for you — they purchase the ingredients and you make it yourself. They’re certainly worth checking out if you’re just looking for someone to deliver fresh ingredients and do your shopping— their food looks pretty awesome and their menu changes every week, but you’re going to have to cook the meals old school style.

I signed up to iHealth Meals, placed my first order, and decided to write a post about my first week’s experience. I hope this goes someway to helping anyone looking for a healthy meal plan — and shows you some true and honest feedback.

Disclaimer: I am in no way remunerated by any above mentioned brands for this post and receive absolutely nothing in return for my review from anyone.

THE SIGNUP PROCESS

The signup process was pretty quick. I had e-mailed them (15h34) prior to signing up because I had some reservations and questions about the sample menu on their website. My mail was responded to almost immediately (17h15) and I began the sign-up process. They’re pretty amenable to your dietary requirements (tastes and allergens) so don’t be shy to tell them you’re not a fan of Peppers! Within a few minutes I was signed up and received a confirmation mail — I would receive two snacks, a lunch and a dinner; Monday to Friday.

The next morning, however, I received an email from their support desk to tell me that the option I had chosen (4 meals a day for 10 days) was only available to me if I opted for the full 20 days — i.e a month.

Obviously that made no sense to me. Why would I want to opt into something for a month when I’ve never tried it before? I put on my Yamuka and began negotiation tactics. By 17h00 that day it was confirmed, via the Support Member who confirmed with the iHealth Accountant, I was able to participate in a two week trial with four meals.

The support from iHealth is pretty awesome — near instant responses make it a pleasure to deal with them.

PAYMENT

I opted for the Cash Payment on Delivery option (you get a 5% discount) so that helped ease the blow a little — including delivery my 10-day plan came to a total of R1832; so R183 per day basically. Included in that, however, was a 10% surcharge because I requested certain items be left out / replace from my meal. If you want to EFT that won’t be a problem but I did not notice a credit/debit card system on their website.

Your iHealth Meals arrive nicely packed and ready for consumption. Each meal doesn’t look like much — but once you open the packaging and begin consuming you realise how large the portions actually are.

DELIVERY

Delivering your food to you, fresh every morning, isn’t as simple as one may think. So it’s no doubt there may be some issues when it comes to delivery. After requesting delivery at my work, I was told that they could only deliver to Woodstock between 6 and 7am; unfortunately for me there’s no-one at the office that time so I requested it be later. After one e-mail it was resolved; the driver would deliver after his morning run in the CBD. On the first day, however, I had to request late on Sunday my delivery be sent to my home on Monday instead of work; and from Tuesday they could revert to work. This was not issue at all for the iHealth team and I received my second meal, on Tuesday, perfectly fine.

THE MEALS

The meal plan is sent to you a week in advance and the macro-enabled spreadsheet allows you to amend your plan before 24h00 on Wednesday evenings. In my case, I had requested no fish, coriander or peppers but I never received a new menu with my amendments; so here’s to hoping I don’t get the Wednesday lunch!

This is probably the best part of this post — and the reason I assume you’re still reading, so take a peak below into my daily meals for the first week.

All meals are delivered in a plastic bag with your name on it — a sticker on the top of each meal explains if you can eat it cold or if you should separate the items and warm them up (you obviously don’t want to warm your salad!).

There’s no exciting un-boxing experience here unfortunately so I’ll just jump straight into the daily meal reviews.

WEIGHT PRIOR TO STARTING DIET: 83.4kg

MONDAY

I received my first meal at 09h50 on Monday morning — just in time for my first snack. First up on the menu was a shake of sorts — It had strawberries and was called a “Summer Fruit Smoothie” on my menu — it said with pumpkin seeds too, but I have no idea whether they forgot to bring them on the side, or if they were actually in the smoothie.

The first snack (bottom left) was a great smoothie and lunch (top right) was not as dry as it looks. The second snack (top left) could have been separated a bit better in the box and dinner (bottom right) was a little disappointing for a start.

Lunch was pretty good, although it didn’t look very appetizing in the box. The hamburger patties were tasty and although they looked rather dry, they really weren’t. I got some sweet potato too and the coleslaw was as fresh and crunchy as it should always be — so no complaints there.

