Impact of Healthy Meal Kits on Diet Quality

Sydnee Berman

Authors:  Sydnee Berman, Karla Shelnutt, Phd, RD, Lauren Sweeney, MS, RDN, Kaley Mialki, MS, RDN

Faculty Mentor:  Karla Shelnutt, Phd, RD

College:  College of Agricultural and Life Sciences


Americans are not meeting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recommendations. Healthy meal kits may help individuals improve their diet quality. Participants received a weekly meal kit for six weeks, each including recipes and ingredients to cook three healthy meals. Participants completed 24-hour dietary recalls at baseline, on a day a meal kit was consumed (midpoint), post, and long-term follow up (LTFU). Data were converted to Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to assess adherence to the DGAs. Paired sample t-tests were used to assess significance between the four time points. Participants (n=36) had a mean age of 42 and a BMI of 35. The mean HEI scores at midpoint (54) were higher than baseline (44, p<.001), post (48, p=.017), and LTFU (45, p<.008). HEI scores for total vegetable, total fruit, and whole grains were higher during midpoint compared to baseline (4.2 vs 3.3, p=.023; 2.2 vs 1.0, p=0.13; 4.0 vs 0.6, p=.001, respectively). Participants had higher HEI values on the day they consumed the meal kit compared to other time points in the study. Meal kits may aid families in better aligning their diet with the DGAs.

Poster Pitch

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21 Responses
  1. Sydnee Berman

    Hi! I hope you enjoy my poster, and please reach out if you have any questions or comments!

  2. Sydnee,

    Well done on the video. The topic is interesting and given Covid-19, perhaps even more important for people. You presentation style is easy to follow and conversational. The poster had a lot of detailed information for the audience to see what research was all about.

    Doc W

  3. Sydnee,

    Well done on the video. The topic is interesting and given Covid-19, perhaps even more important for people. You presentation style is easy to follow and conversational. The poster had a lot of detailed information for the audience to see what research was all about.

    Doc W

    1. Sydnee Berman

      Dr. Wysocki,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and hear about my research! I really appreciate your feedback.


  4. Karla Shelnutt

    Hi, Sydnee!

    Great job! I have two questions for you. What was your favorite part about this project? And what is one thing you would have done differently if we started over.

    Dr. Shelnutt

    1. Sydnee Berman

      Hi Dr. Shelnutt!

      There were many great parts of this project, but I think my favorite would have to be data collection at mid-point. I really enjoyed finding out how well-received the meal kits were by the participants. I loved hearing how preparing and eating the meals made participants feel healthier and more open to trying different vegetables and proteins! If there was one thing that could have been done differently from the start, it would be making sure all questions in the surveys during data collection were answered. It was not always easy to communicate with participants after meeting with them to get missing information.

  5. Kaley Mialki

    Hi Sydnee,

    Great job on this poster and presentation! You presented the study clearly and concisely. Were you surprised that total energy intake did not change significantly at any of the time points?

    1. Sydnee Berman

      Hi Kaley,

      Great question! It was a pleasant surprise that energy intake did not increase. This just showed that participants were replacing foods in their diets with healthier alternatives, rather than adding nutritious foods into their diet without making other adjustments.

  6. Jayden Yarborough

    Hi Sydnee,

    Great job! Do we know how much of the change in diet is changes that the individuals made rather than the meal kit food?

    1. Sydnee Berman

      Hi Jayden!

      While it is difficult to assume what changes in diets were solely from meal-kits or separate from them, we do know that the use of the meal-kits during the intervention was high. Additionally, in Table 2 you can see that the HEI scores decreased from midpoint data collection to post, suggesting that the healthy changes in diets were due to consuming the food in the meal-kits during the intervention.

  7. Jamie Zeldman


    Awesome job on the poster and presentation. Do you think outcomes would have been different if the participants manually entered their own 24-hour recalls in ASA24, as opposed to the 24-hour recalls being researcher led?

    1. Sydnee Berman

      Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for your question! I believe that we would see some changes if 24-hour recalls were self-administered rather than guided by one of our researchers. Participants may be under pressure when answering questions about food by a researcher, and this could potentially impact their answers and honesty. On the other hand, self-administered 24-hour recalls may not result in a complete list of everything the participant included without a researcher there probing for more information.

  8. Emily McNulty

    Hi Sydnee,
    Awesome job presenting your poster. I was wondering to what extent you believe healthier eating at midpoint and post recalls can be attributed to the participants knowing about the measurements and protocols at the dinners?

    1. Sydnee Berman

      Hi Emily!

      That is a great question. There is a possibility that participants anticipated data collection and altered their diets around those times, but it is difficult to determine whether that had a significant effect. Other measurements we used in data collection–like bio-metrics and a veggie meter–would be helpful in determining if diets were healthier from meal kits beyond the 24 hours used for the recalls. But, this poster just focuses on the HEI scores from the recalls.

  9. Gabriel A Martin

    For your project, what constitutes a healthy meal/meal kit? What would an expansion of your project be, as using only one group of people limits the scope of the project? (obviously as you state this is a pilot project, but I am curious as to what other groups you might be interested in)

    1. Sydnee Berman

      Hi Gabriel!

      We chose recipes from the USDA Mixing Bowl and made some alterations, but the recipes remained similar to those approved by the USDA as healthy meals. They were high in vegetables of all different colors to broaden the participants’ range of nutrient intake. Additionally, the recipes were centered around lean protein options and were low in refined grains, or empty carbs. As for expanding upon this project, we plan to continue our focus on African American families with low-income but broaden the geographical range.

  10. Megan Welsh

    Hi Sydnee

    Great work on your presentation! I found it very interesting about the changes in the HEI scores and I am curious to see further work on this topic!

  11. Rachel Bomser

    Hi Sydnee! It was very interesting to see how impactful the meal kits had on the participants’ overall diet. I know that many meal kit programs would be cost prohibitive to lower income families. Since your findings proved the nutritional benefit of eating meal kits, is there a way companies could adapt their menu to provide healthy meals at a more accessible price? Excellent project!

  12. Virginia Content


    Amazing work! Found this very interesting as someone who is trying to change their diet. Do you plan to have this research become a future program of some sort, where kits are provided to those in need (e.g. your own version of HelloFresh, but more affordable)?