At first glance, the website for Lean Cuisine is much more impressive than most other “pre-packaged food sites.” They proudly list all their menu items and nutritional information for each meal selection, and everything is broken down into categories such as casual dining, spa, breakfast classics, and dinnertime cuisine. Each category has a number of varieties to choose from to suit even the pickiest palate. So, just how healthy are Lean Cuisine frozen dinners? Let’s examine the menu.
Benefits of Frozen Dinners
As to how healthy are Lean Cuisine frozen dinners, they are a good option for a person wanting to eat healthier, but really loves unhealthy foods and has no willpower.
Taking a look at some of the Lean Cuisine’s entrees, most of them that are chicken based are low in calories and fat. All the dinners do list the amount of iron they contain, as well as fiber and all macronutrients. This allows the individual to choose which meals to pair up to make their daily nutrition balanced. By knowing the number of calories you consume ahead of time, you can track your daily intake to help you lose weight. Most selections are high in carbohydrates, however, making it a challenge for diabetics to eat healthy on these meals. There are a few under 30g of carbohydrates, such as the “Roasted Turkey and Vegetables,” which contains only 18g carbohydrates, and 17 g protein. That would be considered a balanced meal for a person watching their weight and/or blood sugar levels.
Cons of Frozen Dinners
The only down side of frozen food entrees is they are processed full of sodium to preserve taste, and don’t always have the right balance of macro-nutrients, (for instance, carbs, protein, fats.) Instead, you get things like excess sugars, food colors, and salts found in all prepackaged foods. The ingredients list that are located on the back or side of these dinners are a large paragraph long, many of which are not considered whole, natural, fresh foods. Some examples of high sodium in these dinners include: “Stuffed Cabbage with Whipped Mashed Potatoes”. It contains 210 calories, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein, 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 670 mg sodium. Another selection, the “Bacon Alfredo Pizza Wood Fire Style”, contains 320 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, 17 grams of protein, 42 grams of carbohydrates, and 670mg of sodium.
Moderation is Key
Some will find the taste satisfactory, and are a much better alternative to the full fat, high calorie options. However, because of the high sodium content, Lean Cuisine frozen dinners should be consumed moderately, replacing 2-3 unhealthy meals a week.
To address the issue of high sodium levels in their meals, Lean Cuisine offers information where they suggest the meals be consumed within a healthy diet. By further examining how healthy are Lean Cuisine frozen dinners, we find that by following the USDA guidelines of 2400 mg sodium per day, that two meals at 1200mg of sodium is realistic. Lean Cuisine’s own online nutritionist even recommends that a side salad, bread, and milk accompany these meals to maintain the average of 1200mg of sodium per meal. For those wanting to make changes to an unhealthy diet, this is unrealistic as a healthy meal plan.
Lean Cuisine www.leancuisine.com
Counting of Calories Isn’t Always Accurate-www.nytimes.com
Food Study: Chains, Diet Meals Understate Calories-www.content.usatoday.com