Via Real Simple
It changed the way I eat when I’m in a hurry, plus more.
I write a great deal about meal prep. I often practice what I preach, making salads and casseroles on the weekend so I can heat and eat in a breeze during the week when my time is limited because of work demands. But, if I’m being honest, there are many weeks when there’s absolutely no time even on Sundays to get my grocery list sorted, food purchased, and meals made. That’s when I’ve found myself turning to take-out or frozen meals more times than I’d like to admit.
But with the evolution of the meal kit and direct-to-consumer food companies, some brands have rethought how busy people can eat well—vegetables, superfoods, fruit, nuts, and more—without a great deal of effort. One such company is Daily Harvest.
Originally known for their pre-packaged smoothie blends, the company now offers Harvest Bowls (savory foods they say are great for any time of day), soups, lattes, oat bowls, and chia bowls. These foods are different approaches to their same basic idea: deliver healthful, fulfilling meals you can feel good making and serving yourself or your family, even when you’re too busy to really cook.
I tried a variety of their products for a month. I drank smoothies in the mornings, and I used harvest bowls as a quick lunch or dinner when I didn’t have time to cook. Oat bowls were for weekend mornings, when I had more time to sit down and enjoy each spoonful. Soups made for wonderfully easy weeknight dinners with a piece of crusty fresh baguette picked up on my way home. I ate a lot of these pre-packaged meals in my 31-day experiment, which means I had a great deal to learn and share.
4 Main Takeaways of Eating Daily Harvest for One Month
1. It’s a lot healthier than almost any other frozen food options: Smoothies, even with the addition of oat milk, come in under 400 calories for most mixes. While that is higher than a bowl of cereal, each smoothie is bursting at the seams with fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, good fats, and more. Plus, the smoothies are packaged so you can blend, pour, then sip on the go. That removed any temptation to reach for a mega blueberry muffin when I picked up coffee, and it certainly removed any appeal of an egg-and-cheese biscuit at the donut shop, too. Plus, the savory Harvest Bowls had admirable nutrition numbers, with typically less than 400 calories and sodium that, in some cases is higher than you’d like to consume in one meal, but pales in comparison to most frozen dinners.
2. It’s an incredibly easy way to boost fruit and vegetable intake with little effort: I have to admit I struggle to get all my daily servings of fruits and vegetables. (Actually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruit and vegetables, so if you’re one of the 9 in 10 who doesn’t, I’m with you.) What I found with my Daily Harvest supply was that I dramatically increased the amount of produce and plants I was eating because their foods are all plant-forward. Instead of macaroni and cheese, you get to enjoy broccoli with “cheeze.” The faux cheese is made with nutritional yeast, which is savory enough that it could fool any cheese fiend. Because I was eating a smoothie for breakfast and a Harvest Bowl for either lunch or dinner (sometimes both), I infinitely increased my veggie intake over grilled chicken with sweet potato wedges, which was my usual go-to fast casual order.
3. It destroyed my excuse for not eating well—lack of time: Even easier than meal kits, the Daily Harvest Harvest Bowls are ready in under 10 minutes. I emptied a cup into a warming skillet or saute pan while I did a bit of kitchen cleaning, and I let the heat do the work of thawing the vegetables and warming the sauces. Not at home near a stove? Even easier: You can warm them in a microwave. The flavors are bright and bold. Unlike many frozen meals, these aren’t loaded down with salty sauces to mask subpar ingredients. If I was looking for a heftier meal, I simply added some grilled chicken or seared tofu. For the smoothies, I got into the routine of readying them as I was getting ready for the day. I added the suggested liquid to the cup (typically, almond milk, oat milk, or coconut water), and let it sit for about 5 minutes to soften up the ingredients. (My blender is strong, but it can use a helping hand with a slightly softer frozen pack.) Then, I’d pour it into the blender, and let the magic “smoothie” button go to work. The portable cups are designed for sipping on the go, so I put the smoothie back into the cup, popped on the top, and inserted a reusable straw.
4. I tried foods I’d typically not buy. I like most foods, but often only in small quantities. So when I have a craving for Brussels sprouts, I want to eat them once, and then probably not again for a few days. If I cook a recipe, however, I’ll probably have at least three servings leftover. The same goes for foods like kimchi. I like it a bit, but not a whole lot. But the single-serve meals let you satisfy a bit of craving—I adore the Brussels Sprouts + Lime Pad Thai—and then move on to another flavor the next day, like Mushroom + Mio soup. The same goes for the smoothies. While buying your own ingredients is a great way to DIY a mix you know you’ll love, the option to have any number of flavors during the week is alluring. One day, I’d want something a bit more savory (as in not terribly sweet), so I’d turn to Black Sesame + Banana. For something a touch more fruity, the Strawberry + Vanilla Bean was a favorite.
What’s the Price of Daily Harvest?
Daily Harvest offers 9-, 12-, and 24-cup boxes. Prices per cup decrease as you increase the number of cups per box. A box of 9, which might be great for a week of smoothies with a few dinner options, is $7.75/cup. If you try it once and decide this is for you, a box of 24, or a month’s worth of cups, is $6.99.
I found this keeps my grocery budget only a bit lower than what I was spending when I was haphazardly buying meals because I didn’t have time to cook. A single $20 salad and soup is almost three cups of fruits and vegetables, or three meals. But consider what I was getting in exchange: real food.
Is it an inexpensive option? No, you are getting a lot of fresh produce and prepared foods, which means you’re paying a premium for those services. But when compared to thawed soupy marinara and a limp chicken breast patty, the option to eat something that tastes as close to freshly prepared as possible, the extra expensive seems worth it to me, especially when my go-to alternative it nowhere near as healthy or cheap.