The vegan meals from Purple Carrot are designed to “help active individuals achieve peak performance”… but do they taste good?
Aside from having fingers and wearing shirts, Tom Brady and I have nothing in common. I wouldn’t even consider myself an “active individual,” which is the target demographic of the NFL player’s new vegan delivery meal kit called TB12 Performance Meals that he just launched with Purple Carrot.
Having read multiple stories about Brady’s incredibly strict diet and bizarre eating habits (he’s never eaten a strawberry or had a cup of coffee), I had a perverse curiosity in trying his plant-based meals, which cost $78 a week and feed two people for three days.
When my delivery of ingredients and instructions arrived, I shuddered at the press release, which described the mission of Brady’s meals. It all seemed very intense: “TB12 Performance Meals are designed to maximize nutrition and total body wellness while making it easy for people to prepare distinct and nourishing meals.”
I was jazzed about the “easy,” “distinct” and “nourishing” parts, but the idea of lunch or dinner being a “performance meal” made me uneasy. Would the food taste good? Would I have to start performing at something? Also: How could Tom Brady have his fingers on the pulse of high-quality flavors while playing football so much of the time?
I decided to put down my box of Cheez-Its and find out what the deal was.
MEAL ONE: Beluga Lentil Tacos with Quick Guacamole and Radish Slaw
Time: 30 minutes
Calories: 610 per serving (two servings)
The beluga lentil tacos seemed to be the least complicated of the three meals (and the most lunch-appropriate), so I got started with them first. All of the ingredients, from the jalapeños to the shredded cabbage to the vegan sour cream – were carefully packaged and super-fresh. The avocado, miraculously, was perfectly ripe, which made me consider signing up permanently for the kit so I could get a ready-to-go avocado every week. (Timing avocado ripeness is hard!)
Surprisingly enough, the meal took exactly 30 minutes to prepare, as promised, and the result was delicious, despite the noticeable lack of pork or beef or fried fish. In fact, the combination of the lentils, guac and crunchy vegetables was so satisfying as to mitigate my near-constant craving for meat. Since each meal comes with two servings, I packed away the second one for a snack an hour later. Don’t judge me.
MEAL TWO: Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo with Radicchio Arugula Salad
Time: 40 minutes
Calories: 850 per serving (two servings)
This “pasta” dish felt appropriate for dinner, as it’s listed as 40 minutes to make with significantly more steps and appliances involved. I put “pasta” in quotes because the noodles are made of chickpeas, as the entire meal is gluten-free, vegan and preservative-free. (I’m probably missing another thing that it’s “free” of. Tom Brady avoids a lot.)
The alfredo sauce consists of soaked cashew and macadamia nuts, nutritional yeast, almond milk, sautéed cauliflower and some seasoning, all puréed together into a smooth consistency. Mixed with the chickpea pasta, the dish certainly had a creaminess and richness reminiscent of alfredo, yet the sauce tasted almost sweet, like the almond milk I eat with my cereal every morning. Extra salt and pepper – plus doubling their recommendation of parsley – fixed that. I served myself seconds. The accompanying radicchio and arugula salad was a delicious side, though I felt condescended to by the recipe, which literally was just to chop the radicchio. mix with arugula and add balsamic and olive oil.
MEAL THREE: Saffron Paella with Walnut Chorizo & Fresh Fava Beans
Time: 40 Minutes
Calories: 540 per serving (two servings)
For lunch the next day, I felt ready to tackle the paella, which had the most steps of the three recipes. I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of eating paella without seafood, but I hoped the heartiness of the artichokes and ground-up walnut “chorizo” would make it satisfying. The dish was tasty, but I still missed the shrimp. The lemon juice, artichokes and acid from the tomatoes made the rice taste almost acidic, which gave me heartburn. (I’m weak and would never make it in the NFL.)
I did not serve myself seconds, but I did feel satiated and good about how many vegetables were crammed into the dish. I even felt energized, just like the packaging promised I would. I put on my sneakers and went outside to go for a run, but I ended up stopping at the bodega around the corner for some Twizzlers. I’d earned it.