Oh meal planning - what an over-saturated and highly competitive market. It seems everyone these days is asking “How can I be healthy?”. Of course, this leads to an endless supply of companies and tools that are promising to solve just that - it’s a ruthless industry to compete in! Thank goodness we’re not really ‘competing’ in it at all.
You heard right - we’re NOT meal planners. Don’t get me wrong - scheduling recipes of the week in advance for fast grocery shopping and time optimization is great. In fact, our nutrition expert and recipe manager, Elena - who works with dieticians in her research position at a local hospital - tells me that the one piece of advice they all seem to give is the importance of planning to set yourself up for healthy eating success. Makes sense.
But what good is planning if those plans are not informed? Anyone can decide to eat a “salad” for lunch and a “veggie casserole” for dinner, but will they indeed be getting all the nutrients they need? What about protein? Are they having healthy portions?
Let’s get specific.
Which salad looks ‘healthier’ to you?
Might be hard to tell right away. Perhaps if you knew some of the ingredients, that would help. The first one has broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots as its base, the second one has a lettuce mix with chicken breast. Both sound pretty nutritious to me - but turns out they received different health ratings after they were put through our scientific health algorithm. The first salad being deemed a bit healthier than the chicken one! Check out the full recipe and nutritional breakdown by clicking the images.
Click the ratings to find out which recipe wins.
Now things are getting interesting, and the need for a tool to make sense of this becomes real. Dare I say, without one - you are mindlessly eating.
Unfortunately, advanced tools like ESHA (a food and nutrient powerhouse made up of over 58,000 food items, with data from thousands of trusted sources) aren’t available to everyone. Furthermore, they’re not exactly “user friendly” as they’re meant to be used by experts in the field...not for everyday eating choices!
“We use ESHA in the clinic all the time. When I came across Meal Garden, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities! They’ve done a wonderful job of creating an easy-to-use tool that everyone can navigate. It’s a really holistic system that takes into account not only the specifics of what you eat, but then also helps with how to plan and prepare. I use it all the time!” Says Elena Stoiko, who holds a Bachelor of Kinesiology from Brock University and a BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics from Western University.
But it’s not just nutrition experts (who, let’s be clear - work for us) that are quickly becoming fans. We have users literally from across the world who are sharing their love for Meal Garden. “To tell the truth I've grown quite fond of Meal Garden. It's really easy to use in the kitchen and the grocery list is really neat too” says a user from Hungary, who now boasts over 400 recipes in his Meal Garden cookbook, and has already scheduled over 50 recipes since signing up 7 months ago.
“I think that your site is one of the most complex meal planning sites, the opportunity to store the recipe itself along with nutritional data and be able to plan/track it in some way is great, the shopping list which adds the ingredients up is also of very good use.”
Functionality meets simplicity - that’s one of our goals here, so it’s nice to hear that our work is being appreciated!
With that said, we also acknowledge that this is only the beginning, and we strive to continue advancing the system with the active user in mind.
Take myself for example. When I started using the tool, I loved getting the macro-analysis for all of my recipes, but when I went to schedule recipes from my cookbook - something didn’t seem right to me. Specifically, I couldn’t just schedule directly from a cookbook recipe...I had to go to my schedule and plan meals from there. Well, I wasn’t about this little detour, and so had a word with our development team. Within that same week - VOILA: scheduling from a recipe was implemented!
I think that story paints the right picture of Meal Garden; working with users to make healthy eating come as intuitively and efficiently as possible.
Since our re-launch about a month ago (new swanky UI!), new users are also speaking up.
“Using Meal Garden just makes it easier to plan out the schedule of food, decide what to cook depending on what food I already have in the house, etc.” says Jillian, a user from Ontario.
I for one am really excited to see how else people start to use our tool, and am looking forward to being apart of the community of healthy eating we’re building here! Hope you can join us.