Discover what our reviewer made of Diet Chef meals
I’ve tried many different diet plans – Slimming World being the most-repeated favourite – but they’ve all fallen by the wayside after the novelty wore off and boredom kicked in.
When I had the chance to test the Diet Chef meal plan I seized it with both hands! It seemed the ideal way to overcome the Christmas excesses and maybe set myself on a course that I could maintain.
Like many people I have struggled for years to eat a low-calorie diet that is interesting and filling and have often given in to the lure of what seemed at the time to be more tempting treats.
With this diet you will learn about portion control (vital for any weight-loss effort) but not so much about preparing your own healthy meals as some other diet plans do.
How does Diet Chef's 4 week plan work?
The basic premise is that you calculate how many calories you should consume to sensibly lose weight (using the Body Mass Index measurer on the website), then Diet Chef sends you a hamper packed with breakfast, lunches and dinners plus snacks to help you achieve it. The pouches and ready meals do not need chilling as they have been specially cooked at a high temperature to enable them to be kept in a cupboard.
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The three meals plus snack add up to 1,200 calories. Depending on your weight you get extra calories to spend as you wish. The hamper does not include veg/fruit or dairy - these have to be bought separately - and should only be eaten within your calorie allowance (in my case 120 calories/day). Some meals contain something starchy, eg pasta carbonara/lasagne, but not all of them, so you do have to plan in advance if you are going to have a filling/interesting dinner.
My allowance was 1,320 per day – the meals and snacks added up to 1,200, so I had 120 calories to ‘spend’. Good, I thought, until I realised that many of the main meals I had opted for only consisted of a meat in sauce – eg Beef Rogan Josh, or Thai Red Curry – and that I’d need to be very creative to ensure I could have both milk on my morning porridge and veg/rice with my main course and stay within the 1,320 limit.
A typical Diet Chef 1,200 calories meal plan:
Breakfast: Strawberry porridge (very yummy)
Snack: Cranberry protein bar (moreish)
Lunch: Carrot and Coriander soup (filling)
Dinner: Chilli Con Carne (no rice included)
... plus rice/veg/fruit (within allowance)
The leaflet which comes with the hamper recommends 5 portions of fruit or veg a day plus 2 dairy (eg skim milk, low-fat yog) but all this had to come out of my 120 calories, which I found wasn’t actually possible.
Rice: 60g serving/63 calories
Skim milk: 250ml: 83 calories
Total calories consumed: 1346 (when including the 1,200 cal meals) - so I was over my allowance without including any fruit or veg. Even without the rice there's only 60 calories left - enough for 1 nectarine.
How tasty were the meals?
I would give 10/10 to the breakfasts – a decent 40g portion of porridge or granola and a good selection of muesli bars to grab and go.
For lunch there is a huge range of satisfying soups, sent in pouches for heating in the microwave – my personal favourite was Carrot and Butterbean, but they were all filling.
Less appetising, I found, were the pasta and bulgar wheat lunch pots, to which you add hot water. The contents is dried then expands, a good idea in theory but a bit powdery even when the water is absorbed – I didn’t find they filled me up, either.
Three choices of meal replacement milkshake are also available, but these weren't for me.
Dinner – again a large range, all in a ready-meal type tray, requiring just 2-3 minutes cooking time in the microwave.
Thumbs up: the meat lasagne which was tasty and filling enough to only be served with a small salad, and the Pasta Carbonara.
Thumbs down: I was not at all keen on the Beef Meatballs which I found were dry and tasteless and came in a dark-coloured sauce without much flavour that was supposed to be tomato. With this meal especially I felt I could prepare something much tastier myself, and I am by no means a fabulous cook.
Diet Chef Customer service
I found customer services very helpful but they are only contactable within working hours so any weekend questions have to wait – a bit annoying if you’ve had the box but don’t quite understand the details of the plan, as I experienced. There is a forum on the Diet Chef website where members can help, but I felt the lack of visible advice made it feel a little unstructured; I felt I was just buying a product rather than a bespoke service.
I rang up on a couple of occasions to choose different meals and to ask how I was supposed to track my calories/weight. I would have expected to find a comprehensive weight tracker in my account area but was told I needed to download an app to my phone (My Fitness Pal) which is not specific to Diet Chef. There was no information on the Diet Chef website explaining this.
It was only at this stage, when I was inputting my calories, that I discovered that fruit and veg were not part of the calorie allowance– on the leaflet it says you can add in your 5 a day but it could be a lot clearer that you are expected to eek out your calorie allowance for something that hardly feels a treat, making even a rice cake a decision that has to be taken carefully.
Does Diet Chef work?
I lost half a stone in 4 weeks and you can’t argue with that! I was 100% committed but I did feel the need to supplement with monkey nuts and the odd rice cake to bulk it out a bit. I also decided that if I had a nectarine, for example, the benefit of eating it outweighed the calorie implications even if I had already had my calorie allowance.
Whether this is the diet plan for you depends very much upon your personal taste – we all like some foods more than others and that applies here too. I found that the best meals tended to be those without pieces of meat. There were lots of different chicken curry options and I ordered quite a few, but sadly the chicken tasted overcooked and tough – perhaps a result of the high temperature cooking. The mince-based meals (except the meatballs) were much more pleasant.
The facility to swap meals is available – so if you find you’re not keen on something that’s not a problem. All you have to do is call the nice people at customer services.
Would I do Diet Chef again?
A tricky one. Having to add in extra veg, starchy foods, milk etc increases the food bill and the plan itself is not cheap. I’m actually looking forward to cooking again with fresh ingredients – but I am at least aware of how much should be on my plate, which will help me lose more weight in the future.
For more information and the latest money-saving offers, visit www.dietchef.co.uk
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