If ever there was a time to eat healthily, it’s now. A nutritious, well-balanced diet is the cornerstone of a strong immune system, which can help people fight the coronavirus. But what if you are housebound in Hong Kong and can’t cook? Or you simply don’t have time to think about preparing healthy meals when you’re working from the living room while home-schooling the kids? Don’t worry. A host of healthy meal delivery services are at hand. Boutique delivery meal providers have seen a drop in demand from regular customers in offices and schools, but are reporting an uptake of new ones, many of whom are requesting home deliveries. Pete Fisher, who founded Nutrition Kitchen in Hong Kong in 2015 before expanding it to Singapore 18 months ago, says the firm has seen a spike in first-time orders. “People are looking at us as a solution to a specific set of problems brought about by the virus. People are busy home-schooling kids, getting very stressed. They probably don’t have time to think about where the next meal comes from,” he says. “It removes a lot of stress of going out, sourcing ingredients, especially when there are issues around food security and the risks of standing in a line in the supermarket.” Selling like hot cakes, but air purifiers won’t stop Covid-19: experts Maximilian von Poelnitz, the founder of Nosh, says the firm is seeing the strongest demand in its four-year existence. “It used to be that 70 per cent of deliveries were to the office. Now 70 per cent of deliveries are to homes given restaurant closures and the preference to eat healthily,” he says. Guillaume Kaminer and Christophe Daures are co-founders of Eatology, which promises dietitian-designed meals using organic ingredients. This week they launched a diabetes-friendly Mediterranean diet meal plan. Drawing inspiration from a people renowned for their longevity, the diet is rich in fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, which studies have shown restores balance to intestinal bacteria that is linked to all-round good health. You can have breakfast, lunch, dinner plus a healthy snack delivered to your door for HK$368 (US$47) a day. “The Mediterranean diet is recommended for people with diabetes and high blood pressure ,” Kaminer says. Daures and Kaminer both used to work in finance and it was the difficulties they faced trying to eat healthily in Hong Kong that prompted them to launch Eatology. “We don’t want to push one single product – we offer all different diets for people to choose from,” Daures says, admitting his choice is the Mediterranean diet. Eatology flies in Greek yogurt and oil from Greece and hasn’t seen any supply chain issues as yet, Kaminer says. Fisher suspects this may be in part due to reduced demand from hotels and restaurants, which means there is a lot of surplus food in the supply chain. Although the company’s launch of the Mediterranean diet seems timely, Kaminer says it has been on the cards for a while. Over the last five years, diabetic customers have shared their difficulties when it comes to eating out. “Restaurants [in Hong Kong] often focus on serving rice or pasta. It’s not good for diabetics because that leads to a spike in blood sugar,” Kaminer says. Nutrition Kitchen offers meal plans based on whether a person wants to lose weight or build muscle. A four-day, three-meal, low-carb package costs HK$1,308. For those in self-quarantine, Fisher advises against choosing a meal plan based on pushing a calorie deficit. He says having some carbohydrates can help our immune system function better, but it’s a matter of eating wisely. “Rather than [getting your carbohydrates from] bread, pasta or rice, go for berries – raspberries, blueberries and strawberries have lots of vitamins and nutrients. And carbohydrates such as pumpkin and butternut squash are filling and give you plenty of nutrition,” he says. A healthy protein source not only helps with the retention of lean tissue but also helps people manage hunger, Fisher says. “That’s critical when constructing a healthy diet, so you are not subject to cravings and reaching for snacks.” We have added more foods for the immune system [during this virus outbreak], like garlic, ginger, onion, orange and lemon, and also more foods with vitamins C, A and E Cherry Law, in-house nutritionist at Eatology Von Poelnitz from Nosh – which offers a three-meal Signature Plan for HK$303 (US$39) a day – says the drive towards more healthy eating is reflected in the trend of vegetarian and plant-based diets. That is in part due to last year’s influential documentary The Game Changers , but chiefly because of the impact US plant-based “meat” makers Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are having, which he sees driving a lot of investment in the space, he says. “We’ve seen a 300 per cent increase in demand for vegetarian meals, [though] admittedly that’s coming off a low base rate. This month, we will do a massive push with our Nosh veggie plans,” he says. With all these companies, what you are paying for is not just the convenience of having healthy meals delivered to your door, but also the wisdom of professional nutritionists who can design a well-balanced meal plan that is both nutritious and tasty. Nosh designs its meal plans with a nutritionist using its in-house nutrition calculator, which draws on US and Chinese nutrition databases. “It’s surprisingly complicated to plan out a week for someone. Much of it is down to taste profile – you don’t want to replicate things too often,” von Poelnitz says. The big picture we’re not seeing when we obsess about sleep Eatology customers are all offered a free consultation with its in-house nutritionist Cherry Law, who says most are interested in either losing weight or are diabetic and want help with changing their diet and eating habits. She says recent meal plans have been tweaked to help customers be best prepared to fight off any viruses. “We have added more foods for the immune system, like garlic, ginger , onion, orange and lemon, and also more foods with vitamins C, A and E,” Law says. There are three key factors that determine the strength of your immune system, von Poelnitz says: your genetics, stress levels and the food you put in your body. “We can’t help with your genetics, but we can help reduce anxiety by allowing you to not have to think about preparing meals for the week, and we can help with what you put in your body,” he says. He encourages customers to eat meals from a plate rather than the takeaway container. “Eating food is not just about getting the calories, but sating your taste. It’s the visual nature of what you eat. Replating the food makes the whole experience more beautiful,” he says.