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Diet meal delivery services help customers lose weight, eat right, save time

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Sep. 30--Sending out for food was once an absolute no-no for dieters, but a new trend of diet-dishes-to-your-door has emerged that takes the guesswork out of calorie- and carb-conscious cooking.

"It's easier than trying to orchestrate meals that are perfectly balanced and add up to 1,500 calories," said Vicky Herman, a Sherman Oaks resident who lost 10 pounds ordering breakfast, lunch and dinner from Susan's Healthy Gourmet for several months.

For anywhere between $30 and $50 a day, busy dieters like Herman are letting others fret about conjuring up the magic brew of ingredients to keep them slim. All dieters have to do is wait for their meals to be delivered -- either by the company's own delivery truck or through services like FedEx.

Sales more than doubled over the past two years at Los Angeles-based Nutrifit, said Jackie Keller, founder of the meal-delivery company. At Susan's Healthy Gourmet in Irvine, founder Susan Johnson said profits are up 30 percent from last year.

These services simplify the often confusing dieting messages out there, said Arthur Gunning, who established the Zone Diet at Home in February. "You have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how (the Zone Diet) works," he said. "We control the day for you."

And since they deliver the individually packed and labeled meals at least once a week, Gunning said the meals are always fresher than microwavable dinners packed with chemicals.

It boils down to getting to eat a real meal without the caloric headache, Herman said.

As vice president of production at Warner Bros., Herman works long hours and said the last thing she wants to do when she gets home is think about preparing a wholesome dinner.

She'd rather have Susan's do it.

"It frees you to do other things," Herman said. "I'd rather be practicing golf or playing tennis."

On top of that, Herman gets the variety she was missing on her personally concocted nutrition plan of sushi and grilled foods; she wasn't sure what else was "healthy."

Now she picks from a menu that has everything from Mexican dishes to stir-fry to classic comfort foods like meatloaf and baked chicken fingers. Clients can pick and choose from the changing menu at Susan's, which comes in sizes ranging between 1,225 calories and 1,800 calories.

The bakery even cooks up muffins and pancakes for breakfast.

At Nutrifit, the diets are specialized to individual tastes.

"We define it down to people maybe liking garlic, but maybe not garlic powder," Keller said.

When Keller founded the company in 1987, she said the idea of having someone else cater your meals seemed strange to most.

Not anymore. "It's blossomed because people are recognizing the need for help with their diets," she said.

Whether people are trying to lose weight or deal with a medical problem, Keller said Nutrifit takes on the burden of designing an appropriate meal plan.

"They just say, here's my problem, and leave it in our hands," Keller said. "We execute the diet."

Herman spends about $215 a week on the delivered meals, but said she'd spend a lot more if she were eating out or trying to prepare her own meals anyway. "You end up throwing a lot of food away."

Though Herman reached her weight-loss goal after two months, she continues to place orders. "I just do it for the convenience and taste now."


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