August 1, 2016

Review: IONUTRITION Meal Delivery Service




Even though I joke about how nobody reads my blog, and how I have even fewer readers than Robb Wolf’s podcast has listeners (“Six listeners can’t be wrong!”), I think the time has come for me to acknowledge that there are, in fact, a few of you out there who actually read what I write. (Woohoo!) Even though my following is teeny tiny and itty bitty, apparently it is large enough that I now receive free stuff from companies who would like me to review their products. (And authors who would like me to help publicize their books.)

I hope by now you trust me to give you my honest assessment of things. Also, please note I have no affiliate relationships whatsoever with these companies or individuals. I make exactly zero profit if you happen to buy any of their wares. (If that should ever not be the case, I will say so.) The only things I make a couple cents off of are if you happen to buy stuff from places where I do have affiliate links, such as AmazonNetrition, or Vital Choice. (And, of course, my Alzheimer’s book.)

Ooookay!
Now that all that’s out of the way, I would like to introduce you to IONUTRITION. IONUTRITION (which I’ll just call “ION” from here on out) is a meal prep & delivery service specializing in gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly organic real food. They have low-ish carb options, a Paleo plan, and more.



You know what, folks?

I wanted to hate this. I really did.

I firmly believe that cooking for oneself and one’s family is kinda sorta one of the basic life skills we should all have. We don’t all need to be professional chefs, but the care and feeding of ourselves and our loved ones is exactly that: care and feeding. I don’t think we should outsource basic life skills.

But I am also realistic, and I understand that my charmed, childless existence affords me more time and freedom for grocery shopping and cooking than the average stressed-to-the-max dads, moms, grad students, law enforcement officers, and whoever else out there. I still think we should mostly be cooking for ourselves, but there are certainly situations during which having a little ace up your sleeve in the form of ready-made meals that appear right on your doorstep can mean the difference between a variety of wholesome, nutritious food, and a constant stream of canned tuna, lettuce bowls from Chipotle, bunless burgers from the Wendy’s drive-thru, or whatever else people turn to when they’re five seconds away from a chocolate glazed donut unless they can find something low carb pronto.  

Let’s talk about the products, and then I’ll share my thoughts on where and how they might be of value to you.

I received several of their meals to try, and despite my wanting to not like them so that I could keep emphasizing how easy it is to cook real low carb food in minutes, they were actually outstanding. Out-stand-ing. Here are a few of the ones I tried: 
  • Italian vegetables & steak
  • Shrimp with caramelized onion & cauliflower
  • Balsamic cauliflower & bison
  • Turmeric fall vegetables & salmon

Here are my primary thoughts: 
  • Everything was delicious.
  • The portions were generous. (For my 5’2” female body, anyway. Larger folks and lumbersexuals might need more.)
  • The animal proteins were cooked perfectly:  the steak was perfectly medium rare, the salmon was the perfect texture (not overcooked), and the bison burger was stellar.
  • I could see and identify everything: if the ingredients listed rosemary, I could see rosemary leaves. I could see chopped garlic, oregano leaves, coarse black pepper, etc.
  • The seasoning was on point; I didn’t need to add anything to any of these to enhance the flavor.
  • Everything was delicious.  ;-)


Here’s more good news: All the meals are free of gluten, dairy, and soy, are made with non-GMO ingredients, and are almost 100% organic. The Paleo offerings go a little further and are grain and legume free.

Caveat:  I did not heat these. I ate them cold. Each meal comes with very simple and easy-to-follow instructions for heating, via either microwave or conventional oven. The entrees come packaged in plastic trays, with plastic covering. Personally, I don’t trust heating in plastic in the microwave, regardless of whatever is believed about the safety. To each their own. (And this is not a dig at ION at all. Millions of people have no problem using “microwave safe” plastic. You do whatever you’re comfortable with. I do use a microwave once in a while; I just don't put plastic in it.) To heat, you could transfer the food to a small baking dish and heat it in the oven or toaster oven if you prefer not to use a microwave. But if you’re pressed for time, you can transfer it to a regular (non-plastic) plate and use the mic. Or, you could be totally low class and eat everything cold, like I did. The point is, even cold, these were delicious, so imagine how much more satisfying and soul-nourishing they would be if I had actually taken the time to heat them.

This is an excellent meal service in general. As readers of my blog, however, there are some things you should be aware of:

Their lower carb offerings are just that: low carb, but not keto. In fact, their website proudly advertises that many of their meals are low fat. You could make them higher in fat adding extra fat if you want/need to, but some of them might have more carbs than you’re comfortable with, which rules them out altogether. If you need to follow a strict ketogenic diet at all times, this stuff isn’t for you. But if you’re more toward the general low carb end of things, some of these meals fit that just fine.

Their ordering is very flexible: you can order individual meals a la carte, or set up weekly deliveries for 1, 2, or 3 meals per day.

Here’s how three of their plans break down in terms of macros. The range of grams are the totals for three meals per day. Original and Protein+ plans include grains and beans.

