annual diet taste testWhenever we hear about dieting and diet foods, there are two questions that usually come to mind: will this diet actually work and how does the food taste? At NextAdvisor, we had the same questions, so we decided to find out for ourselves. Every year for the past five years we’ve conducted an in-house blind taste test to determine which well-known diet services live up to those appealing photos and commercials we always see. If you’re new to our Diet Taste Test, here’s how we taste the food and keep the test blind and unbiased.

How is the food ordered?

Every year, two of our editors, who we refer to as taste test moderators in this post, sign up for all of the diet delivery services we review and order seven days’ worth of food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with their credit cards just as any normal customer would — we don’t tell these services that we’re doing a taste test. We choose to remain anonymous (or order as a normal customer would) to keep the playing field fair, make sure we get an accurate understanding of the customer experience and ensure the meals we receive are the same meals that everyone else gets. The moderators order enough food for every taste tester on our panel to try seven breakfast, lunch and dinner items — a full week of meals. When the food arrives, the moderators unpack the boxes, place the food into bags then store the bags accordingly for a day or so until it’s time for the test. Some of the meals are shelf-stable, some need to be kept in the refrigerator and others are to be frozen, then thawed in the refrigerator 24 hours before consumption.

How is the taste test conducted?

Our Diet Taste Test takes three days to complete, with two meal tastings per day. For example, one day will be two breakfast tastings, the second will be two lunch tastings and the third will be two dinner tastings. The moderators prepare all the meals the same way — in a microwave — and plate them similarly so there is no bias in how the food is prepared and served. There are no company names or any other brand details or packaging associated with any of the plates once they are set on the table, so none of the tasters know which meal comes from which company. Once the food is ready, a panel of 14 to 16 men and women sample each meal and rate it on a few different factors, including taste, appearance and serving size. The only things our blind taste testers are given are the ingredients of each meal (in case someone has a food allergy or any dietary restrictions). Our panel then tastes each dish one by one, writes their notes on their own review sheet that they carry around on a clipboard and does not talk at all during the tasting, as someone’s opinion may influence another’s. After the tasting is complete, the moderator collects all of the clipboards and evaluates the results.

How are results measured?

As noted above, each taste tester on our panel has their own individual sheet to record their personal ratings for the meals during the taste test. For each meal, they rate how it tastes, how appetizing it looks and how large the serving size is on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. There is also a section for comments on these rating sheets to generate additional feedback on the meals, which helps the taste test moderators get a better idea of what the testers really think about the food. After all the ratings are in, the moderators calculate the average for each service’s meals to get a total overall rating. As you can see from the Diet Taste Test results, some services ranked higher for their breakfast foods, while others ranked higher for their dinner meals. The moderators then take an average of the three meals’ ratings from each service (breakfast, lunch and dinner) to calculate an overall taste rating to declare the year’s winner.

Visit our diet program reviews to learn more about how these types of services work and sign up to try one for yourself.