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Growing Gluten-Free Options
Gym owner and competitive athlete Christopher Gartrell doesn’t have to avoid gluten. But several years ago,
he began following the same gluten-free diet as a roommate who has celiac.
Gartrell says his athletic performance and body composition quickly improved. Overall he just felt better. The
Tucson, Arizona, 31-year-old has followed a gluten-free diet ever since—but he doesn’t always have time to shop
for ingredients and cook healthy meals.
So Gartrell orders ready-to-eat meals from Freshly, a delivery service that offers everything from apple-pumpkin porridge to Sicilian-style chicken parm—all 100 percent gluten free.
“The food is just really convenient and really high quality for prepared meals,” Gartrell says. “I don’t have a lot of time. The food comes to my house, and it’s fantastic.”
Freshly is one of a growing number of companies that deliver fresh or frozen gluten-free meals directly to customers. The delivery services, which start at around $10 a meal but may charge considerably more, aim to offer a convenient option for those who follow the gluten-free diet.
Some, including Freshly, follow stringent enough preparation practices to make them safe for those who have celiac, but others say outright they are not designed for consumers who have a medical need for the gluten-free diet. Instead, they are aimed at those who choose to eliminate gluten. (See Gluten-Free Labeling Rules for Meal Delivery Services Vary for more details on rules governing labeling of gluten-free meals.)
Freshly co-founder Carter Comstock is well-acquainted with the challenges of eating gluten free: He has several family members with celiac and is sensitive to gluten himself. “As a consumer, I know how difficult it can be to find great-tasting gluten-free meals, especially if you are not a creative cook,” he says.
Gartrell orders Freshly meals every week, with omelets and stir-fries among his favorites. He says the meal-delivery service costs about the same as what he might pay for healthy takeout, making it an affordable solution for people who don’t have time to cook.
“As an athlete, food is fuel for me,” Gartrell says. “I’m pretty busy. If I don’t prep meals, I have to eat out…. It’s cost-effective if you look at it that way.”
But Tricia Thompson, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant who specializes in celiac, advises gluten-free consumers to be cautious about meal-delivery services. “Consumers with celiac disease should think about these services the same way they think about restaurants and ask the same questions,” says Thompson, founder of the gluten-testing company Gluten Free Watchdog.
Here’s a look at meal-delivery services with gluten-free options.
Gluten isn’t the only ingredient missing from Freshly’s meals. The Tempe, Arizona, company favors high-quality proteins, healthy fats and low-glycemic carbohydrates over processed ingredients, sugars and artificial sweeteners.
On the menu: Freshly offers 30 menu items, with options for all three meals. Dishes range from a BLT Omelette to steak peppercorn, cod cakes and the Southwest Veggie Bowl.
What it costs: Freshly offers three meal plans: 4, 6, 9 or 12 meals per week. Total weekly cost ranges from $49.99 to $107.99, depending on the number of meals and deliveries. Shipping is free.
How it works: Freshly currently delivers to 27 states. Customers order online or by phone. Food is cooked and shipped on the same day and arrives in a refrigerated box via overnight or two-day shipping.
Gluten-free specifics: Freshly’s entire menu is gluten free.
“Freshly’s meals are naturally gluten-free,” Comstock adds. “There are a lot of highly processed gluten-free products out there that are not necessarily healthy.”
2. Fresh n’ Lean
Los Angeles-based Fresh n’ Lean, which has delivered gluten-free meals since 2010, uses organic, plant-based ingredients to create meals that are low in fat, salt, sugar and calories.
On the menu: Fresh n’ Lean’s menu changes weekly and includes options for all three meals. Recent offerings include coconut orange loaf, Spanish black bean and rice, and lentils and sweet potato mash.
What it costs: Meals, which start at $11.99, are available a la carte or as part of a plan, with daily rates that range from $14.99 for one meal to $27.99 for three. Shipping is free, and meals for additional people in a customer’s household are offered at a discounted rate.
How it works: Weekly delivery is available nationwide. Customers place their orders online, and meals are shipped fresh in specially designed coolers.
Gluten-free specifics: All Fresh n’ Lean meals are 100 percent gluten free, a spokeswoman says, and are prepared in a gluten-free facility. “Our gluten-free meal-delivery service … [provides] you with ready-prepared meals you know you can depend on,” Fresh ‘n Lean’s website says. “We source all of the ingredients and save you the hassle, taking care every step of the way to ensure no gluten reaches your plate.”
