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Seeking a paleo, gluten-free, or diabetes-friendly meal kit? Sun Basket delivers

Sun Basket now offers meals approved by the American Diabetes Association

Thanks to a new meal-kit delivery service, I know that the albacore tuna I ate the other night was caught off the coast of Washington by the crew of the Coyote. I wasn’t aboard the vessel, but information about the boat, its captain, and the port where the fish landed was included on the meal-kit packaging provided by Sun Basket.

Like Blue Apron, Plated, and HelloFresh, Sun Basket is a meal-kit delivery service. The difference, the company says, is that its ingredients are organic, with “grass-fed, antibiotic-free pastured meats and sustainable seafood from ranchers and fishermen we trust.” Sun Basket also caters to specific diets, offering a few options every week for paleo people, vegetarians, and the gluten-intolerant. And now, Sun Basket also offers diabetes-friendly meal plans that have been approved by the American Diabetes Association.

This latest carbohydrate-conscious plan encourages home chefs to practice healthful cooking techniques and exercise portion control, but without sacrificing taste. Recipes in this plan highlight nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. All meals are 700 calories or less, have 10 percent saturated fat from calories or less, contain at least 5 grams of fiber, and claim less than 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

“Healthy eating is not one-size-fits-all,” said Adam Zbar, CEO and co-founder of Sun Basket. “More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and an additional 84 million have prediabetes, so we wanted to create a diabetes-friendly meal plan featuring amazing flavors that also meets the recommended nutrition goals for people with diabetes. In collaboration with the ADA, we look forward to helping Americans with diabetes make healthy cooking easy, delicious, and fun again.”

Sun Basket also offers recipes that meet the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check guidelines. As part of the company’s Lean & Clean menu, these weight-management meal plans promise to help home chefs eat lighter and cleaner, and are less than 500 calories, and contain less than 3.5 grams of saturated fat and less than 0.05 grams of trans fat.

Healthy, however, doesn’t mean bland. Recipes include chicken chili verde with tomatillos and jicama salad, sole in parchment with a warm date and apricot salad, and Mediterranean tomato-braised cod with oregano.

The Sun Basket recipes are a little light on the details.

For $75 a week, you get a box with the ingredients to make three meals — in other words, you’re still doing the cooking — each with portions sufficient for two people. There’s also a family-of-four option for $140. That breaks down to almost $11.50 per meal, per person for the second option and a dollar more for the two-person plan. Blue Apron is closer to $10, HelloFresh is $11.50, and Plated is $12 for two-person, three-times-per-week boxes.

The week I tried Sun Basket, I made risotto, salad niçoise, and tandoori-style chicken. The meat came sandwiched between ice packs, while everything else was packaged in individual brown bags. Each recipe was on cardstock, about the size of half a piece of 8 ½-by-11 paper. There was a picture of the dish and a description of it, along with the cook time, calories, and number of servings, on one side. On the other was a list of everything I needed — basically listing everything in the box, plus salt, pepper, and oil from my pantry — and the directions.

If meal-delivery systems are aimed at people who like to cook but don’t do it that often, then the Sun Basket recipes are a little light on the details. Maybe it’s because they’re trying to cram everything onto a half-sheet of paper, but I definitely had to Google how to cook and cut up okra on my own.

If there’s one major concern people have with meal kits, it’s the amount of packaging.

There seems to be the expectation that you have a couple pairs of hands in the kitchen when it came to the promised “time to cook.” The salad said 25 to 30 minutes, and the other two dishes said 30 to 40. In terms of cooking alone, all three took me closer to 50 minutes or an hour, and it felt like I was constantly in motion, moving back and forth between the cutting board and stove as I prepped the tuna while keeping an eye on the green beans.

All the food turned out really well, but if there’s one major concern people have with meal kits, it’s the amount of packaging that comes along with them. Like its competitors, Sun Basket says its packaging is recyclable (and the produce bags are compostable), but not all of it may be accepted by your local recycler, so you’ll have to check. At the moment, it doesn’t look like Sun Basket has a program to recycle for you, as Blue Apron does.

Overall, I thought the recipes were interesting and the produce and food high quality. And there are a few advantages to having everything you need delivered to your door: I tried to make one of Sun Basket’s other recipes earlier this week, only to find my local grocery store was out of two of the ingredients.

Updated on May 17, 2018: Sun Basket now offers meals approved by the American Diabetes Association. 

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