Finally…Meal Kits Reviews for the cook or family with T1D

Ever since my son was diagnosed with T1D five years ago, I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen. This has, of course, saved us bundles–we used to eat out at least 2-3 times a week before dx. But I have to admit that I grow tired of the same old meals pretty easily. Now that my son is on two swim teams, our schedules are hectic, meaning I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. While various meal kit services such as Blue Apron have been around for several years, I had been hesitant to jump in because I worried about counting carbs and I hated the idea of committing weekly. But there have so many new entries in the field, I finally decided to jump in and give a few a try. Hope the ratings and reviews help you decide which meal kit service is right for your family!

* POOR ** GOOD *** EXCELLENT

HOME CHEF

Access to Nutrition information ***

Carb counts are available on each recipe card and on the website. Meals were 35-100 carbs per serving. The lower carb meals seemed incomplete–pork egg roll in a bowl without rice? Fish cakes without buns? I ended up adding a healthy carb to three of the six meals we ate, which made this service less of a value.

Taste ***

All the meals were tasty…this was definitely our favorite. The entrees were compatible with the meals I already made, but different enough to taste new and fresh.

Ease of prep ***

Instructions were easy to follow and took the exact amount of time the card said it would. Great for beginner and novice cooks.

Freshness of ingredients *

When I signed up, we had to order three meals and the only delivery day was Thursday. They were shipped from Chicago and spent three days in transit. Unfortunately, a Thursday delivery did not fit well with our schedules that first week. Two of our three meals were to be used within two days according to the recipe cards and website, and since the kit arrived after 6 PM on Thursday, we couldn’t use the kits until the weekend, as we had plans Friday evening. We prepared the third meal on Tuesday, a full eight days after the kits were originally shipped. . Needless to say, the fresh ingredients were not so fresh. The cilantro was slimy and wilted and the green bell peppers had black spots all over them. The meat and other ingredients seemed okay. This was so disappointing.

Environmental friendliness **

Well, there’s an attempt to be environmentally conscientious. Freezer packs have instructions for recycling. Some of the ingredients’ packaging is recyclable, and the plastic bottles for liquid ingredients can be reused. Still, if you do not live in an area with a liberal recycling program, you will be throwing out a lot of plastic.

HELLO FRESH

Access to Nutrition information ***

Carb counts are available on a separate sheet sent with the kits, but they are not available on the website. This made it difficult to use counts as a guide when selecting recipes. Each meal was 45-65 carbs per serving.

Taste * 1/2

While the meals sounded great, they were not as flavorful as the other services we tried. The Cauliflower mac ‘n cheese was particularly meh.

Ease of prep *

Instructions were not as easy to follow. The ingredients listed on each card included a column for 2 and a column for 4 servings, but it was unclear if the instructions were for 2 or 4. So, for example, if a recipe said to add 1/4 cup of water to a pan, I did not know if I needed to double that for a recipe for four servings. I made four meals total and never figured it out. Cooking times did not include washing vegetables, so they took longer than the recipe cards noted. And each step listed several tasks, some of which were unrelated to each other.

Freshness of ingredients **

Meals were shipped from New Jersey and spent two days in transit. Still, the vegetables were fresh and unblemished.

Environmental friendliness ***

All the packaging is recyclable. Individual kits come in paper bags with fresh ingredients loose in the bag. Freezer packs have instructions for recycling and the padding inside the box is made from recycled materials and can be further recycled. By far, Hello Fresh is doing it right when it comes to environmental responsibility.

PLATED

Access to Nutrition information *

Carb counts are available on the website only. This was a huge inconvenience at meal time. Each meal was 50-65 carbs per serving.

Taste * * *

My family was in agreement that these meals were pretty tasty. There was one meal that I didn’t care for, but the rest of my family loved it.

Ease of prep *

Instructions were not easy to follow because there were multiple tasks in each step, and some you had to come back to after completing other steps, which made it super easy to forget or overlook something. I missed a step one time and ended up making chimichurri sauce with Kale, which was supposed to be added to the dish separately in larger pieces instead of being blended with the parsley, because instructions for prepping the parsley and kale were in the same step as blending the parsley only. Gotta read closely! Also, it seemed like essential steps, such as peeling carrots, were omitted from instructions. ALL of the recipes took much longer to prepare than the card noted. I spent about 50-60 minutes on each meal even though several recipes said 30-40 minutes.

Freshness of ingredients ***

By far, these were the freshest ingredients–way better than what I can get in my local grocery. Meals were shipped from Charlotte, NC on Monday and arrived by 11am the next day.

Environmental friendliness *

Plated does not even pretend to be environmentally friendly. Everything came bagged in plastic baggies and the meats were double wrapped in two layers of plastic.

The Human Trial–must watch

If there is one video that I could show that captures the daily agony … and hope … that I feel as a parent of a child with Type 1, this is it. Please watch. And if you can, donate, not just to the documentary, but to Viacyte. This is the game changer the T1D community has been waiting for.

Technology update: 90 day CGM

Researchers recently conducted a 180 day trial of an implantable sensor for continuous glucose monitoring. Adult participants had a small incision cut into their upper arm where the sensor, a small  cylinder less than half an inch long, was inserted. The incision was closed with sterile tape and a transmitter was worn in the arm where the sensor was inserted.

