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.
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.
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
the black box's sukiyaki beef enoki
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 scratch