Slimming: Eat, drink and be skinny

Cuddly comedian Michael McIntyre is paying £60 a  day to have diet meals delivered to his door. But is this  take-away approach healthy? Simon Usborne weighs in

The appetite among busy rich people for very First World food parcels is fuelling a boom among lazy weight-watchers. Michael McIntyre is the latest celebrity to reveal his reliance on delivery diets that promise to take the temptation and inconvenience out of healthy eating.

The comedian reportedly pays up to £60 a day to receive meals and snacks each morning prepared by The Pure Package, where weight-loss menus include avocado and cottage cheese for breakfast and seed bars as afternoon snacks.

The posh ready-meal maker claims to have been the first when it was conceived 10 years ago, but it’s now one of dozens of mail-order firms that will turn your doorstep into a single source of food.

Diet Chef, Soulmate Food and The Urban Kitchen offer similar services, while Rosemary Conley, the veteran health author, offers Solo Slim meals in pouches designed to fill a larder with food to last for up to a month. Her 28-day Solo Slim box costs £150, or about £5.40 a day.

Jenny Irvine, who founded The Pure Package in her Surrey kitchen and now has almost 30 staff based at the New Covent Garden Market in London, is also the brains behind Balance Box. Its cheaper service delivers nationwide and includes a 1,200-calories-a-day menu for £16.99.

The premium regime is necessarily flexible, she says: “A customer might say, ‘I’m going to The Ivy tonight.’ We’ll call the restaurant, find out what’s on the menu and suggest what the customer can have.” Irvine, whose website  includes testimonials from Hugh Jackman and several models, says it will do the same for a customer tempted by an Indian takeaway.

The growing popularity of delivery diets  parallels the sadder rise of real, emergency-food parcels. Charities including the Trussell Trust have reported record demand as thousands of families struggle to put meals on the table.

Some health experts, meanwhile, worry about the influence of such diets. “For some people they can be very effective but the first rule of healthy eating is to engage with food and learn how to choose, prepare and eat it in an appropriate way,” says Sian Porter, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “By giving that job to somebody else you’re arguably abrogating that responsibility.”

Irvine rejects the suggestion. “If it’s done responsibly it’s good,” she says. “We have a cookery book that makes it easy to continue what we do, and we do work in the community helping children to eat right. People also say that when they use our service it’s very educational  because, for example, they never knew what quinoa was supposed to taste like.”

There’s a joke in that, Mr McIntyre.

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