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a lot), and exact pricing information can be extremely difficult to find on many of these companies’ websites. Before committing to any plan, you should know exactly how much you’ll be paying, when you can cancel if you don’t like it, and how to suspend food deliveries if you’re traveling. Do your research and narrow your options

online.Write down questions as they occur to you, then call each company’s toll-free line with any questions you might have. Compare the answers.Was the representa- tive helpful, knowledgeable and friendly?

 is it right for me? See if you find yourself on our top 10 list of people who might benefit from a meal- delivery service.

• Peoplewith lowself-control. If you’ve failed at other weight-loss plans because it’s

too easy to take a second helping or sneak a scoop (or two) of ice cream, portionedmeals can be a good way to regulate impulse eating.

• Peoplewho don’t cook. If your usual dinner involves amicrowave and an entrée fromthe grocery freezer

case, these prepared-meal programswill seemfamiliar and, in many cases, be healthier than supermarket frozen dinners.

• People with portion-control problems. If your particular dieting devil is too much food rather than the wrong foods,

any of these programs might help you retrain your eye—and your stomach.When nutrition labels discuss serving sizes, for instance, one serving of meat is 3 oz, or the size of a deck of playing cards. Prepared-meal plans can help you recognize what nutritionistsmean by one serving ofmeat or two servings of vegetables.

• People who find menu planning stressful. Shopping, ingre- dient checking, weighing and measuring, and counting points

or calories can be enough to sink a dedicated dieter. Prepared meals eliminate all the calculation and guesswork, letting you concentrate on weight loss and exercise.

• People who skip meals. One big component of diet success is keeping your body fueled all day.Most of the plans include

three meals plus snacks. If you’re the type who skips break- fast and ends up gorging at dinner (or after dinner), prepared- meal plans can help you develop healthier, more balanced eating habits.

• People who are emotional eaters. Do you find yourself eating more, or almost unconsciously, when unhappy or

under stress? While a prepared-meal diet can’t address the root causes of emotional eating, it can force you to be more aware of everything you put in your mouth, con- necting food with actual hunger.

• People who want to eat at home more often. If you’re time-crunched and find yourself gobbling fast food

several times a week, a prepared-meal plan can be a good way to meld convenience with better nutrition.

• People who don’t travel extensively. While all the major plans allow you to stop and start deliveries, you have to keep

on top of your orders—and it’s easy to fall into bad old eat- ing habits while you’re on the road.

• People who are realistic about expectations.No prepared meal can taste as good as homemade chicken and dumplings,

or the carbonara at your favorite Italian restaurant.

• People who can afford it. None of these plans costs less than $10 a day per person, and most are between $20 and $50 a day, making them impractical for many families. You’ll be saving money on groceries, but even so, a plan that costs $18 per day adds up to $540 per month for one person.

If your dieting devil is toomuch food rather than the wrong foods, these plansmay help you retrain your eye—and your stomach.

Remember: A delivered-meal plan isn’t right for everyone,

and it’s definitely not a permanent solution to weight loss. You need to be ready to learn how to make some gentle, per- manent changes in your relationship with food. All of these plans offer assistance in dealing with portion sizes and better ingredients. For some people, prepared meals are just what they need to start making healthier choices. 


Prepared-meal plans can help thosewith self-control issues about diet compliance.

Photo: Thinkstock

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