The people of Hong Kong seem to be becoming increasingly more health conscious. Not only are there more and more healthy restaurants opening up, but there are also more and more healthy meal programmes, designed for time-starved people who care about what they’re eating. One of the most popular these days seems to be Nutrition Kitchen, which classes itself as delivering “results-based nutrition”.
Like many other healthy meal programmes around town, Nutrition Kitchen is run by personal trainers who preach that eating the “right” amount of calories doesn’t take into account the right macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) breakdown that helps you to burn fat and build lean muscle. It’s actually quite scary how fast you can consume your 2,000 calories, or however many you require, just by eating the wrong type of food.
I sampled three days of Nutrition Kitchen a couple of weeks ago, where my three meals for those three days were prepared and delivered to my gym, so I could pick them up and take them to work after my workout.
Nutrition Kitchen offers four different meal plans – large, large low-carb, small and small low-carb. On the website, when you go to select your meal plan, each option lists the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats it contains, as well as a rough indication of how many calories you can expect in each meal. The menu is the same for all four plans, but the macros, and thus the calories, are weighted differently depending on which option you choose.
Thinking the large would be too much, I opted for the small low-carb plan. This meant that the total daily calories amounted to less than 1,000… When I voiced my concerns about this with NK, they told me that they aren’t trying to provide a person’s entire calorie intake, so they recommend supplementing the three meals with snacks. On an average day, I generally don’t really snack, or, if I do, it’s more because I want something sweet, rather than because I’m actually hungry or feel lightheaded. With Nutrition Kitchen, however, I felt hungry and lightheaded, as 1,000 calories, especially after a Crossfit workout, is nowhere near enough for me. The problem with snacking when hungry, however, is that you tend to snack on the wrong things and don’t know when to stop. On the first day, after nearly passing out from hunger, despite snacking on almonds and berries mid-morning and mid-afternoon, I had to eat my NK dinner at 5:30pm in the office and then needed to eat again at around 7:30pm!
Breakfast on all three days consisted of eggs in some shape or form – as a quiche, poached or scrambled. I was impressed by the poached eggs with lean turkey sausage and how, even after being re-heated in the microwave, they still remained perfectly runny inside. After being so hungry on day one, I quickly learnt that I needed to have a protein shake for breakfast straight after the gym, followed by NK’s breakfast a little later, which seemed to work nicely, and added on about an extra 300 calories to my count. (Usually, I will just have a protein shake for breakfast, which lasts me comfortably until lunch.)
Lunches and dinners consisted of some kind of protein with vegetables, prepared in an exciting and tasty way, such as Thai yellow curry chicken, or pan-seared Atlantic salmon with ratatouille.
Each meal comes in a plastic (non-recycled) container, clearly marked with the macro breakdown and, in fact, all the ingredients. I appreciate the transparency here, as I think, if your aim is to eat healthily, you want to know exactly what you’re eating. However, there were a couple of meals that surprised me. For example, the pulled pork with broccoli and apple fennel slaw: this was absolutely delicious, but its ingredients included brown sugar, molasses syrup, Ketchup and Worcestershire sauce – i.e. sugar, sugar, sugar and sugar….?!
Or the zucchini lasagna Bolognese, which also contained sugar and flour. Other than when I’m baking, I never add sugar when cooking, so it surprised me that a company that is advocating healthy eating uses sugar in its meals.
The great thing about Nutrition Kitchen is that it is very affordable. A five-day plan starts at $1,185, which works out at $237 a day, or $79 a meal. If you opt for a four-week plan, the cost per meal can be as low as $69.
I would recommend Nutrition Kitchen for people who are short of time, can’t leave their desks for lunch and care a bit about what they’re eating. It’s super convenient, the meals are very tasty and you’re probably spending far less than you would if you ate out. However, if you’re more interested in the health side of things, you want to know and track everything you’re eating, and you have goals you want to achieve, I think there are better suited plans (see Eatology). It just depends why you’re doing it and what you’re trying to achieve.