I'm on what I largely refer to as the "Lean Cuisine and Diet Coke diet." I eat other things, a banana for breakfast usually, yogurt for snacks, but my main meals are usually courtesy of Lean Cuisine. I find this helps me stay on track with a nutritionally balanced meal, and the Diet Coke, of course, is delicious with none of the calories. Don't get me wrong, I make sure to squeeze in at least two glasses of water a day and occasionally a glass of milk, but same as with the LC meals, I rely mostly on Diet Coke to help me curb my cravings.
However, I've been on this weight loss journey since before the new year and i've repeatedly fallen off the wagon and what's more, I've stayed down more often than not so it's not really a surprise that I've been bouncing back and forth between 198 and 191 for a solid month and a half now.
My question is, are these meals as healthy as I think they are? My biggest problem has always been an unhealthy relationship with food. When I began to try to lose the weight, I realized that the years behind me of yo-yo dieting, extreme starvation and bingeing cycles, had to do more with my relationship to food than my lack of willpower, though that was also an abundant factor. So, do these frozen meal plans actually just put a mask on our food addictions by allowing us to eat chicken parm and pizza and enchiladas that have been altered to be nutritional but doing nothing to change our attitudes towards food?
02-12-2009, 02:03 PM
yes they are probably masking something, but i'm not sure how bad that is. probably varies from person to person. i will always want chicken parm, so a little taste of something like it helps me rather than total deprivation. but for another person, this might be related to a much larger problem lurking beneath the surface.
and in terms of the other question, which i think is the more pressing one for now: no it is NOT healthy to subsist on these meals alone. while they are diet meals and really useful for quantifying exactly how many calories, carbs, fat grams, whatever you're consuming, at the end of the day, they are still processed food. they will never be as good for you as just eating fresh real foods like veggies, fruits, and lean proteins. also, i find them to be a bit small for me.
that said, i think they do have their place. i try and keep a few on hand for those days when i am too lazy/tired to cook. i think it's all fine and good to eat several of these frozen meals in a given week (i just had weight watchers veggie lasagna for lunch), but they should be the exception not the rule.
02-12-2009, 02:04 PM
Well I really believe you need to find something you can live with for life. Some people love lean cuisine, I've never had them. One thing if you think lean cuisine is a helpful tool for you is to supplement them in a way that makes sense. Add veggies and fruit to your diet. Make sure you are eating plenty of calories and fueling your body. Do you know how many calories you are eating?
02-12-2009, 02:32 PM
I'm not eating enough calories, I'll be the first to admit it. I track my food on The Daily Plate at livestrong.com, and I become really obsessive compulsive about the food that I eat when I'm recording it and seeing the data translated into, for example, a pie chart breaking down my protein, carbs and fat, and also actually seeing how many calories i've eaten that day.
So, here's my sin--I eat around 800 calories a day on a "good day." I know, I know...eating too little is probably the biggest reason for my subsequent binges, it's probably the reason i immediantly gain five pounds after eating anything "cheat"-worthy, and it's probably the reason I turn around and lose five pounds the next "good day" i have. And, it's probably the reason I've been bouncing between the same ten pounds for a month.
I'm trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables, and more fresh fish and stuff, but being a full-time student leaves me little desire for preparing a delicious meal at the end of the day. Lean Cuisine is such an easier solution, but of course it is all processed, and one of my biggest goals is to move away from processed foosd, if not altogether than for the most part. I'm just not sure where to start or what to do!
02-12-2009, 02:44 PM
Sounds like you know what your problem is.
FWIW, I think Lean Cuisine has value both for convenience and for getting a handle on portion size.
02-12-2009, 02:50 PM
I eat the weight watchers meals for lunches. I don't eat as many as I did at first. It was easy and it helped me start making changes. It sounds like you need to get your calories to a healthy level. You will lose weight more consistently and you will feel so much better. A good breakfast is so important. It gets your metabolism going first thing in the morning and keeps you from binging later on. I make things that are quick. I usually have oatmeal with a diced apple, cinnamon, a little splenda and milk. Or Egg beaters with veggies and a piece of extra fiber bread with a tsp of peanut butter is good and low cal too. I make dinners pretty simple. I get frozen veggies in the bags you can microwave in if they are on sale. Add some chicken breast grilled and a sweet potato cooked in the microwave. Add a little light margarine to the sweet potato with some cinnamon and a little brown sugar. The sweet potato really fills you up and is so good for you.
Remember that you need to develop healthy eating habits that you can stick to for life. Take care of your body!
02-12-2009, 02:59 PM
I think that whenever I've relied too heavily on frozen meals, I tended to binge more, because of the lack of variety and nutrition. They're not evil or anything, but they are high in salt and are notoriously lacking in fruits and veggies (I see that's changing a bit with more varieties advertising that they have one or even two servings of veggies - but that's still pretty short of what is generally recommended).
