diet on your doorstep

Not only do they de­liver gourmet meals, but diet de­liv­ery ser­vices also prom­ise hope. Are they worth it, though?


Diet de­liv­ery pro­grams prom­ise not just cre­ative and care­ful menu plan­ning but also hope.

Diet de­liv­ery pro­grams have, in re­cent mem­ory, kick­started a ris­ing army of finicky om­ni­vores into ei­ther get­ting into bet­ter shape or ad­dress­ing health is­sues. In the past few years, ready- made meal ser­vices have sprouted every­where and gar­nered a rep­u­ta­tion as a con­ve­nient ticket to a life­style goal. While th­ese ser­vices may reek of a food fad, healthy eat­ing is not. And given the fact that main­tain­ing a sus­tain­able diet is hard for many peo­ple, cre­ative meal plan­ning be­comes an ever more ap­peal­ing and vi­able op­tion.

“It started with the farm- to- ta­ble trend,” says Locavore’s Mikel Zaguirre, who him­self has launched his own pro­gram called The Black Box.

“Peo­ple can ben­e­fit from the ser­vice only if they see it as a jump- start to their healthy diet,” says nu­tri­tion­ist Giorgia Guidi­celli. “Th­ese ser­vices can teach a con­sumer that eat­ing healthy is more than just boiled broc­coli and steamed fish.” She, how­ever, warns that when one fails to con­sume enough calo­ries, the body will go into a state called ke­to­sis, which is detri­men­tal to health and, in ex­treme cases, can lead to epilepsy bouts.

The prin­ci­ple be­hind many diet de­liv­ery pro­grams is a calo­rie- counted meal plan that takes a per­son’s daily in­take re­quire­ment into ac­count to shed some pounds. But un­like the pre­vi­ous men­tal­ity that count­ing calo­ries is the best way to lose weight, a new study by Tufts Univer­sity re­searchers sug­gests that tiny changes in the types of pro­tein and car­bo­hy­drate one eats in­flu­ence longterm weight gain.

In the case of The Healthy House, founder and CEO Ger­ard Si­son says that merely watch­ing your calo­rie in­take is an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity. “You need to bal­ance macronu­tri­ents and mi­cronu­tri­ents prop­erly. It’s not just 1,200 or 1,500 calo­ries; it has to be an amount of calo­ries bal­anced the right way, oth­er­wise the body doesn’t work ef­fi­ciently.”

Count­ing calo­ries isn’t en­tirely point­less, but look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture—that is, de­ter­min­ing how nu­tri­ent-rich the foods a per­son con­sumes—is more fun­da­men­tal than just keep­ing tabs on num­bers. The no­tion of “eat­ing more calo­ries than you burn equates to weight gain” trans­lates to burn­ing 3,500 calo­ries (equiv­a­lent to one pound of fat) to lose a pound may sound sim­ple, but what’s the as­sur­ance that one only loses fat and not a com­bi­na­tion of wa­ter and lean tis­sue?

“If the calo­rie- cal­cu­lated meals were specif­i­cally tai­lored for you and had all food groups per meal, there wouldn’t be a down­side,” says Guidi­celli. “One’s basal meta­bolic rate ( what the body needs in or­der for the or­gans to prop­erly func­tion) can usu­ally range from 1,200 up to 1,700 calo­ries a day. But caloric needs in­crease as en­ergy

Count­ing calo­ries isn’t en­tirely point­less, but look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture—that is, de­ter­min­ing how nu­tri­en­trich the foods a per­son con­sumes— is more fun­da­men­tal than just keep­ing tabs on num­bers.

ex­pen­di­ture in­creases.”

In the Philip­pines though eat­ing healthy is a chal­lenge that de­mands a break in habits. “The coun­try has amaz­ing prospects in terms of grow­ing pro­duce be­cause it has a great cli­mate and you can ac­tu­ally grow al­most any­thing here so with all that po­ten­tial, it’s funny that peo­ple stick to eat­ing the same things,” says Sar­gon Pet­ros bluntly, founder and CEO of life­style and health tech­nol­ogy com­pany Bet­ter Health. “But I find that it’s chang­ing, and it’s chang­ing really quickly. Peo­ple are de­mand­ing di­ver­sity. That and ob­vi­ously when peo­ple get sick as a re­sult of eat­ing too much salt or sugar.”

