BistroMD is a weight loss meal delivery program. The brand claims that their meals are “doctor designed” and that they allow for weight loss while still tasting good, describing their service as “weight loss without the sacrifice."
But is the brand using healthy ingredients? Is their plan actually likely to cause weight loss?
In this article we’ll review the ingredients and calorie counts in bistroMD meals and share our thoughts on whether or not they’re likely to be effective for weight loss.
Is bistroMD Likely to Cause Weight Loss?
The ability of a diet plan to cause weight loss varies greatly based on the weight of the individual. A diet plan and recommended caloric intake for a 350 pound (lb) man will differ from the diet plan for a 190 pound (lb) man.
Based on our review of bistroMD meals, we do believe that this program is likely to cause weight loss short-term, but we’re unsure how sustainable it is, given that many of the meals contain calorie counts that would be significantly under baseline caloric maintenance for most overweight people.
Most of the meals we reviewed ranged between 250 and 400 calories. Even at a generous estimate of 350 calories per bistroMD meal, that’s only 1,050 calories per day for three daily meals, which is quite low.
According to medical research, the average caloric maintenance level for women is around 2,000 calories per day, and for men is around 2,500 calories per day. These are very rough estimates and will of course vary significantly between individuals, but we believe this information is worth highlighting because of how much higher these calorie levels are than what bistroMD provides.
Since most users of diet programs are overweight, it’s worth noting that an overweight person will have an even higher caloric maintenance level on average, which could make this program even more unsustainable.
BistroMD does offer snacks that can be added to the meal plan, but a diet model with a large percentage of daily calories coming from snacks is likely not the healthiest.
As an example, a 300 lb man trying to lose weight may be recommended by his doctor to consume 2,300 calories per day, which would likely be below caloric maintenance level (and would thus cause weight loss) even without exercise for a man of that weight.
Based on the average calories provided by bistroMD meals, this consumer may need to intake around 1,300 calories just in snacks daily to meet his caloric needs, even on a weight loss program.
This is just a hypothetical example of course, but it highlights our concern about the average calories in bistroMD meals perhaps being too low.
We believe that bistroMD may be effective for weight loss short-term, because the body can manage drastic changes in calorie intake for short durations of time. However we do not believe this program is likely to be sustainable long-term for overweight or obese patients, given the average calorie count of bistroMD meals.
Is bistroMD Healthy?
We consider bistroMD to be healthier than the average American diet, but not particularly healthy overall. There are meal delivery services that we would consider much healthier than bistroMD.
First, let’s discuss the good things. Many bistroMD meals contain at least one serving of fruits or vegetables, which is already an improvement to the standard American diet. At the time of writing this article, around 75% of the meals on bistroMD’s site contain a serving of fruits and vegetables, although many of the servings are small in our opinion (especially for the breakfast meals).
The fact that high intake of fruits and vegetables is beneficial for human health is one of the few things that the scientific community agrees on. A medical review published in the Circulation journal found that increased fruit and vegetable intake was associated with lower mortality rates after analyzing data from nearly 2 million patients. The maximally-effective dose appears to be 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
There are several aspects of bistroMD’s meals that we consider unhealthy.
The first is that the brand appears to use meat from conventionally-raised animals rather than pasture-raised animals. As we discussed in our Hungryroot reviews article, medical research shows that the nutritional content of pastured animals is higher, and the fatty acid ratios are more optimal, on average.
We generally recommend choosing pastured meat over conventionally-raised meat for consumers who can afford it, even if it means using slightly smaller portions for cost parity.
BistroMD’s meals also contain a number of additive ingredients we recommend avoiding for health reasons.
Natural flavor is a generic term that fails to describe the specific flavoring agents used, and this ingredient is included in some bistroMD meals. A meta-study published in the Toxicology Research journal highlighted some potential toxicity concerns with food flavoring agents, and we recommend avoiding this ingredient entirely.
Citric acid is a preservative and flavor enhancer that’s been associated with whole-body inflammation in a series of medical case reports. Most consumers will likely have no issue with this ingredient, but we recommend avoiding it as a precaution.
Cane sugar is the unhealthiest version of added sugar in our opinion, and is included in some bistroMD meals. There are alternative sweeteners like fruit juice and even stevia which we consider healthier. We recommend avoiding added sugar entirely for health reasons.
A number of bistroMD meals contain vitamin additives like Vitamin A palmitate in their Red Pepper Frittata. We recommend avoiding foods and supplements with vitamin additives, as there is no benefit to vitamin supplementation for consumers with healthy levels of vitamins. The combined intake of vitamin additives from so many different processed food sources that the average consumer encounters may push blood levels into an unhealthy range.
Isagenix is a supplement brand that we recently reviewed in our Isagenix Collagen Elixir reviews article, and we highlighted how some of their consumers experienced toxicity due to the added vitamin levels in some of their supplements and food products.
Overall we believe that bistroMD would improve the nutritional status of most consumers, but we cannot recommend the brand, nor do we consider it healthy overall, due to the inclusion of these additive ingredients and the use of conventionally-raised meats.
bistroMD Snacks Review
BistroMD sells a number of snacks which we would consider to be the least healthy options on their menu. For consumers set on purchasing from bistroMD, we’d recommend getting most of your calories from their meals rather than snacks.
Some of their snacks contain relatively high levels of added cane sugar. As an example, their Salted Caramel Pecan bar contains 22 grams (g) of carbohydrates and 7 g added sugar. It still somehow has a “diabetic” tag which is confusing to us.
Some of their other snacks are sweetened with honey and fruits which we consider healthier options.
These snacks are definitely healthier than commercial snack products by a significant margin, but they may not be the best option for someone dieting.
For consumers who can afford it, we consider Sakara to be a nutritionally-superior option to bistroMD. We recently reviewed this brand and found all of their meal ingredients to consist of whole foods and to be free of any questionable additive ingredients.
Sakara is quite expensive. The service can cost upwards of $350 per week.
For consumers who are more cost-conscious, we believe it’s possible to put together healthier meals than bistroMD provides even without cooking or extensive meal prep.
There are many ways to create meals sourced entirely from whole foods in under 5 minutes. A good example would be a salad with avocado, vegetables and pre-cooked chicken (ideally pasture-raised).
A breakfast of unflavored instant oats with dark chocolate, a banana and a side salad would be nutritionally rich and require essentially no prep.