On the heels of last week’s post about eating vegetarian while traveling, it seems an opportune time to publish a review of a service that makes it easy to do that very thing.
During Brendan Brazier’s podcast appearance earlier this year, we talked briefly about Thrive Foods Direct, his new service that delivers healthy vegan meals (like those in Brendan’s book Thrive Foods) to your door, fully prepared and ready to heat and serve.
I had the chance to try Thrive Foods Direct several weeks ago. My four sample meals could not have arrived at a better time — just a few hours prior, Erin and our son had left on an overnight trip, and I was foodless. The arrival of TFD at my door at that time meant:
(a) I wouldn’t have to cook for myself; and
(b) I wouldn’t have to share any of it with the little table monster that steals food from people’s plates in our house. Or with my son, either.
Win win win. Here’s how it went down.
Question 1: Can it possibly taste good?
Since this was my first foray into mail-order eating — thus far, I consider myself fortunate to have avoided being seduced by Terry Bradshaw into ordering Nutrisystem — my first concern was how the Thrive Foods Direct meals would taste.
Artificial preservatives obviously don’t jive with Brendan’s nutrition philosophy, so I was thinking these meals would be shipped frozen. And since a lot of Brendan’s food (especially in Thrive) is high-raw, I was half expecting that, rather than heat-and-eat, it would be defrost-and-eat-at-room-temperature.
As it turns out, this could not have been further from reality.
My four meals arrived in individual containers in a refrigerated (but not frozen) box. Each meal came with instructions for reheating, most of which gave the option of heating on the stovetop or in the microwave. No defrosting necessary, since nothing was frozen.
The four meals were Eggplant Chana Masala, Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa Masta, Lentil Soup, and Quinoa with Mixed Vegetables (it might have been the Moroccan Quinoa Salad; I can’t remember the exact name).
What struck me right away was the ingredient lists: literally every ingredient was organic and fresh. Without much salt, and without oil, either — Brendan later told me that although he’s not in the no-oil camp, he left it out so that people could choose to add it on their own if they desired, depending on their diet preferences. Same with salt.
Every meal was delicious. The one that sticks out in my mind as the best was the quinoa pasta with vegetable ragout, but any of the meals I tried would easily have passed for homemade. I added a good bit of salt to all of them — I am, after all, a devoted salt fiend — but other than that, the spices and flavors were perfect. And fresh.
The portions, unfortunately, weren’t huge. The more substantial meals were enough to fill me up, but others, like the quinoa with vegetables, left me needing a little something else to make a full meal of it.
Question 2: Can it possibly be affordable?
Okay, so Thrive Foods Direct exceeded expectations when it came the food itself. But there is a drawback, and you probably saw it coming. Price.
To buy and cook this kind of food for yourself isn’t exactly cheap. The few times I’ve bought quinoa pasta, for example, it has cost me three bucks for a half-pound box, when a normal box of pasta, at 12 ounces or a whole pound, costs half that much.
Add to that the cost of having your meal expertly prepared and shipped, refrigerated, to your doorstep, and of course you expect to pay a premium.
So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Thrive Foods Direct is expensive, at $45 a day for the cheapest plan. (Check out the other options here.) But here’s what’s pretty awesome.
As Brendan said in our podcast, and as he writes on the menu page:
As we grow, our goal is to actually lower the price to the point that the Thrive Foods Direct system (meal planning, nutritional balancing, ingredient shopping, preparation, and delivery) is actually the same price or even lower than if you were to make the meal yourself.
Now that would be incredible, and it would open up this way of eating to the zillions (I looked that up) of people who want to eat better but have neither the time to cook healthy food nor the budget to pay extra for its preparation.
When I’d order Thrive Foods Direct
Thrive Foods Direct is a little out of my price range. But my life and wallet swoll-ness are far different from a busy executive’s, and I can see how the convenience of having such great food delivered could be worth it for some people.
Where I can imagine myself using Thrive Foods Direct is when I’m traveling — they’ll deliver right to your hotel, and this is what they do for several pro NFL and NHL athletes who use Thrive Foods Direct.
But it’s not just for pros with make-it-rain-kinda-cash to spend. If you usually eat out for every meal while you travel, Thrive Foods Direct might not cost you any more than what you already pay for three meals at restaurants. And it’s likely a much healthier and tastier option.
So next time you have to go somewhere, say, on a business trip, that’s not known for its vegan-friendliness, it might be worth it to get a week’s worth of Thrive Foods Direct instead of Happy Cow’ing it.
Oh yeah, and one more thing to help with the price, if you’d like to give Thrive Foods Direct a try: Brendan gave us the discount code BB1, which you can use to get 20% off when you order.
Question 3: Where are your pictures, Matt?
What do I look like, a food blogger? Okay, so I should have taken pictures, but I didn’t. Sorry about that. My pictures never make food look good anyway, and besides, I was too busy doing nothing for the first time in many months with the fam out of town.
But check out my friend Gena’s Thrive Foods Direct review, which she just posted this very same day. She’s got pictures aplenty. And actual good writing, too!
So there you have my take on Thrive Foods Direct. It’s a high-quality service, nothing less than we should expect from Brendan Brazier when it comes to plant-based food, just like his Vega supplement line. And also like with Vega, you pay for what you get. It’s certainly not cheap — not yet, anyway — but for the right person, it could be worth every penny.
If you’ve tried Thrive Foods Direct, feel free to chime in and let us know what you thought!