Freshly Review: Are The Meals Actually Healthy?

Freshly Review: Are The Meals Actually Healthy?


| |
| |

Freshly is a meal delivery service that prides itself on the healthiness of its meals. The brand's food philosophy involves minimally-processed foods and real food ingredients.

But is Freshly actually healthier than most meal delivery brands or is it just better at marketing? What are the ingredients in a typical Freshly meal and are they healthy? And perhaps most importantly, how do real customers rate the taste and convenience of Freshly meals?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review Freshly's food philosophy based on medical research to give our take on whether the food service is actually healthy or if it's a waste of money.

We'll also look at the ingredients in some of their current meals and share real, unsponsored Freshly customer reviews.

What Makes Freshly Different?

Freshly food philosophy image

Freshly publishes their “Food Philosophy” on their website, and the three core tenets are: Less Sugar, Less Processed, More Nutrients. We agree generally with all three of these, but does Freshly actually stay true to their claims?

Not only are there minimal added sugars in Freshly meals, but the sugar sources tend to be healthier. Some Freshly recipes use honey instead of processed cane sugar. Honey has been shown in a 2017 medical review to be a "natural therapeutic agent for various medicinal purposes," and is much healthier than processed white sugar. It even may have anticancer effects according to the above-linked research review.

Freshly’s second goal is Less Processed, and they do a good job in this regard. Most Freshly meals contain no preservatives at all, which is an anomaly for meal delivery brands. As we documented in our Factor Meals review article, most meal delivery brands include preservatives with questionable health effects.

Natamycin is a preservative in some Freshly meals which was shown in a 2014 clinical trial to have low toxicity. While we recommend avoiding preservatives entirely, we consider natamycin to be a safer choice than some commercial preservatives.

Freshly’s third goal is More Nutrients, and this is achieved by swapping grains for vegetables in many of their dishes. As a few examples, one of their current meals is a cauliflower pasta and another is a shepard’s pie made with butternut squash mash.

This strategy is a great way to increase nutrient intake and overall health.

Overall, Freshly is doing a good job actually sticking to their marketing claims and food philosophy, and we consider the brand to be healthier than the average meal delivery brand.

But how do real users rate the taste and overall experience of Freshly? We'll highlight some customer reviews in the next section.

Real, Unsponsored Freshly Reviews

A YouTube creator named "BTT" reviewed six Freshly meals and discussed everything from the taste to some issues with the packaging to the cost:

A TikTok user named Liz Hund found Freshly meals to be mediocre:

@liz_hund Not my favorite, but good for those who don’t like to shop, prep, cook or clean #mealkit #review #food #groceries ♬ Elegant Instrumental Background Music - Coffee Kaffee Café

Freshly Ingredient Analysis

In this section we'll analyze the ingredients in two randomly-selected meals from Freshly's menu to give our take on whether or not they're healthy. 

Freshly Steak Peppercorn ingredients list

Some ingredients in Freshly's steak peppercorn meal are shown above.

This meal contains a good balance of macronutrients (macros) with 26 grams (g) of fat, 38 g of carbs and 29 g of protein. We don’t believe there’s an optimal macro ratio (this depends on the individual), but a good balance is healthy for most people, and meals containing protein can help promote a healthy blood sugar response according to a 2021 clinical trial.

Overall we consider this a relatively nutritious and healthy meal, but we wouldn't recommend it for two reasons.

The animal products (meat and dairy) appear to be sourced from conventionally-raised animals given that there is no reference to grass-fed sourcing. Animal products from grass-fed animals were shown in a 2006 medical review to be healthier and better for the environment. Animal products from pastured animals appear to have a superior fatty acid ratio.

This meal also contains the additive natural flavors listed two separate times. As we referenced in our ProLon review article on another meal plan containing this ingredient, medical studies have shown some natural flavoring agents to be toxic.

Another Freshly meal is shown below:

Freshly Chicken Parm ingredients list

Our comments about Freshly's chicken parm meal are similar to the previous meal: relatively nutrient dense with high protein, but uses conventionally raised animal products.

This meal provides 42 g of protein, which is a significant amount for a 410 calorie meal. Most of Freshly’s meals would make good post workout meals due to the high protein content.

This dish has broccoli, butternut squash, cauliflower, carrot puree and veggie marinara, so it’s a good blend of protein and veggies and provides dietary diversity, which can optimize gut health according to a medical review published in the Molecular Metabolism journal.

Freshly's chicken parm not only includes the questionable additives natural flavors and natamycin, but also contains citric acid which is a second preservative which was shown in a series of case reports published in the Toxicology Reports journal to cause whole-body inflammation in some individuals.

Our Take – Is Freshly Healthy?

Overall, we think Freshly is pretty healthy, but still a worse option than cooking at home or using a meal service with higher quality standards.

Freshly does a good job at sticking to their core values and providing meals which are relatively nutrient dense, minimally processed (for the meal delivery industry), and low in added sugar.

Freshly could be a good option for consumers with a high income and little free time who really need the convenience of delivered meals because of their time constraints.

Many of the meals are under 500 calories, which doesn’t constitute a full meal, especially for people who are active. A healthy, active young man would likely need upwards of 3,000 calories daily, so this expensive delivered meal might only constitute 15% of his caloric requirements.

We think Freshly is a better option than most of their competitors, and provides healthier meals than most Americans eat, but we can't call the brand healthy overall due to our high nutritional standards.

Freshly Closes Down Operations

At the time of updating this article in early 2023, it appears that Freshly has shut down and their business has failed.

A report published in Food Business News claims that Freshly made the official closing announcement in December of 2022, and that the final meals were shipped in January of 2023.

It's unclear what the specific reason is for the shutdown, but it seems to be financial in nature. The above-linked report details that when pandemic restrictions loosened, more consumers returned to shopping for groceries in person, which harmed Freshly's business model.

It does not appear that Freshly was the subject of a lawsuit or any external factor causing the shutdown.

Our Clean Meal Delivery Pick

Trifecta Nutrition is our top meal delivery service pick because of its nutritious options.

Their meals are created by chefs, and most importantly, the meals are rich in vitamins and minerals because they're primarily made with vegetables and grass-fed meats. 

Unlike many commercial meal plans, Trifecta doesn't use filler carbs for most of the calories.

Pros and Cons of Freshly

Here's our take on the pros and cons of this food delivery service:

Pros:

  • Relatively healthy meals
  • Better than most commercial brands
  • Decently priced
  • High protein content

Cons:

  • Mediocre customer reviews
  • Some meals contain preservatives
  • Some meals contain flavoring agents
  • Meat and dairy appear sourced from conventionally-raised animals
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We do not recommend Freshly because the brand appears to source their meat and dairy from conventionally-raised animals, occasionally includes preservatives and occasionally includes other questionable additives like natural flavors and citric acid.

Freshly does a good job of honestly sticking to its core values of minimal processing, reduced added sugar and more nutrients. Even though we don't recommend the brand, we consider it to be a healthier option than most meal delivery services and to be healthier than the average American diet.

Most Freshly meals contain over 25 g of protein, so the service may be a good option for people actively training and looking to build muscle.

At the time of updating this article, it appears that Freshly has shut down their operations. We would recommend Trifecta Nutrition as a healthier alternative meal delivery service.