You can start with looking for fresh made meals that are almost as convenient as lean cuisine - or you could simply add veggies to your lean cuisine. For example, some frozen dinners make a pretty good salad topping. I've made a huge salad of greens and a light asian dressing and then topped the salad or served on the side an asian style frozen meal. Or I've heated a bowl of frozen mixed veggies in the microwave, and then heated my microwave meal and poured the meal over or along side the veggies. Usually there's enough sauce in the frozen meals to coat the frozen veggies, and I also keep a low calorie stir fry sauce in the fridge if I need to add a little more.
I also make a frozen veggie salad that I eat alone or with other meals. Just pour the frozen veggies (any mix, I like Walmart's asparagus stir fry blend) into a bowl, add a light salad dressing (I use light italian or make my own) and let thaw in the fridge until the next day. I also add chopped onion and other veggies if I have time or the desire like green pepper, artichoke hearts, yellow pepper rings... Makes a great side dish.
As for fruits, I also like making slushie drinks and smoothies in the blender with frozen fruits. My favorite is frozen strawberries and diet lemonade, Sprite or Mountain Dew - to make a frozen daquiri. If the berries aren't very ripe, I might have to add a bit of Splenda, but usually not.
02-12-2009, 03:14 PM
Lean Cuisine was a staple of my weight loss. That said, I supplemented the LCs with extra vegetables--salads, broccoli, spinach, summer squash, green beans, asparagus, etc. And I also had planned snacks between meals.
Eating 800 calories a day long-term without medical supervision can be dangerous. Among the risks are muscle wasting, heart damage, osteoporosis, and kidney damage. It's just an unhealthy level and can actually work against fat loss.
So, I guess I'd say, yes, LCs are a good strategy, especially if you're not someone who wants to cook a lot. But still, you should strive for a more healthy food intake.
02-12-2009, 05:17 PM
I used to use these to control my eating as well and it didn't work at all. You could easily make a large salad full of veggies and some lean meat like turkey or chicken for the same amount of calories if not less. It would fill you more and it is definitely better for you. Eating regular food will also make it less obvious to you you're dieting, probably putting less pressure on yourself.
Eating 800 calories a day you may lose some weight now, but you are slowing your metabolism down and you will most likely stop losing, then when you finally go off this "diet" and back to old habits you risk putting on even more weight than you had to begin with because your metabolism is now slower. Look at it this way, would you rather lose 20 pounds real fast and gain it all back? Or would you rather lose slowly and healthily and keep it off forever?
02-12-2009, 05:30 PM
Wow thanks for all the great advice guys. I'm writing down those meal ideas in my weight loss journal as we speak and I'm planning on having a big fresh healthy salad for dinner.
I know I need to get more calories in my day, but I feel like I'm walking a dangerous tight rope and any second I could fall headfirst into a wicked binge. But I think as I reconfigure my eating habits and learn more about the fundamentals of the food I eat, I'll naturally begin to make the healthier choices that don't leave me feeling like a crazed rhino on a rampage whenever I walk into my kitchen.
Can't wait! :)
02-12-2009, 05:55 PM
When I ate these a lot, I fell off the wagon a lot... I would sometimes eat 2 meals in a sitting. I'm not sure why. They are high in salt, so that's something to be mindful of.
I have read a few articles about frozen dinners and they suggest adding in extra veggies or I'd even suggest extra protein. I remember there was some salmon & rice meal and I added in more salmon because their portion was so small. I know those meals average 200-320 calories. I think depending on how many times you eat a day, you might need to be eating 400 calories a meal, especially if you don't snack, or just snack lightly.
I liked them because I hated cooking... but when I wasn't in the practice of cooking, what I would cook would be large portions, high cal/high fat. There's none of these dinners in Korea and my cooking skills are better now.
02-12-2009, 06:18 PM
I've went through a couple periods in my life when I ate a lot of frozen dinners. The most recent earlier this winter when neither hubby or I were up to much cooking, because of our health and pain issues, especially when we both had the flu at the same time. We bought frozen dinners and very quick to prepare foods (like beef patties and fish pieces), and hubby if he was feeling a bit better than I would bring home takeout. Finding healthy takeout was a real challenge (papaya salad from my favorite thai restaurant and seaweed salad from our healthfood grocery were other staples -for me - those were burger days for my husband), too.
It did open my eyes to why the elderly sometimes eat very poorly. I'd always sort of thought "it's not that hard to make something simple and good for you, quickly?" At that point, I'd never experienced fatigue so severe (even being on disability for three years) that even getting to the bathroom was a tremendous chore. I never before decided I wouldn't eat at all, despite being hungry, because preparing food was too much work. I had been too ill to make my own meals at time, but hubby and I had never been so sick at the same time together, so there was always one of us to fix the meals.
Having both of us down and out, we ate some pretty weird things, not all of them very healthy. My husband would often make instant mashed potatoes for his dinner (and be exhausted from it), and I'd have a carton of yogurt and maybe a banana for mine. We should have been losing weight like mad, but we were so exhausted, we weren't burning many calories, I guess.