3. Green Chef
Green Chef is the first national meal kit to receive Gluten-Free Food Service certification through the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) for its three certified gluten-free menus (Paleo, keto and gluten-free). Each gluten-free recipe is crafted by expert chefs to deliver restaurant-quality flavor—without worrying about cross-contamination.
On the menu: Providing a new menu every week, recent offerings include maple BBQ meatloaf, the Chermoula Supergrain Bowl, Cajun sole and acorn squash cakes.
What it costs: The two-person and family meal plans, which offer weekly, biweekly or monthly deliveries, start at $13.49 per meal. Shipping is $9.
How it works: Customers can order their meals online and choose the weekday that works best for delivery, depending on location. Green Chef’s organic ingredients are hand-packed in eco-friendly insulated boxes.
Gluten-free specifics: Green Chef’s Gluten-Free Food Service certification through the GIG means that its gluten-free kits meet or exceed the most rigorous gluten-free standards in the industry.
MagicKitchen.com began delivering frozen meals in 2005, adding gluten-free options two years later. Chief executive officer Greg Miller says increased public awareness has fueled significant demand for the company’s steadily growing selection of gluten-free meals.
“The [gluten-free] meals are prepared in the same kitchen as other products,” Miller says, noting that the company makes it clear its products are not certified as gluten free.
On the menu: MagicKitchen.com now offers 28 gluten-free menu items, including crustless spinach quiche, Many Bean Soup, chicken and artichoke with spinach, panna cotta, and a variety of potatoes and vegetables.
What it costs: Prices for two servings range from $9.99 to $24.99. Shipping costs vary based on weight and distance, but $18 to $20 is typical.
How it works: Customers can order meals online or by phone, with no minimums or contracts. Frozen meals are shipped to all 50 states from MagicKitchen.com’s distribution center in Kansas City, Kansas. Orders arrive within three business days in a reusable, recyclable Styrofoam container packed with dry ice.
Gluten-free specifics: MagicKitchen.com uses the “Safe Gluten-Free Food List” at Celiac.com to determine which products to list as gluten-free based on the ingredients they contain.
5. Paleo on the Go
The Paleo diet emphasizes meats, seafood, healthy fats, vegetables and fruits. Paleo on the Go offers chef-prepared frozen meals that are gluten, grain, dairy and soy free as well as non-GMO. It has also added an Autoimmune Protocol Diet Menu, or AIP, which follows specific diet guidelines for people with autoimmune conditions and the associated food sensitives and inflammation. According to the company’s website, “Instead of merely eliminating foods, the autoimmune protocol encourages you to eat more nutrient dense, real food that better supports healing your body.”
On the menu: Options for all three meals include eggless breakfast scramble, bacon apple chicken burger with maple cranberry sauce, butternut squash lasagna with beef and spaghetti meatballs, as well as several dessert choices.
What it costs: The menu contains 62 items available for a la carte purchase, ranging in cost from $5.50 for Asian fried cauliflower rice to $28 for beef short ribs over portabella. A meal buncle, which includes 10 complete meals and two soups, costs $233.50. Shipping starts at $25 and the minimum amount to place an order is $99.
How it works: Delivery is available nationwide. Customers order online or by phone. Vacuum-sealed frozen meals are shipped with dry ice in thick coolers with an outer box.
Gluten-free specifics: “All of our food is chef prepared at our dedicated gluten free kitchen,” Paleo on the Go says on its website.
6. 22 Days Nutrition
22 Days Nutrition delivers 100 percent plant-based, organic meals that are non-GMO and free of gluten, dairy and soy. This vegan meal delivery service uses flavorful nutrient-dense ingredients that are naturally low in fat, sugar and salt.
On the menu: Daily options include Hearty Granola for breakfast, and shiitake mushroom yellow curry and Lebanese lentils with spiced cabbage for lunch or dinner.
What it costs: Breakfast dishes cost $6.95 and lunch/dinner options cost $12.95 a la carte. The required minimum order is $75. You can also sign up for a 5-, 7- or 22-day meal plan. Weekly shipping costs $20, but if you sign up for a 22-day plan, you only pay for the first two deliveries and the third is free.
How it works: Delivery is available anywhere in the continental United States. Customers order online or by phone. Meals are shipped overnight and delivered fresh in a biodegradable insulated cooler on Fridays.
Gluten-free specifics: “All of our meals are 100 percent gluten-free,” 22 Days says on its website. “And you won’t find ‘gluten-free’ alternatives in our meals, things like potato starch or tapioca flour. Instead, we focus on real, clean whole foods that are naturally gluten-free. We find that this is a more digestible and satisfying way to avoid gluten.”