If you’re strapped for time, a meal delivery service goes the extra mile by not only sending you food, but also making sure that each dish meets your dietary needs. BistroMD is one such service. It delivers tasty, microwavable meals and snacks for the entire week—or just a few lunches and dinners, if you prefer. Even better, it has an incredible food variety, spanning well beyond chicken enchiladas and turkey meatloaf to include scallops with chili garlic sauce, shrimp etouffee, and lamb rogan josh. Unfortunately, bistroMD’s second-rate website is clunky and difficult to navigate.
The bistroMD Mindset
Similar to a weight loss program, bistroMD offers nutritional tips and guidance. You can sign up for text messages that remind you to eat healthy snacks, for example, or join a Facebook support group. You can also make telephone appointments with a dietitian and enroll in webinars.
BistroMD’s food tastes better than some other microwavable meal services, especially Freshly Fit, which doesn’t do much to live up to the “fit” part. BistroMD actually walks the walk in terms of keeping calories, fat, and sodium in check.
Many meal delivery services send you food to make dinner three or four times a week. bistroMD specializes in higher commitment levels. The minimum plan, as outlined in greater detail below, supplies 10 meals per week. That’s lunch and dinner for every week day. Each week, you select the meals you want from a list. If you don’t pick a dish, bistroMD makes the decision for you. Almost every meal contains 280-380 calories.
The website doesn’t make the food-selection process easy, though, and is sorely in need of an overhaul. Customizing the weekly order isn’t nearly as simple as it is on most other meal subscription websites. Figuring out the window for when you can customize the meals is also a confusing affair. There are tools or pages where you can cancel or pause your subscription, but finding them is a challenge. On a somewhat related note, when I finally figured out how to schedule an appointment with a dietician, there weren’t any available for more than a month. Chalk it up to another disappointment with bistroMD’s online experience.
Pricing and Plans
When you sign up for a bistroMD subscription, you decide how many meals you want per week and the diet style. The plan types are Standard (it has the largest range of options), Heart Healthy, Gluten Free, Menopause (designed to keep blood sugar stable), and Diabetic. If you choose the Standard plan, there’s a secondary option: Women or Men.
You can order breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or just lunches and dinners. You can receive meals seven days per week or just five. The options are:
- Full Program 7 Days ($189.95): 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 6 dinners. That’s 20 meals at $9.50 per meal.
- Full Program 5 Days ($159.95): 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners. That’s 15 meals at $10.66 per meal.
- Lunches and Dinners 7 Days ($159.95): 7 lunches, 7 dinners. That’s 14 meals at $11.43 per meal.
- Lunches and Dinners 5 Days ($129.95): 5 lunches, 5 dinners. That’s 10 meals at $13 per meal.
New customers get a discount on their first order and free shipping. After that, you pay the list price, plus a $19.95 shipping fee to anywhere in the contiguous US. Most other meal subscription services charge $8-$12 for shipping.
How Much Do Other Meal Services Cost?
BistroMD’s prices ($9.50-$13 per meal) match the market rate for meal delivery subscription services. Compared to similar meals you can buy in the grocery store, however, they cost more than double for a comparable frozen meal ($3.50-$6). You aren’t getting a curated weekly meal plan that meets all your dietary needs at the grocery store, of course. Still, it’s insightful to compare the prices.
Other heat-and-eat meals subscription services charge about the same as bistroMD. The all-vegan Daily Harvest is $7.99-$8.99; Freshly is $7.99-$11.99; Freshly Fit is $8.49-$11.49; and the all-vegan Splendid Spoon is $9-$13.
Meal kit services, which deliver fresh ingredients instead of frozen meals, charge on average between $9.99 and $12.99 per serving. The price depends on how many meals you order at a time. Again, bistroMD’s prices are comparable to these rates.
BistroMD’s menu has superior variety compared with other meal subscription services. It has more fish and seafood dishes than I’ve seen from any other service. While most microwave meal companies shy away from scallops, shrimp, and seabass, bistroMD sauces them up and adds them to stews to make them quite palatable.
The many taste profiles and food types make it a standout menu. You’ll find pastas, fish, chicken, beef, beans, grains, eggs, and more. There aren’t any specific plans for vegetarians, but there are always a few vegetarian meals each week.
BistroMD has more than 175 options, although the meals you choose from each week are a smaller selection of that total. Lunch and dinner are interchangeable, as far as the online selection is concerned. There’s an African peanut stew, meatloaf with honey bourbon glaze, pork tenderloin with olive tapenade, sliced ham with mustard maple sauce, oven-fried catfish with spicy tomato leek sauce, and plenty of other options. If there’s a main ingredient you don’t eat, such as pork or chicken, it’s not hard to avoid it. Breakfast ranges from sweet (seven-grain waffles with strawberry compote) to savory (vegetable-and-cheese frittata, with turkey sausage on the side). Sweet and savory options extend to snacks, too. There’s jerky, cheesecake, cheesy crackers, pretzels, cookies, and chocolate flavored bars.
If you suffer from food allergies, you’ll find it a pain to sort through the options, as allergens aren’t labeled up front. To find them, you must click a meal and then click the ingredients list. However, you can permanently remove any meal from your selections, and never worry about it arriving on your doorstep.