The results of the trial showed promise. The CGM caught 80% of participants’ low blood sugars. Only 10% reported discomfort with either insertion of the sensor or wearing the tube. And most liked the convenience of going three months between insertions. You can read more here.

This kind of technology is not a game changer by any means, but it does offer a step in the right direction–that being to make medical care for Type 1 as unobtrusive as possible.

Last year, I wrote about the insulin smart patch being developed by researchers at UNC. Stay tuned for an update on that soon!

Bad dog: the high cost of insulin

Over the weekend, my dog Ivy swiped a “just-opened” vial of insulin and promptly deposited it outside in a hole she dug. By the time I realized the vial was missing and went looking for it, I was too late. The insulin was outside overnight and the vial was upside down in the grass and dirt. There was no way I could draw insulin from it without the possibility of contamination. What really stinks is that we don’t have an extra stash of insulin, so I’ve had to call the insurance company, explain the problem and get approval for an early refill. I am pretty fortunate. Others in my situation may have had to purchase a vial of insulin without coverage from the insurance company, which could potentially set them back almost $300!

There has been a lot of media attention given to rising drug costs and insulin is no exception. The cost of Humalog, the short term insulin my son uses in his pump, has increased 150% since 2009.  It is not unusual for adults living with type 1 to use three or more vials of insulin a month, especially if they are pumping and rely only on the short acting insulin. But, as a Washington Post writer discovers in her investigative series on the cost of insulin, weighing the cost of insulin against the benefits of new formulas suggests the increasing cost may not be justified.

Read more about this issue in the Washington Post.

 

Type 1 and College…yikes!

Thankfully, I have six more years to adjust to my son starting college. Six years to stop hovering and to get used to the fact that he is growing up and can’t live at home forever. As a mom, it’s hard to let go, but as a Type 1 mom, I harbor a lot of fear–what if his BG goes low overnight and he doesn’t wake up? What if his roommate hates him and tosses out his insulin? What if he has to take back to back classes and can’t get lunch? What if his professors are jerks (trust me, I know they exist)? What if this or that? A million things can go wrong when you are diabetic.

This evening I came across this article about applying for disability services at college if you have Type 1. It in no way eases all my fears, but the article does help to know that my son can have at least some control over the many unknowns of going away to college when you live with Type 1.

Read the article here.

Diabetic patients lose in United Healthcare’s latest shenanigans

Yesterday, United Healthcare, one of the largest insurance providers in the country, struck a deal with Medtronic, making the latter’s insulin pump the preferred pump of the insurance carrier. This means that diabetics who are insured by United now have no choice in which insulin pump they use, as United will cover only Medtronic pumps and supplies. This is unfortunate, as not everyone (including my son) want to wear a pump with tubes–tubes mean less freedom and less glucose control, as any pump that uses tubes for insulin delivery must be disconnected before bathing or swimming. I am thankful our insurance provider is Anthem, but I fear Pandora’s box has been opened and it is inevitable for other insurance companies to follow suit. If that does happen, diabetic patients are the real losers in a game played at their expense. Here’s an article commenting on the decision.

Consumer Alert: Dexcom Recall

Dexcom, manufacturer of one of the most widely used continuous glucose monitoring systems, has officially recalled its G4 and G5 Platinum systems. This follows notification of users by certified letter that alerts for high or low bg levels may not be heard. The letter pointed to speaker malfunction as the problem and promised to have the problem fixed soon. I know for a fact, however, that speakers are NOT the problem. Two months ago, I woke at 4am to multiple alerts on my phone–two hours of them, in fact. I was shocked that I had slept through them–I’m a light sleeper and that was a lot of alerts, one every five minutes for two hours! I was doubtful, so I called Dexcom. They were super professional and concerned, but they did what I feared they would. They suggested I slept through the alerts.

Two weeks later, I received the first of two certified letters informing that I was not alone. There had been hundreds of calls similar to mine–people weren’t “hearing” alerts. Dexcom suggested the speakers were malfunctioning and promised to fix the problem.

I was doubtful. I rely on the Dexcom Share app–an app that works through the cloud to send BG readings to my phone. It is one thing if the Dexcom receiver speakers don’t work, but that should not affect the alarm on my phone app. The phone app alarms operate independently from the receiver my son carries with him. For instance, my son can have his receiver set to alarm when his BG drops below 80, but I can set my phone app to alarm at, say, 90 mg/dL. So even if the speaker is broken on his receiver, my phone app should sound an alarm regardless. I am convinced it didn’t do so the night I describe above, and I know it did not sound an alarm on March 14. I was in my office with my phone sitting on my desk when I noticed the text alert pop up on my iPhone. No audible alarm, though. I called school and spoke to my son. His receiver said 72, but he never heard the low BG alarm. Houston, we have a problem and it isn’t the speakers.

According to denizens of individuals on discussion boards, it seems these problems started occurring immediately after a software update. I can only hope Dexcom addresses the real issue and doesn’t go the route Toyota did when it had an acceleration problem caused by a flaw in software, but instead spent millions of dollars replacing drivers’ floor mats. Time will tell. In the meantime, we will use our Dexcom and set our clock alarm every couple of hours to ensure my son’s BG doesn’t go low overnight.

For more info on reported problems with the Dexcom G4 and G5 receivers, read here.

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