Original plan: (one portion of animal protein/day)
40-60g fat
130-165g carb
65-85g protein

Protein+ Plan: (2-3 portions of animal protein/day)
45-65g fat
100-130g carb
90-125g protein

Paleo plan: (no grain, dairy, or legumes, lower carb; 2-3 portions animal protein/day)
35-50g fat
40-80g carb
75-120g protein

Even at the highest grams of fat, protein, and carbs, these are all significantly lower in total calories than some of us probably eat. You can see that the Paleo plan is a little low on fat, but the protein and carb ranges are very nice. (This might work really well for people struggling with fat loss!) The Protein+ plan might be great for athletes who are not “LCHF,” and who can tolerate a slightly higher carb intake along with a generous amount of protein. And really, even the highest carb plan – the Original – is only 130-165g carbs for three meals per day – maybe far too much carbohydrate for me (or you), but still actually fairly low compared to the typical American diet. Nice! (ION also offers vegetarian options, but I didn’t figure anyone reading my blog would need the details on that. [Nutshell: slightly lower in protein & fat, higher in carbs, mostly from grains & beans.]) If you are very low carb, you could probably specifically request the meals that are lowest in carbs, even if it means maybe getting three or four of the same meal instead of a wider variety. 

So yeah: some very nice options here, even if, at three meals a day, you'd have a caloric shortfall and need to supplement with an extra can of salmon, slices of roast beef, or a few pats of butter.

You can see the ingredients for a few of the meals by checking out the sample menus and hovering over a meal and clicking “read more.” The meals I tried varied in protein, carb, and fat content, but I can assure you that the ingredient lists contained absolutely nothing weird, wacky, questionable, or unpronounceable. No corn syrup, no dyes & colorings, no preservatives, no soybean oil, no thickeners. Only animal protein, vegetables, herbs, spices, and olive oil. WHEW!  (Ex: Balsamic cauliflower & bison ingredients: bison, onion, zucchini, cauliflower, kale, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, marjoram, rosemary, basil, paprika, black pepper, sea salt -- and every ingredient except the pepper was organic.)

So, even though I encourage people to do most of their own cooking, I think there is a place for services like IONUTRITION, which provides real food that is not only delicious but also caters to various needs & preferences. For example: this would be great to use if you have a week or a month coming up where you know you’ll be unusually pressed for time:  a tight deadline at work or school, maybe, or if you’re in the process of moving/relocating, and all your pots & pans are packed away. Order a few days or weeks of meals in advance and you’ll have something delicious and nutritious at your fingertips.

You can also use these as foundations for larger meals. Like I said, maybe you’d want to add a little extra fat, or maybe even some more protein. Whatever suits your needs. If you have these meals as a base, at least you know you won’t starve. (Or find yourself reaching for your ninth can of sardines that week. [Not that there’s anything wrong with that!])

Another thing in ION’s favor:  Customer service was great. I had a lot of questions for them, and they responded quickly and courteously by email. It was clear to me that they wanted me to have a good experience, and to have my needs met and my preferences respected. (I requested their meals that were lowest in carbs. They also threw in a couple of items that were not low carb, just for variety and for me to try, like a nut & dried fruit mix, and some gluten-free apricot mango muffins. I thought that was very nice of them!) I’m not all that particular, but if you have more unique needs than I do, I got the feeling the people at IONUTRITION would be happy to work with you and see if they have meals that are suitable.

In the interest of that “honesty” thing I mentioned at the beginning of this post, here are the downsides to this kind of service. But please note, this is not specific to ION, but applies to pretty much any company that ships meals to your door from potentially thousands of miles away:

That’s basically it, actually: depending on where you live, these meals would be shipped to you from hundreds or thousands of miles away. (IONUTRITION is based in Southern California.) There’s a lot of packing material involved, not to mention the plastic trays and wrapping. (The trays are recyclable, though.) These are the main reasons I was hoping I wouldn’t like these meals. I think it’s silly—and wasteful!—to have meals delivered to you from thousands of miles away. I think it's downright ridiculous, actually. But then again, as someone who lives in Virginia and buys coconut oil from the Philippines, chocolate from Peru, cashews from India, and wine from Argentina and France, who am I to judge? (I do also drink lots of Virginia wine, and shop at local farms & farmers’ markets, though, tyvm.)

If you’re concerned about your “food miles” and the environmental impact of your dietary choices, this is not the best way to go. Paleo, Primal, and low carb meal prep services are popping up all over the place. There might be one in your local area, particularly if you live in or near a major metropolitan area. Or consider hiring a personal chef in your neighborhood. Lots of very talented chefs have chosen to go the private route rather than work for someone else in a restaurant or resort. And as someone whom you hire to cook specifically for you and/or your family, that person would work closely with you to make sure they prepare meals to suit whatever allergies, sensitivities, and preferences you have. And you probably don’t need to sign up forever. You can probably find a local personal chef who’d be happy to cook a week or a month’s worth of meals for you as a one-time thing if you don’t need ongoing, permanent help. (But the same is true of ION – no long-term commitment required. You can get as many or as few meals as you like.)

SO:  I absolutely encourage everyone to learn how to make quick & easy low carb meals in a pinch. BUT, if you’re looking for a source of delicious and nutritious real food to have on hand for a busy time when it would really, really help to have the cooking done for you—and let’s face it, those times do happen—IONUTRITION is a wonderful service.



P.S. I would have included some pictures of the meals, but my photography skills leave quite a lot to be desired, and they wouldn’t have done the food justice. You’re better off just looking at the sample meals on their website and taking my word that the food is every bit as delicious as it looks.







Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to amazon.com, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.

2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad I found your blog and review on ION. It was quite informative and just what I needed to make my decision to try ION. I fall under the busy public safety folk (paramedic) and need a few healthy meals a week whipped up for me right now.

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    1. I hope it works for you! Let me know how you like it. The food was delicious, but depending on how big you are (for some reason I'm assuming you're a guy), the meals might be a little on the small side. But the perfect thing to have ready in a hurry if you have literally 5 minutes to get something down!

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