Meals arrive frozen in a box that’s well-insulated and kept cold with dry ice. Our order contained Styrofoam insulation alongside a note indicating that this packaging was unusual and only being used as a short-term solution, in light of high demand. Typically, the note explained, bistroMD uses an insulating liner made of post-consumer and post-industrial recyclable materials.
Dry ice requires a little extra care in handling, so be extra careful if you have nosy children or pets who may get into it. It’s much easier to clean up, however, than the frozen gel packs that many other meal delivery subscription services use.
Each meal comes in a black, plastic tray with plastic film to seal it, and a cardboard sleeve with a description of the meal and nutritional information. The review box included a pamphlet for learning about the bistroMD program, an ad for a glass container with lid and carrying case, and a weekly menu. I accidentally chose the same dish twice while placing my order, so it came as a surprise when the menu suggested that I eat one of those two meals for lunch and the other for dinner. That’s a lot of seabass for one day!
Our Test Meals
To test bistroMD, I signed up for the Lunches and Dinners 5 Day plan (so 10 meals in all). They were:
- Barramundi Sea Bass with Sweet Coconut Pineapple Sauce (accidentally ordered twice)
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- Moroccan Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew
- Eggplant Lasagna Casserole
- Four Cheese Ravioli
- Blackened Tilapia with Red Pepper Coulis
- Grilled Salmon with Creamy Pesto
- Grilled Salmon with Dill Mustard Sauce
- Chicken Tikka Masala
The Taste Test
The food-heating instructions are pretty simple. BistroMD suggests moving tomorrow’s meals from the freezer to the refrigerator before you go to bed. That way, the food isn’t a block of ice, and it heats more evenly when you microwave it or warm it in the oven. Each package has instructions, plus a recommended internal temperature the food should reach to be safe to eat.
Among the many suggestions you’ll see for how to heat and eat microwavable meals, bistroMD has one that’s worth following: Plate the food before you eat it. In other words, don’t eat out of the plastic tray. The idea is to elevate the dining experience by using a real plate, which improves your satisfaction. I was more than happy to follow this recommended step.
All the meals were surprisingly satiating, considering the relatively low number of calories in each one. My partner, who helped me in tasting, and I were quite pleased overall, but disagreed on the high and low notes.
We agreed that blackened tilapia with broccoli florets and a side of red beans and brown rice was a clear standout, served with a red pepper coulis that benefited from a dash of salt—a good sign that the dish wasn’t overly salty to start. That meal had 315mg of sodium, or 14 percent of the daily recommended value, which is reasonable. Meals from Freshly and Freshly Fit, which we had tried not long before, were salt bombs in comparison.
Our disagreements began with eggplant. When the same tough, ridge-cut eggplant slices from the eggplant lasagna casserole turned up next to some grilled salmon with mustard sauce, I turned my nose up. My partner, however, gobbled them down. We were divided on string beans, too, which I enjoyed in their ample portion as a side to quite a few of the meals. My partner found them tedious.
Our opinions fell back in line over a dish of warmly spiced Moroccan lentil and sweet potato stew. We both also loved the chicken tikka masala with basmati rice and chana masala. I’m a sucker for chickpeas in any form, and this dish exceeded my expectations, especially for a microwaved meal. Was it the best chana I’ve ever had? No. But I had no complaints for a Wednesday lunch that was ready in three minutes.
The Mediterranean quinoa salad didn’t meet its potential because all the components were warmed to the same homogeneous temperature in the microwave. Had the vinaigrette been left on the side instead of premixed into the food, it could have been a lively and zippy warm salad. Instead, the vinegar lost its bite and the oil soaked into the beans and quinoa.
Reheated fish will always be a little dry, although bistroMD keeps its filets of salmon and barramundi bass all thoroughly sauced to make up for it. For a three-minute meal, you could do much worse.
A Microwave Miracle
My main complaint about most microwavable meals is that they would be so much better if they came with something fresh on the side to add as a garnish just before eating, the way yogurt cups sometimes come with a packet of granola. Imagine a little pouch of sunflower seeds or vinaigrette, some freeze-dried parsley or cilantro, a tablespoon of chopped peanuts. How much better could a simple ravioli dish be if you could sprinkle on grated Romano cheese at the last moment instead of blasting it into microwaved submission?
In the context of frozen food, bistroMD’s meals are better than you might expect. Sure, there are a few duds among the dishes, but on the whole the food tastes good, there’s incredible variety, and the meals are well-balanced. It’s unfortunate that the website doesn’t live up to the rest of the experience. You should be able to easily manage your account, change your password, and view allergens.
Among the meal subscription services we’ve tested, we have four Editors’ Choice picks, though they are all meal kit services. We don’t have any Editors’ Choice picks at present that sell ready-made meals. Our favorite kits are Blue Apron for people who want to learn to cook; Green Chef for plant-forward meals as well as veg, paleo, and keto options; HelloFresh for its all-around excellent menus and quality; and Hungryroot, which picks groceries for you based on your eating preferences and includes suggested recipes.