So, I decided to try something remarkably different, and if you want to try it too,
there's a link to a discount code at the end of the blog.
On two consecutive weeks I tried a 3-day organic meal program from Sakara. The concept is ready-made (no cooking necessary), plant-based meals (they may use honey so they're not strictly vegan). The recipes use whole foods that are high in nutrients, superfoods and water-dense fruits and vegetables. Sahara recipes use grains, but no gluten, no dairy, no soy. Breakfast is where most of the carbs are. Lunch and dinner contain lots of leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables, with a little protein here and there from legumes and seeds, and minimal grains. Sakara does salad like no one does salad, with combinations of unique ingredients that all go together perfectly, and delicious, fresh dressings containing more superfoods.
|Dinner one night was Jicama Anasazi Tacos with coconut "crema" and lots of arugula salad|
|Here is a 3-day plan at a glance; my menu for two weeks only contained one duplicate dish|
Everything was pretty tasty and very creative. These were the most artistic meals I've seen since my years-ago visits to the famed Charlie Trotter's in Chicago (where I had the seven-course vegetarian degustation). Sakara also gives you their own special waters to drink first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, as well as their detox tea to drink twice during the day. Though there are no calorie counts on Sakara meals (just a list of ingredients), I can tell you that a significant amount of the calories come from the salad dressings, which contain healthy oils, vinegars, citrus juices, herbs and more. The dressings are also key to providing flavor to the meals, and the Sakara online store will sell you sets of their dressings even if you don't join the meal program. Here are my thoughts on the program:
Waters: All varieties use alkaline water. Morning Water is rose flavored and I can take it or leave it. I drank it, of course, but it was just OK. Hopefully I got lots of benefit from the rose oil and the silica. The Night Water, on the other hand, was strangely satisfying as a treat before bedtime. It was infused with chlorella (an amazing superfood algae) and minerals. Maybe I loved it so much because I went a little hungry after dinner and it was something to look forward to...but I also think I just genuinely liked it and my body was happy. I'm going to work chlorella into my diet going forward. My second delivery week also contained a bonus of Beauty Elixir waters which contained hibiscus tea among other ingredients and tasted nice cold.
|Morning Water, Detox Tea, Night Water|
|Beauty Elixir (limited edition)|
Detox Tea: I'm not a tea drinker. I don't like the taste of tea leaves. But I can do herbal and floral tisanes, and that's what this was. The Detox Tea had a base of red rooibos, linden blossoms and rose petals. It was mild in flavor and I enjoyed one cup in the afternoon and one cup after dinner. It was something to look forward to to sate my hungry belly in between meals. Did it have any actual detox benefits? Maybe: I was heading to the bathroom more than normal during my Sakara program.
Breakfast: The Sakara breakfasts were close to the kind of breakfasts I prefer, and were very filling, more filling that what I normally eat. This was good, because it created a base of calories for the day, including healthy whole grains. My favorite breakfast was the Sweet Thai Oatmeal with Juicy Mango & Kaffir Coconut Mylk.
|Since having Sakara's Sweet Thai Oatmeal I've been making my own refrigerator oatmeals with almond milk.|
Lunch: The lunches were mostly salads with lots of greens and toppings containing other vegetables. One day my lunch was soup and an open faced sandwich-type thing. Unusual ingredients included kelp noodles, enoki mushrooms, burdock, watermelon radishes, seaweed, dandelion greens. More common ingredients included arugula, cucumber, beets, carrots, sweet potato. I was mostly filled up by the lunches, but left with a small amount of residual hunger. I was definitely satisfied with the flavor combinations.
|Earth Broth with partially eaten Beet Smash "Toast"|
Dinner: Dinners were also salad-based with a combination of some standard ingredients and more unusual ingredients. One night my salad was topped with spicy bits made of nutritional yeast, seeds and carrot. My favorite was the Buffalo Burger with Hydrating Ranch Slaw.
|Beautiful, descriptive packaging with full ingredient list on the side of the box (unseen here)|
|All elements of the meal are kept separated; there's actually a top panel keeping the buffalo burger and slaw separate from the greens|
|Buffalo Burger with Hydrating Ranch Slaw|
On the days you eat the Sakara way, all you are supposed to have are their meals, waters and tea, and of course more regular water. You're not supposed to snack, drink caffeine or alcohol. The idea is that the food is pure and contains all the nutrients you need, and also that snacking can interfere with digestion. They do, however, say that you know your body best and if you need to snack, choose healthy snacks. So, how did I do?
Overall, I felt really good. I had no headaches or digestive distress, no bloating, and I was well-hydrated. I enjoyed the meals and felt good about them, but the reduction in calories was drastic for me. I gave myself permission to have very small healthy snacks as needed, but ate no other "outside" food. My snacks included either a small handful of nuts or a single matcha "truffle" (recipe here from The Purple Carrot). I also continued to drink my morning coffee. I don't normally drink sodas, so my drinking habits didn't change other than skipping the occasional beer or glass of wine. I only ran once on the days that I ate Sakara, and I did feel like I had an energy deficit, so I'd recommend supplementing with healthy snacks if you're very active. What I will take forward from this experience are some new approaches to eating, including eating more fresh greens with lunch and dinner, and the addition of chlorella to my regular diet. I will order Sakara again, but not frequently, for two reasons: budget, and because I want a little more variety.
So, who is Sakara for? Someone who is open to a plant-based diet and intends to go into it fully informed, knowing what the program is all about, and ready to commit to it for 3 or 5 days. Someone who likes to try new foods. Someone who is willing to give the waters and teas a try, even if the concept seems odd. Someone who knows that they might go a little hungry (especially if they are currently consuming a lot of calories). Someone who can make a smart addition of healthy calories to fuel intensive workouts, as needed. And someone who is willing to put their wallet behind this approach. Sakara is not cheap. It is three times the price of the meal kit delivery services that I've tried - at least. While I won't be able to order a Sakara program frequently, I will treat myself to it occasionally as a detox or diet reset.
And though I just said that Sakara is expensive, I'll add that I think it's actually a good value, if you can budget for it. You see: you're not just paying for the raw ingredients (some of which would be hard to find on your own). You're not just paying a convenience or delivery fee. The value is seen in the extensive nutrition and food research, the creativity in the menu development, the effort that goes into meal planning a week's worth of this "spa food", the actual food preparation and packaging, the website full of nutrition and lifestyle articles, the magic with which Sakara pampers you from afar, and the excellent customer service. I received an email from Jen at Sakara on my second day of the program. It was more than a form welcome letter. I felt like Jen truly wanted to make sure I was enjoying the program and answer any questions that I had. Our messages went back and forth a couple times. I felt like a valued customer.
The Logistics: Residents of NYC, DC proper, LA and San Francisco can get Sakara delivered fresh locally for a 5 day program, but those of us in other areas can only get the 3 day program shipped overnight by FedEx. Incidentally, the food showed no ill effects from being shipped in a box full of ice packs. The greens were still green and fresh, and nothing was frozen except some of the waters. You can order a one-time weekly shipment of Sakara meals, or you can subscribe as a weekly customer. Either way, your shipment is a set menu for the week, and arrives with the daily waters and teas. Sakara can accommodate allergies for an additional fee, but there is no meal choice or customization.
So, here's the conclusion of the meal programs I've tried. I hope it was informative for those of you interested in a vegetarian diet, or a meal delivery service, or both.
Do you want to try Sakara? Get $50 off your first order using this link.