My second snack was a little confusing. The sticker on top told me to separate and heat it; it was sweet potato in what looked/tasted like a chunky cottage cheese sauce. I wasn’t really sure how to separate it, nor was I sure if I should be warming up the cheese topping or not. Regardless, I threw it all onto a plate and warmed the whole lot up — it wasn’t too bad in the end but I’d have preferred if the cottage cheese dip was served in its own compartment to the sweet potato.

Dinner was a little disappointing in my view. I forgot to take a picture of the plate but it wasn’t much to write home about to be honest. The menu stipulated Sesame Chicken Strips, Orange, Walnut & Strawberry Salad, Honey & Soy Vinaigrette, and Broccoli but the problem was there were no Walnuts in the salad, and no Broccoli. Instead I was given a few leaves of spinach and some hard courgettes. Although the chicken was quite tough and dry, the Honey & Soy vinaigrette helped add some flavour and although the meal seemed quite small in the box, in the end it was rather filling.

TUESDAY

My second day’s meals were delivered and in the fridge by the time I arrived at work at 08h40.

After my scrambled eggs breakfast, which I made myself I’ll have ya know, I headed into my first iHealth meal for the day — Snack #1 was what they refer to as an “Immune Booster Smoothie” — the base seemed to be super fresh orange juice with some other goodies added in, and whilst it was actually quite nice — it was also a little sour. No worries though; I finished it all and enjoyed the handful of Almonds on the side!

Lunch was an interesting experience. I’ve never eaten Beetroot before. Like, really, never. Braai Lemon & Herb Chicken breast, Pickled Beetroot & Grilled Butternut Feta Salad, and Olives — that was the official description of lunch and I tell you — it was actually pretty awesome. I didn’t warm the chicken so I just had a nice cold lunch which was cooked really well and even the chicken was full of flavour compared to last night’s one. As it was an incredibly hot Cape Town day, I had no issue eating it cold. I’d suggest iHealth (if they read this) stick to this style of braai chicken when serving chicken and not the [pan-fried?] one I got last night.

The immune-booster shake (top left) is accompanied by crunchy Almonds and offers a decent prelude to lunch (bottom left). The second snack (top right) contains a lot of mayonnaise whilst the Greek dinner dish (bottom right) looks a little bland at first glance — but tastes pretty good.

The second snack was pretty decent. I’m not a huge fan of smoked chicken, but when you smother it in a fresh mayo and add some finely chopped tomato and onion and some other things I can’t really make it then you’re in for a treat! I miss admit though, the actual item on the menu was Tuna with Wasabi Mayo, and Tomato & Coriander Salsa but I opted for no tuna and no coriander on my personalised menu; so this must have been Chef’s choice for a healthy alternative.

Dinner was interesting. I selected the Weight Loss diet, so I could lose weight obviously and whilst dinner consisted of a nice fresh salad it was served alongside a portion of Moussaka which featured some potato, a white sauce and minced beef — I’ve always been told not to have potato at night but hey, I’m just going with it. I also thought it lacked some aubergine as that’s normally in a Moussaka but I’m not complaining as it was pretty tasty!

WEDNESDAY

Day three is usually one of the hardest when starting a new diet — you begin to crave the usual crisps, wraps, pastas and what-not; but you know you’ve just got to stick this out — the results will come!

The first snack was pretty cool — though I have absolutely no idea what was in it. I can tell you it was a shake and with a side of Almonds. The menu said Peanut Butter and Banana smoothie — but I am pretty sure there was no peanut butter, and if there was, great work in disguising the flavour! There were however some kind of nuts — possibly cashews or almonds perhaps — it was good though so I will stop complaining!

Lunch (left) was great. The steak was cooked so brilliantly how can I give it anything less than a 10! Dinner (right) didn’t look too amazing but [apparently] it tasted just fine.

Lunch was excellent. I mean it was just a piece of steak and a standard salad (cucumber, onion, lettuce, tomato) but it was satisfying. The steak was good and served rare — even after a quick 30-seconds in the microwave it was still no more than medium rare. I sliced it up and served it on top of the salad. I felt the salad could have done with some olives and feta but hey — perhaps that’s too unhealthy?

Dinner… well, this is awkward! Ok, so I had a monthly dinner club which meant I couldn’t sit in the restaurant and not eat — so I cheated a little and asked a friend to test the dinner — the grilled chicken breast was served with a really awesome slaw made up of apple, walnut and cucumber — the honey and Dijon mustard dressing was enough to ensure the slaw wasn’t too dry but the chicken was tasty and soft.

