Does it ever feel as if you are a former citizen of the lost city of Atlantis? As if you come from a world that has sunk without a trace beneath the waves, never to be seen again? I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately as I look through Google’s handy reminders of what I was doing two, three or four years ago. As the Covid-19 virus started its world tour in March 2020, governments implemented lockdowns and shut down what we had until then taken for granted as normal life. No more eating out; no more family get-togethers; no more coffee breaks with work colleagues. For many of us, food became our primary form of entertainment (other than Netflix and Amazon!). We baked banana bread; we worked our way through Deliveroo; we actually cooked lunch as opposed to grabbing a sandwich from Pret; we treated ourselves to cocktail hour quarantinis. And all this meant that our eating habits changed. A number of studies have (unsurprisingly) shown that our comfort food snacking and alcohol consumption increased during lockdown – but conversely, so did our awareness of the importance of healthy eating and the impact of food on our health.
It is all fine and well though to cook healthy meals from scratch and bake your own sourdough when you are largely confined to your home, with no time lost to commuting and no opportunity to wander around the grocery store after a post-work large glass of Malbec indulging in hungry impulse buys. But as lockdowns and restrictions started easing and we slowly started going back into the office, tiptoeing back into some semblance of a social life, our time spent at home to prepare healthy meals decreased again. Our old excuse for grabbing quick an unhealthy meals returned with a vengeance: “I would love to eat more healthy, balanced meals but I just don’t have the time/skill/energy to cook them for myself”.
In 2018, friends Wotjek Kolan and Michal Snela set out to solve this problem. They had realised that although people wanted to eat more healthily, there was a commonly held assumption that healthy, calorie-controlled food can’t be delicious and that diets can’t be exciting, and wanted to challenge that idea. They reasoned that there was a gap in the market for fully prepared, healthy, balanced and delicious food that you would look forward to eating every day, delivered to your doorstep. And so they founded Love Yourself, a meal delivery service catering to the busy city-dweller in London, out of a small kitchen space in west London with Wojtek handling the business aspects and Michal (who had worked as a chef at Marcus Wareing Restaurants, Chez Bruce and Wild Honey) heading up the kitchen. Owing to demand, they expanded their kitchens in 2020 and now deliver throughout the UK.
WHAT IS LOVE YOURSELF MEAL DELIVERY?
Love Yourself aims to take the work out of healthy eating by cooking meals from scratch daily with fresh ingredients (no preservatives, processed foods or freezing), ethically sourced from UK producers (with the odd exotic mango or similar thrown in!). Unlike some other delivery services, this is not a meal kit of fresh ingredients that you have to cook but a daily set of fully prepared calorie-controlled healthy meals that the customer only has to heat and serve. They also aim to cater for those who want to follow a specialised eating plan – on their excellent and user-friendly website, you can view their available meal plan options including:
- keto (ketogenic)
- veto (vegetarian keto)
- performance (to fuel physical training)
- various Halaal options
Each of these plans also comes with the option of choosing your daily calorie intake (ranging from 1200 to 3000 per day, depending on the plan).
HOW DO I RECEIVE MY LOVE YOURSELF MEALS?
Delivery to your door is available throughout the UK (via DPD outside the M25) and once your order is placed, the meals are delivered three times a week (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday within the M25; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in the rest of the UK) rather than daily, to limit carbon emissions. Each meal is separately packaged in a 90-day compostable container which is microwave safe, and the day’s meals are packed in a recyclable paper bag. Any drinks are packaged in recyclable plastic bottles. Each dish has a label listing the ingredients, the calorie count and the macronutrient breakdown (i.e. the ratio of total carbohydrates to proteins and fats), as well as a scannable barcode that can automatically add the meal’s info to your MyFitnessPal app so that you can track your daily intake.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD CAN I EXPECT FROM LOVE YOURSELF?
A single day’s meals consist of breakfast, lunch, dinner and one or two snacks, depending on the plan. I had selected the low-carb menu and the 1500 KCal per day option, which comprises three meals and one snack. Weekly menus are available to view on the Love Yourself website for each meal plan. Each meal is clearly labelled and they seem to follow the principle of “breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess and dine like a pauper” but of course you could switch the order around if that suits you better. Here’s what I had:
Breakfast: Scrambled egg with turkey & cheddar and a half slice of seeded wholewheat bread (402kCal, 53g protein, 31g fat, 1.4g carbs (without the bread)). This was a huge portion, nicely seasoned, with plenty of cheddar and turkey. If you had told me scrambled egg would still be edible once re-heated in the microwave, I would have rolled by eyes, but somehow, these remained creamy and not at all rubbery! I loved this dish and will be making it again for myself.
Lunch: Chicken chasseur – chunks of chicken in a rich tomato-based sauce with root vegetables and mushroom (517KCal, 65g protein, 11g fat, 34g carbs). Once again, this was a huge portion, well seasoned and very tasty.
Snack: My mid-afternoon snack (not that I needed one after my hearty lunch and breakfast!) was a large cinna-bomb – a cinamonny nut butter truffle with maple syrup, soy protein and coconut oil (178kCal, 5.9g protein, 14g fat, 7g carbs). This looked a little… worthy but I found it to be delicious and surprisingly filling. I do have to note though that I could eat peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon, so they had me at “nut butter”!
