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Deliver Lean Is Your Gateway to Veganism

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I've always wanted to try one of those meal plan services. After all, the thought of coming home to find something waiting that doesn't have chemicals or tons of added sodium sounds extremely appealing.

Trouble is that most of the meal plans out there involve eating beef and pork and at home, I try to eat vegetarian. So when I found out Deliver Lean had introduced a new vegan meal plan, I wanted to jump on board.

The company offered a week's trial and I accepted. Meals are $9.95 each based on an eight-week plan and you get three meals a day (with an optional juice). They're delivered three times a week, arriving on your doorstep in the wee hours of the morning. When I went to walk the dogs at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, my first delivery was already there.

I unpacked the soft-sided cooler to assess the food, it was sort of overwhelming. For breakfast I has burritos, coconut milk yogurt with fruit, and a chia pudding. Lunch selections included an eggless egg salad, kale salad with apples and walnuts, and sweet potato latkes. Dinners were stuffed peppers, spaghetti squash, and fajitas.

Each meal had the calories, fat, and carb counts on the package -- all about 300 calories each. At first I thought I would be starving. How wrong I was. In fact, that week I found myself eating way more than I usually do. With the addition of the juice, it was more than enough food and I found myself offering some of it to my husband to take to work or sharing dinner with him. Oh, and believe me -- I can eat.

Like all food, some menu items worked better than others. The chia pudding, for instance, was too thin for pudding, though I did enjoy the accompanying fruit, and the almond milk was way too watery -- especially when I was expecting (hoping) for an afternoon "shake."

But most of the items were absolutely delicious. The eggplant and spaghetti squash was good enough to lick the little plastic plate clean and the tofu scramble and sweet potato hash still has me craving it.

Cherry Tree, chief marketing officer at Deliver Lean, told me that the company's customer base consists mainly of busy professionals that are health conscious. "We cater to people who want to eat healthy but have things to do. About 50 percent are starting a meal service to lose weight."

Tree said that the company started a vegan program because people wanted it. "In New York City, for example, veganism is pretty much mainstream." She said that when you think of it, the meals are pretty affordable. "Our traditional plan meals are $7.95 each. Considering you'll probably spend about seven bucks at Subway, this is a really good deal."

And it is. By the third day of my trial meal plan, I tore into that cooler bag like it was a Christmas present, happily thrilled by the prospect of uncovering more Thai stuffed peppers. Even though I missed dairy that week (and cheated by substituting sour cream for the provided applesauce on my sweet potato latkes), I ate well and (mostly) never wanted for anything.

If you're not completely vegan, there are Paleo, gluten-free, and vegetarian programs too. Plus, any of the programs can be combined, so if you want to ease your way into being meat-free, this is a painless way to do so. If Anthony Bourdain can call bacon the "gateway meat" for vegetarians, Deliver Lean is the "gateway veg" for people who want to clean up their diet.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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