Thursday

The first snack was a little odd — I’ve never eaten seeds in my life so today was another first for me! The morning’s fruit smoothie was made from Goji berries apparently — although I didn’t see any remnants in the smoothie and wouldn’t even know what it tastes like — another first for me!

Lunch was incredible. Just amazing. I’ll write six pages worth of a review to tell you simply how great it was. Grilled Rump Steak, Creamy Summer Potato Salad, Balsamic Cherry Tomato with fresh Basil, and Rocket & Parmesan Dressing. Seriously, it was awesome and you can see for yourself in the picture above and if you look even closer you can see some of the amazing onions atop the steal! Don’t be put off by the oil on the plate — it was more water from the tomato salad and the oil from the meat I heated up; but my goodness it was brilliant!

My second snack was a nice change. I was given two rice cakes (super fresh and crisp) as well as a topping; not sure what it actually was but the menu said: Hummus, Feta with Mint, Olives, and Rice Cake. So I could definitely taste some feta and mint — but not entirely sure where the Hummus was; unless it’s taste was disguised by the feta, mint and olives. I found it a little salty given the feta and the olives — but nonetheless extremely tasty!

The smoothie (top left) was pretty interesting but the lunch (bottom left) was just incredible. My second snack (top right) was almost as tasty as dinner (bottom right)!

Dinner was pretty awesome! The Tikka chicken breast was cooked absolutely perfectly — still soft and far from dry. The scoop of tzaziki was a great addition and not really any taste of garlic which was a huge relief as most tzaziki dips I’ve consumed seem to be riddled with garlic. The roasted butternut and pumpkin seed salad was just the right portion size and together with the tzaziki offered a really refreshing dinner experience.

Friday

It’s a little bitter sweet day for me. I’m not looking forward to a weekend of unprepared food to be honest. This week has been quite an experience — and with my second day of training I was quite looking forward to the first snack.

The menu said I’d be getting an Orange and Grape smoothie — but it was no different (in taste) to the one I received on Tuesday. The almonds were a satisfying side but I would really appreciate not having such a sour smoothie again. In fact, I wouldn’t entirely call it a smoothie — it was more like a really fresh orange juice with some bits inside — but my word it was bitter or sour…still can’t place the flavour 100%.

I can’t fault lunch! The chicken was soft and tasty — and the salad was really nice and fresh. The rice and lentils with the chicken made for a filling lunchtime feast.

The second snack for the day was great considering I needed something refreshing. A nice fridge-cold fruit salad really ended the Friday afternoon on a cool note.

Dinner (left) was served with a fairly dry slaw and a wedge of apple so I decided to steal from Mom’s famous cucumber salad and liven up my plate (right) a little in place of the slaw.

I was a little frustrated with the dinner. The slaw served with the meat was very dry and didn’t even come with a dressing of sorts. The meat was very tough and actually wasn’t pleasant. The sweet potato rostis — whilst a nice addition — were rather ‘pap’ but the slight crisp still left in them made for a nice addition I suppose. I eventually substituted the slaw with my own salad concoction and was at least then able to enjoy a slightly more pleasant final meal of the week.

UPDATE: I have since begun week 2 of the meal plan and can only say the meals are half of what they were the week before.

I got a call yesterday (Wednesday) from iHealth and told them how I feel and hoped that from Thursday it would improve.

The quality of meals (lunch and dinner above) has dipped ten-fold since last week.

Thursday’s dinner was a lot more impressive. Finally some colour to the plate although I am not entirely sure what is in the dressing-bowl… sure I’ll get to that tonight!

Thursday’s dinner has some colour back to it — thank goodness!
Much the same can be said for the snacks in this week — a horrible looking one on the left and the chicken liver (I assume?) is strangely served with some carrot sticks and whole baby tomatoes.

CONCLUSION

The first week was great. The food was always fresh and constantly tasty. The different flavours ensured every day was a great experience. I learned to eat things I’ve never touched before so I was really excited to enter week two.

I need to see out this week, and hope next week improves. If it doesn’t I’ll have to find myself another daily catering service.

WEIGHT ON SUNDAY MORNING AFTER WEEK 1: 81.2kg