Dinner: Nectarine & broad bean salad with mozzarella and a raspberry vinaigrette (372kCal, 16g protein, 29g fat, 9.9g carbs). This was definitely the prettiest of the meals for the day and one that I would happily pay money for in a restaurant. There was loads of cheese and the raspberry dressing was wonderfully tart and packed with berry flavour – all in all a delicious salad and something I will try to recreate myself.
Breakfast: Baked beans & turkey in a tomato sauce with gluten-free veggie bread (454kCal, 24g protein, 27g fat, 19g carbs). Another very generous portion and really delicious. The beans were butter beans rather that the expected Heinz variety and the sauce was very tasty – not too sweet. The bread was a revelation. Gluten-free bread can be too stodgy or too crumbly but this was neither and was packed with seeds, really excellent toasted, and apparently baked in-house.
Lunch: Lamb & feta cheese meatball with a yellow pepper and asparagus stir-fry on the side (506KCal, 32g protein, 30g fat, 14.6g carbs). This was probably my favourite dish from the two days – one giant, juicy lamb and feta meatball in a rich tomato sauce with a gooey cheese topping. Excellent balance of flavours in this generous portion and the accompanying pepper and asparagus stir provided a foil for the richness of the meat. Absolutely LOVED this whole dish.
Snack: Berry and flaxseed smoothie. For me, this was the only duff note in the two days, with a gritty and challenging texture. But then it also has to be said I am not generally a huge fan of smoothies, so possibly a personal taste issue! I forgot to photograph it or take a note of the detailed nutritional info, but I estimate it was just under 200kCal to make up 1500 for the day.
Dinner: Vietnamese chicken salad (370kCal, 51g protein, 10g fat, 14g carbs) – this was fantastic as well. Lots of texture in the crunchy red cabbage, carrots and sprouts; moist chunks of chicken and plenty of them; and a fabulously zingy Thai style dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, agave syrup, rice vinegar, sesame oil and tamari. A generous portion and once again, something I would be happy with if it were served to me in a restaurant.
WHAT DOES LOVE YOURSELF MEAL DELIVERY COST?
If you just want to order a single day’s meals to see if you like it, there is a special one-day trial for £25 (3 meals and 2 snacks, but only available for the balanced, vegetarian, pescatarian and performance menus). All other meal plans cost:
- £30 for one day’s meals
- £135 for five days’ meals
- £540 for four weeks (five days a week)
- £1,080 for eight weeks (five days a week)
There is also a 6 day per week option where the 6th day’s meals are slightly discounted; a mini-diet option (lunch and 2 snacks for £18 per day); and a freezer filler option (a selection of 6 frozen meals from the Love Yourself meal plans to stock your freezer) for £40. Gift vouchers in multiples of £25 are also available if you want to treat a friend, or perhaps even send meals to somebody who is ill or recovering from surgery at home.
They are super flexible as well in that you can pause your 4/8 week subscription at any time; change your selected calorie count; or even your meal plan at any time with 48 hours notice, so as to limit food waste. They also allow up to 2 ingredient substitutions for allergies/intolerances/preferences at no extra cost. Meals will keep 2-3 days in the fridge if your plans change and you are not home for a meal. Love Yourself also run a referral scheme – existing customers get £40 off their next order for a successful referral, and the friend they refer gets a 20% discount off their first order.
Pros: I was very impressed with the service and meals I received from Love Yourself. For a start, the website is excellent, informative and very easy to navigate and includes a blog offering informative and well-written articles on topics such as understanding superfoods, eating for menopause, the health benefits of sunshine, and topics such as LGBTQ allyship, World Hunger Day and International Plastic Bag-free Day. I loved the wide selection of meal plans and calorie counts available, as well as the detailed labelling on each dish and the scannable code to add meals to the MyFitnessPal app. Delivery was smooth and the packaging was good – all the food arrived in pristine condition – and I was very happy to see that the containers are compostable rather than plastic. But most of all, I was impressed with the amount, quality and taste of the food. This is not “diet” food as you know it – this is a selection of delicious meals that remind you how delicious healthy eating can be. The portions were also surprisingly generous – I never felt hungry for a second.
Cons: There is no getting away from the fact that it is not cheap. Or rather, it is not cheap compared to cooking for yourself from scratch – but it is still cheaper than the equivalent meals in a restaurant, particularly when you factor in the transport to your door. The other concern is that although the trays are compostable, they are not recyclable with your usual paper waste. You need to either have a compost bin/heap at home, or take them to a garden waste recycling point. And of course, there is the issue of carbon emissions from the deliveries – but the company has already moved from daily meal delivery to 3 times per week to cut emissions and are constantly looking at other ways to reduce emissions.
On balance, I was super impressed with the Love Yourself product and service and can see myself ordering a week’s meals as my new year’s gift to myself to help ditch some of the Christmas kilos and kick-start a leaner, healthier 2022. I would definitely say it is a premium service aimed at time-poor, income-rich professionals, or people looking for a short-term kick start to a healthier living plan or physical training programme. A couple of friends did body transformation programmes in the past year, and the performance diet plans would have been great for them. This would also be an excellent option for somebody who is recovering from surgery or illness at home and needs nutritional balance but is perhaps not able to cook for themselves – or an excellent gift for new parents.
DISCLOSURE: I was sent two days’ worth of Love Yourself meals as a review sample but received no further remuneration to write this post. I was not expected to write a positive review – all views are my own and I retain full editorial control.
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