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By all standards, my friends would label me a healthy eater.
I’d much rather snack on granola or a spoonful of unsweetened, natural almond butter than a candy bar. Cue the eyerolls, but grocery shopping is surprisingly relaxing for me, too. Take me to an organic grocer or a farmers market and I’m in my element.
In a world full of fast foods, meal kits and prepared-meal delivery services, what’s a healthy foodie to do?
When I first heard about Sakara, a plant-based, prepared-meal delivery service, I was intrigued by its colorful recipes, healthy lifestyle branding and promise of organic food delivered straight to your door. All signs pointed to this being the perfect meal service for someone like me, so I decided to investigate.
I was curious if it was all too good to be true, so I snagged a sample box for review to try out Sakara for myself.
What’s the deal with Sakara?
Sakara is prepared-meal delivery service that provides organic plant-based meals to your doorstep, all pre-prepped and ready to eat. Forbes appropriately described it as “a Blue Apron-like meal delivery program for aspiring Gwyneth Paltrows.”
The Sakara recipes are crafted on “a whole-food, plant-rich diet that includes fresh, nutrient-dense, and delicious ingredients.” That sounds like a mouthful, but in layman’s terms that means the meals are full of nutrients, healthy fats and lots (and lots) of veggies.
The meal service was founded by friends and former roommates Whitney Tingle and Danielle Duboise, who, years ago, were burnt out from long working hours and fed up with unhealthy diet culture.
“We made it our mission to figure out what it would mean to eat in the healthiest way possible. No extremes, but it had to work and it had to taste good,” Tingle said in an email.
After years of research and study, plus meetings with integrative doctors, health specialists and even acupuncturists, Sakara was born.
“We made it our mission to figure out what it would mean to eat in the healthiest way possible. No extremes, but it had to work and it had to taste good.”
– Whitney Tingle, Sakara Life co-founder
Sakara labels itself as a “premium lifestyle and wellness brand,” but differs from other meal delivery services in that it provides no calories or nutritional information. That idea is based on research that shows years of dieting and calorie restriction doesn’t lead to significant weight loss, but instead often leads to higher stress levels. With that in mind, the New York City-based company built a meal delivery service around food quality, not food restrictions.
Many nutritionists, however, don’t agree with the no-label model. Registered dietitian Keri Gans, for example, told HuffPost that nutritional information is about more than just calorie counting.
“A delivery service like Sakara doesn’t provide any nutritional information on the individual meals, and for most people I think that information could be quite useful, especially if you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes or high cholesterol,” she said.
So, how does Sakara work?
The subscription model is pretty similar to that of other meal delivery services in that you can select your preferred weekly meal plan and delivery date. The service offers either a three-day or five-day option that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cost ranges from around $56 to $80 per day — pricier than other prepared-meal services like Freshly or Daily Harvest. Sakara also offers detox teas and supplements as separate add-ons.
Unlike many other meal delivery services, there are no substitutions or alternatives with Sakara — what’s on the menu for that week is what you get. Allergy modifications (such as nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, nightshades) will cost you an extra $60 a box — a hefty price for a company whose clientele is focused on healthy eating.
That high cost, DuBoise told HuffPost, is to account for the work that goes into preparing modified meals that are just as tasty and nutritious as the regular menu items.
“We believe adding roughly $4 a meal is a fair price for the work and care that goes into creating and making these meals,” DuBoise wrote in an email.
There’s no nutritional information provided, but the bottom of each package lists the ingredients in that particular meal in case you are sensitive to certain foods.
What’s on the menu and what comes in a delivery?
Sakara offers two meal programs: a Signature Program (Level I) and a 5-day Detox Program (Level II), which is only offered once a month. The Detox Program is intended to be an extension of the Signature Program. There is also the option to choose add-ons for the Signature Program, such as Probiotics, Beauty Chocolates, and products such as Beauty Water Drops and Metabolism Super Powder.