What many peo­ple who sub­scribe to th­ese schemes might miss is iden­ti­fy­ing whether their per­sonal needs match those of the brands they sub­scribe to, making the power of trans­parency and re­search all the more cru­cial.

Making A Bet­ter Choice

While Bet­ter Health, es­tab­lished in Novem­ber 2014, can­not be pi­geon­holed into the diet de­liv­ery cat­e­gory, this life­style brand does of­fer a sim­i­lar ser­vice but takes an al­len­com­pass­ing ap­proach to well- be­ing. Trans­parency, made- from- scratch meals, and a clear pur­pose are some of the sub­stan­tial points at the core of Bet­ter Health. Most of the credit for its clout traces back to Pet­ros’ vi­sion. “I ac­tu­ally want to be able to pro­vide a so­lu­tion for ev­ery­body,” he says. “Not just peo­ple who want to lose weight or change their body com­po­si­tion, but for ev­ery kind of hu­man con­di­tion.” Their 400- sqm head­quar­ters in Makati serves as the in­fra­struc­ture of its ef­fi­cient ecosys­tem that sup­ports the com­pany’s prin­ci­ples— from the kitchen prep us­ing cus­tom­ized equip­ment and the meal pro­duc­tion ad­her­ing to strict pro­to­cols all the way to the biodegrad­able/ re­cy­cled pack­ag­ing that in­creases the food’s shelf life and the GPS- tracked in- house de­liv­ery fleet. But at its heart, Bet­ter Health has the knack to make some­one wres­tle with some very ba­sic ques­tions about one’s life­style. Clean food is cen­tral to Bet­ter Health, cur­rently avail­able in three nu­tri­tion pack­ages ( small, medium, and large, start­ing at P650 a day), but the con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with their clients and, in some cases, their clients’ doc­tors is a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor. “A lot of our cus­tomers are re­cov­er­ing from med­i­cal is­sues or have med­i­cal is­sues that need to be man­aged for the rest of their lives. We have can­cer pa­tients or peo­ple with diabetes, and for those par­tic­u­lar peo­ple, we’re ac­tu­ally man­ag­ing their pro­gram with their spe­cific physi­cians.” Yet, as Pet­ros says, Bet­ter Health is just at the tip of its iceberg with the com­pany set to release more diet op­tions for all mar­ket seg­ments and fresh in­no­va­tions and al­ter­na­tives. “It’s really about main­tain­ing your health in a very con­ve­nient way.”

Back to Black

Zaguirre’s The Black Box is pos­si­bly his most weighty and am­bi­tious project yet. On one hand, the newly launched diet de­liv­ery pro­gram is filled with meals that not only en­cour­age lifechang­ing habits but are also taste­fully done. On the other hand, Zaguirre is stretch­ing him­self as never be­fore, work­ing on The Black Box, his new anti- trend restau­rant FAT in Boni­fa­cio Global City, and a mod­ern Mex­i­can eatery called Ta­que­ria 101 just be­side The Black Box’s com­mis­sary in Parañaque all at the same time. His port­fo­lio co­he­sion notwith­stand­ing, The Black Box em­braces meth­ods that aren’t just for los­ing weight. Based on a five- day meal plan for P750 a day, The Black Box’s ac­tual weight- loss pro­gram spans up to six months but, as Zaguirre as­serts, isn’t solely for weight watch­ers. “It’s also di­a­betic- friendly. It’s a dif­fer­ent diet. We’re us­ing 120 grams of por­tioned pro­tein and 120 grams of por­tioned veg­eta­bles.” Po­si­tion­ing them­selves as a pre­mium ser­vice for a slice of the mar­ket that can sus­tain the life­style, Zaguirre em­ploys sous vide for their range of dishes. “Even though you put less sea­son­ings, the fla­vor is height­ened when you com­press it, and the nu­tri­ents stay in­side the pack.” The Black Box has also part­nered with The Diabetes Store where prod­uct and nu­tri­tion­ist con­sul­ta­tion are in­te­grated be­tween the two.