02-13-2009, 12:40 AM
My only problem with frozen meals is they seem so small! I guess I like a lot of volume to fill me up. Here's a meal idea, if you like chicken, you can just get a couple breasts and bang them till they're thin (with anything really, its fun too lol) sprinkle some salt, pepper, and paprika on both sides and fry it up in a pan with like a teaspoon of oil or some sort. And then squeeze some lemon juice on it. Soooo yummy, with some sides like veggies and rice/couscous.
I was just wondering, why did you pick 800 calories for your daily allotment?
02-13-2009, 10:16 AM
I also use Lean Cuisines, but usually only 1 a day. I do add salad to complete the meal most of the time. Is there a way you can take time on weekends to make up some healthy meals to save for the week? Like broil some chicken breasts and put them in the fridge or freezer to heat up quickly later. Or, bag up fresh veggies to have quick nibbles. You can even make soups or casseroles and freeze small containers that are easy to take out and microwave for a quick meal.
I also believe you really need to eat more, similar to what's been said already. I might add,though, that I just yesterday read in a doctor's Q&A column a quote from "Obesity" magazine (who'd have thought there was actually a magazine named that?) stating, "for each can of diet soda you drink a day, your risk of being overweight increases 41%....one theory is that the intense sweetness of artificial sweeteners causes your body to crave calories." Just something to think about. Best wishes to you and :hug:
02-13-2009, 12:16 PM
"for each can of diet soda you drink a day, your risk of being overweight increases 41%.
That might have something to do with the idea that people who are skinny don't generally drink diet soda. (Correlation is not causation.)
02-13-2009, 01:58 PM
I used to eat lean cuisine all the time but I stopped because I started trying to consume mostly unprocessed foods. Most Lean cuisines have a lot of salt and sugar and they also contain a lot of "isolated" and "modified" ingredients, food coloring, etc. Also if you're not eating the "spa classics" the carbs that you're getting are highly processed and quickly digested (like white pasta and white rice).
I used to really love the Santa Fe Style Rice And Beans though!
02-13-2009, 02:07 PM
aneleh--That is a great idea! I'm so clueless when it comes to actual cooking (thanks to a lifetime of Doritos, Kraft Mac + Cheese Singles and, yes, Lean Cuisine Meals) and the other day my dad had to tell me how to do a simple pan-seared fish filet. I'll definitely use your advice.
I didn't pick 800 or anything like that, I'm not aiming towards that--According to livestrong.com I should be getting about 1900 calories a day. But when I actually start watching every morsel I eat and recording it and seeing how it breaks down into fat/protein/carbs and how many actual calories I'm eating, it's like I have a fear of raising that number too high. I never use up my allotted calories for the day because I enjoy the (false) sense of willpower I get when the site says I have 1000 more calories to eat for the day and i'm getting ready for bed. But, on the positive side, Daily Plate has really helped me learn WHERE my cals are coming from--for example, when I first started, my fat content was 50% every day! Now I'm really good at keeping it below 25%.
However, for the record, yesterday I ate 1100 calories so I am working to improve.
ronni62--FORTY ONE PERCENT MORE LIKELY TO GAIN WEIGHT????? Yikes. So I guess I'll be drinking more water from now on.
Thanks everybody for your support and advice. It's really really helping me. I LOVE 3FC!
02-13-2009, 02:11 PM
FWIW, i've been working on replacing frozen meals (bistro MD) with my own version, to keep the costs down and nutrition up, but also to avoid having to deal with a lot of cooking and have stuff ready to go whenever i need it. the initial learning curve is taking some time, but it's already paying off, and i only spend about 4 hours a week doing food prep, have endless variety, great nutrition (low sodium - huzzah!) and it takes a TON better than it did when i was trying to cook for a week at a time. had never heard of sous vide, hadn't used a foodsaver, and i certainly don't think it'd work for everyone, but if you're looking for options it's worth considering. details in my blog link in my signature.
02-13-2009, 02:14 PM
Thanks! that sounds like a great idea! I'll definitely go check that out.
02-13-2009, 02:52 PM
"for each can of diet soda you drink a day, your risk of being overweight increases 41%....
There's a similar correlation between each cup of decafeinated coffee and heart disease and high blood pressure - but the reason is not that decaf coffee causes heart disease and high blood pressure. Rather if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, you are more likely to drink decaf - and the more severe your problems, the more likely you are to drink decaf. (That is that a person with severe heart disease or high blood pressure is not only more likely to drink decaf than folks without the problems, but also more than folks who have less severe problems).
I think it's just as likely, if not more so that the more overweight you are, the more you may rely on diet soda to satisfy cravings for regular soda or other higher calorie foods.
02-13-2009, 05:32 PM
I never cooked much either before dieting... but I learned! If you can follow simple recipes, you may find that you lose your taste for lean cuisine. :)