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Like so many others, I started this year focusing on my health. For better or worse, I locked into a 10-week fitness challenge, which involves hitting the gym four times a week, reaching 8,000 steps daily, and drinking 64 ounces of water a day. While the challenge doesn’t prescribe what diet to follow or require that I completely cut out my guilty pleasure of scones (I think), I am mindful of my nutrition goals.
Fortuitously, the same week I opted into a life of box jumps, deadlifts, and split squats, The Curator asked if I wanted to test Factor. Giving the fresh, ready-made meal subscription a try just happened to be top of mind. Many of my favourite podcasters proclaim their love of Factor, and ads for the designed-by-dietitians meals kept popping up on my Instagram feed.
You can test Factor, too. Curator readers can get up to $75 off their first four boxes of Factor meals with code GLOBAL75.
First, what is Factor?
Factor is a subscription-based, ready-to-eat meal delivery service. Once an Illinois-based start-up, it’s now part of HelloFresh. Its focus remains on delivering chef-prepared and dietitian-approved meals. Factor offers a free 20-minute consultation with a dietitian to help subscribers create personalized dietary goals. I took them up on their offer and booked a session with Factor’s registered dietician, Jessica Zabroky.
Zabroky previously worked in the private sector, specializing in chronic disease prevention and weight loss. She knows meal planning and prep can be overwhelming for a lot of people, even when the willingness to do so is there. “That’s why I like Factor, I can address this challenge on a broader scale and help make those changes last.”
It’s Zabroky’s job to design a healthy and balanced nutritional framework for the chef-made meals.
Who is Factor for?
How does it work?
Ordering your Factor meals is straightforward. You begin by choosing a preference and then the number of meals you want to receive each week. There are 20 or more meals featured in any given week.
You can preview the menus before you subscribe, and unlike my 10-week challenge, you can cancel your subscription at any time (Note: you will need to turn off or pause your subscription before the weekly cutoff).
What is the cost?
What was my Factor experience like?
As a pescatarian (mostly a vegetarian), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would there be enough options for me on a six-meals-per-week plan?
Each week, I received four unique meals. That meant I received the same meal twice to meet the minimum six required for the service. I simply spaced out those doubled meals during my week. Initially, I was pleased to see that the salmon was one of those meals because it contained the most protein. Consequently, I’ve had a lot of salmon over the last two weeks.
The salmon meals are filling. With 36 g of protein, I split the meal into two portions on some days. The rest of my meals were vegetarian or vegan options and ranged from 10 g to 15 g of protein.
Since getting enough protein in my diet was one of my main concerns, I asked Zabroky about how much protein I should be eating daily. If you have tried to Google this yourself, you’ll discover there is no consensus online.
Zabroky informs me it’s a range, depending on your weight, body composition, and activity level. Let’s leave high performing athletes out of this equation, since their nutrition needs differ and would be highly customized.
For the rest of us, Zabroky says we can follow these ranges:
On a few occasions, I added protein to my meal. For breakfast one day, I had the Vegetarian Tamale Bowl with spicy sweet potatoes and pickled jalapeño crema. The meal contained 13 g of protein, so I added an egg to increase its protein content by 6 g or 7 g.
Often, Zabroky will recommend a Greek yogurt parfait or chia pudding for dessert to compliment a meal. She hints Factor is introducing vegetarian and vegan meals with more protein. (I checked the website at the time of publication and spotted a vegan, calorie smart meal with 19 g of protein.)
The Flavour Factor
Taste-wise, I was impressed. Again, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from a ready-to-eat meal service. I appreciated that each meal had a distinct flavour profile. The fact that it was fresh, not frozen, was refreshing. By the way, I used the oven to heat my meals, not the microwave.
To give you an idea of how the flavours differed, here are a few of the selections I had over my two week trial:
Meat and Poultry
Andrea Cardillo is not only the executive producer of The Curator but also a mom and health-conscious meat-eater. So, I wanted to know how she incorporated Factor in her two-week trial.
As a mom who mostly works from home, Factor was the perfect midday option. After packing school lunches in the morning, she tells me, “It was nice not to have to think about my lunch.”
Other than the convenience of her Factor lunches, the taste and heartiness of the meal stood out. Cardillo explains that it differs from other ready-to-serve meals. “It didn’t feel like a pre-packaged meal you might typically think of. It felt like a good, complete meal. Plus, I didn’t have to snack in the afternoon!”
So, the ultimate test: Would The Curator’s chief order more Factor meals? The answer is yes. “Next time, I would order a mix of meals and not just meat dishes.” Cardillo wholeheartedly recommends the Butter Chicken, which was her favourite lunch.
The convenience of having a fridge full of Factor was a big bonus. It’s a definite time saver. Knowing you are receiving a balanced meal also provided a sense of relief. It’s an energy saver too when planning how to get the most out of a meal falls on your to-do list.
Another plus is the fresh factor. It changed how I previously thought of the ready-to-eat meal experience.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, there are fewer options to choose from. Since the minimum order is six meals a week, two of your meals that week will be the same. It’s not necessarily a con, but something to be aware of. I did enjoy the Caribbean Spiced Tofu and didn’t mind it twice in one of my trial weeks.
Personally, Factor could be incorporated into my life during those busy periods when eating a well-balanced meal starts to feel like a chore. The “no-commitment” ease at which you can press pause and play or even cancel on a subscription is tailor made for people with hectic schedules and active lifestyles.
Give it a try and report back. Does Factor work for you?
Don’t forget to use our Curator code and get up to $75 off your first four boxes of Factor meals with code GLOBAL75.