A House Like a Home

The Healthy House is a pol­ished, care­fully planned ef­fort that mag­ni­fies the life­style Si­son has been liv­ing since his mod­el­ing days. How­ever, whereas other pro­grams cen­ter around calo­rie count­ing, The Healthy House fea­tures a broad­ened per­sonal ap­proach and a sci­en­tif­i­cally ro­bust method­ol­ogy. It’s some­thing they have been per­fect­ing since launch­ing in Septem­ber of 2014. “The whole pur­pose of our be­ing is to help peo­ple with health goals nu­tri­tion­ally,” says Si­son. “We’ve had sev­eral clients who have high choles­terol and have been go­ing through med­i­ca­tions for sev­eral years, and af­ter a cer­tain pe­riod with us, the doc­tor cleared them.” Si­son has also hand­picked a hand­ful of health en­thu­si­asts who in­clude, among oth­ers, ac­tor Daniel Mat­sunaga, head chef Jose Felipe Gaer­lan, who has also worked at the Alain Du­casse For­ma­tion et Con­seil in France, and St. Luke’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter- Global City’s nu­tri­tion­ist- di­eti­tian Mia David. While the for­mula of achiev­ing health goals upholds fun­da­men­tal ideals com­pa­ra­ble to other brands’, their cus­tomiz­abil­ity is em­blem­atic of their at­ti­tude. Sub­scribers con­sult with their nu­tri­tion­ists first be­fore pro­ceed­ing. “We set a re­al­is­tic goal,” says Si­son. “We don’t tell peo­ple you’re go­ing to lose 10 pounds in two weeks. If you want to lose 10 pounds, let’s start on a five- week pro­gram and see what re­sults one gets.” There is also a feel­ing of em­pa­thy, which is best ex­pressed when coaches call their clients about their progress— all in an ef­fort to pro­vide a solid re­turn on in­vest­ment, given that sub­scribers shell out P1,100 a day.

Money Talks

With pro­grams snow­balling in num­bers—as many as 50, says Si­son—th­ese brands are in­creas­ingly find­ing them­selves in the po­si­tion of be­ing har­bin­gers of the Filipinos’ eat­ing habits. A Nielsen Shop­per Trends Re­port con­firms the struc­tural shift oc­cur­ring in house­holds, with con­sumers cut­ting on monthly su­per­mar­ket spend­ing by 13 per­cent in 2014 com­pared to 2012 in fa­vor of din­ing out. Twenty-five per­cent of con­sumers opt to eat out at least once a week—whether at fast-food restau­rants or con­ve­nience stores—com­pared to last year’s 14 per­cent turnout. And com­par­ing the price of eat­ing out, th­ese pack­aged meals fare well since any­one can find a pro­gram that suits their bud­get. In ad­di­tion, the coach­ing com­po­nent and cus­tomer tes­ti­mo­ni­als make it even more tempt­ing for peo­ple to re-cre­ate their rou­tine.

Pet­ros how­ever cau­tions peo­ple to ex­er­cise vig­i­lance when de­cid­ing to sign up for a pro­gram. “I think what [some diet de­liv­ery pro­grams do] are con­fus­ing the mar­ket, es­pe­cially be­cause a lot of them are serv­ing prod­ucts that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily good for you, but they’re claim­ing they are. On one hand, it’s good that they’re open­ing up con­sumers to the con­cept but I think they’re not giv­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence that the cus­tomers de­serve.”

A healthy life­style isn’t a soli­tary ex­pe­ri­ence, but there are mo­ments when one is truly alone—when progress is slow or re­sults aren’t re­al­ized. An in­di­vid­ual may have won an ex­ter­nal bat­tle with tak­ing that first step to trans­for­ma­tion, but he still needs to suc­ceed in the in­ter­nal bat­tle with him­self. In a sense, diet de­liv­ery pro­grams are flour­ish­ing be­cause they are hit­ting the sweet spot of their tar­get niche and, yes, even the Fear Of Miss­ing Out herd. The chal­lenge is sim­ply fil­ter­ing out the diet duds.

a sam­ple one-day meal plan by the healthY house: ital­ian vinai­grette salad, salmon with quinoa and spinach, smoked golden tinapa rice, roasted chicken with squash puree, steamed veg­eta­bles and chimichurri, and fruit cups

clock­wise from left: the black box's an­gus ten­der­loin steak with roasted as­para­gus and bal­samic glaze AND seared sesame tuna and slaw with pick­led ap­ple; bet­ter health's cobb- style chicken salad; bet­ter health meals, like this meat loaf, is made from...

the black box's sukiyaki beef enoki mush­room roll

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