We usually think of home delivery diets as being for female celebrities (at least those not A-list enough to merit a full-time chef). So when a Brooklyn dad taste-tested them for the Times, we were somewhat curious.
[I]n a house full of food, including snacks bought for my 7-year-old sons, I had a hard time cutting calories. To me, portion control meant limiting myself to one of the three sleeves inside a box of Ritz crackers.
Binging on junk food is often portrayed as something only ladies do (see also romantic comedy, tub of ice cream), so it's nice to see Bernstein cop to it. And while I usually think of home-delivery diets — indeed, diets in general — as a scam I'm willing to buy that they might be able to teach healthier eating habits to someone who says he doesn't trust himself to develop them on his own. Except that some of the meals don't sound particularly healthy...or tasty. Of the brand NuKitchen, Bernstein writes,
The meals looked like institutional fare and their taste was disappointing. Sauces were gelatinous. And when I read the ingredients, I was dismayed. A single breakfast item contained mechanically separated turkey, sugar, beef stock, silicon dioxide and smoke flavoring, to name just a few.
"Mechanically separated turkey" with silicon dioxide may have fewer calories than a tube of Ritz, but it doesn't sound much healthier. And taste-wise, Bernstein was similarly disappointed with a tuna and taro chip snack from eDiets, in which "the chips, packed in the same plastic container as the tuna and a dollop of guacamole, were beyond soggy by the time I ate them." It's not surprising that Bernstein compares one eDiets meal to "the TV dinners of my childhood" — despite their lofty claims, these packaged diet meals are, essentially, TV dinners.
Bernstein's favorite meals came from a company called Zone Manhattan, whose owner shops for fresh ingredients at a local fish market almost daily. It stands to reason that the tastiest delivery foods are those that most resemble freshly cooked fare — and that these meals are pricey, at about $44 a day. At that rate, Zone Manhattan is out of reach for lots of people — many of whom probably don't have time to prepare the healthful home-cooked food its meals resemble. Ultimately, Bernstein's experiment relies on a lot of privilege, but it does provide an interesting counterpoint to the constant stream of female celebrity diet stories. These diets often sound punishing in their grossness — think Jennifer Aniston's alleged baby-food regimen. So while Bernstein's test has plenty of problems, it is nice to be reminded that in addition to its much-vaunted nutritive and caloric attributes, food should actually taste good.
Image via New York Times.