I received a sample three-day Signature Program meal delivery that included nine complete, pre-prepped meals: three breakfasts, three lunches and three dinners. Each meal was labeled for the day and came in its own container. (Some meals included multiple containers, such as a side of Dragon Pop for a lunch Mojito Salad.)
The menu for this particular week included tasty-sounding recipes like Spicy Harissa Chard Abundance Bowl with Jasmine Rice and Superfood Breakfast Cookie with Chrysanthemum Jam.
If the Sakara menu lineup doesn’t make it clear, these meals are designed to bring you out of any unhealthy dining rut. The menus are diverse, offering “superfood” ingredients like jackfruit and “pink probiotic dressing” to satisfy your tastebuds. What I found particularly interesting was that some of the meals came with informational cards on a particular ingredient in the meal. I learned that jackfruit is packed with immune-boosting vitamins A and C, while hearts of palm are a solid source of dietary fiber.
The quality of the food I received in my box was top-notch. Everything arrived fresh; nothing was spoiled or rancid (something that I’ve experienced before with other meal subscription services). You get the sense that the Sakara recipes are designed with fresh ingredients in mind.
How do the Sakara meals taste?
One of my favorite meals was the Sakara Burger ― a dense patty of beans and grains complete with a not-too-hot chili sauce made from cashews and topped off with coconut bacon. (That’s right, vegan eaters — I said coconut bacon.) In comparison to some of the convenient, go-to frozen veggie burger options at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, this burger was really flavorful and filling. I didn’t find myself searching for a late-night snack after that meal.
Other meals felt less filling. The salads and bowls in my delivery contained a lot of greens ― we’re talking about two full cups. The Abundance Bowl , for instance, was mainly a big bed of mixed lettuces with a few toppings sprinkled throughout. Though I appreciated the focus on fresh veggies, I ended up adding extras from another meal to give the bowl some more substance. Thankfully, the dressing made up for the lack of ingredients.
Overall, as someone who enjoys cooking regularly, I found some of the meals to be on the bland side. I was sure the DIY pulled jackfruit tacos were going to have a spicy kick, but instead I found myself digging through my own spice cabinet to add some flavor.
The bottom line: Is Sakara worth it?
Is Sakara for everyone? Probably not. The delivery service is marketed toward busy people who are stuck in an unhealthy eating rut and want something fast, convenient and easy.
It’s hard to say whether meal delivery subscriptions are “worth it” in general. Chicago-based registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk recommends looking into them if you’re in a mood to try something different or are particularly busy during a certain time period.
“I definitely think subscriptions are a great tool for people to try eating foods they wouldn’t usually and to eat healthy when they are super busy, and cooking and shopping are hard to fit into the schedule,” Michalczyk said.
A major downside to Sakara, as with many similar services, is the sheer amount of plastic and waste. Every meal was in a plastic to-go container, and each sauce or dressing was also secured in a mini plastic container. Sakara’s messaging did emphasize recycling and reusing the containers, but they’re still a downside. Because of this, the meals also take up a lot of refrigerator space.
“This service may work for someone who doesn’t want to put in the brain power to think about meal prepping but who wants to know they’re eating nourishing and wholesome meals.”
And, as I mentioned earlier, another downside is the extra cost for allergy modifications — it’s a steep fee for avoiding certain ingredients.
This service may work for someone who doesn’t want to put in the brain power to think about meal prepping but who wants to know they’re eating nourishing and wholesome meals.
In the end, I’d recommend Sakara to someone who has a truly swamped week. It could also make a good jumpstart on a healthy eating resolution in the new year by challenging you to think about your relationship with greens and veggies.
You’ll definitely shell out for this luxurious service, but if knowing that what you’re eating is healthier than any takeaway or delivery options, then it might just be for you.
Not sure Sakara is what you’re looking for?
There are plenty of other prepared meal delivery services with a wide range of offers and plans, from Freshly to Blue Apron’s Weight Watchers-approved meals.
To learn more, check out our guide to the best healthy prepared meal delivery services.
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