Can Ready Meals Help You Lose Weight?
By Dietitian Lyndel Costain BSc RD
If you find ready meals helpful, but sometimes feel a little guilty about eating them, then this new research may help ease your conscience.
Published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, it found that including portion controlled ready meals helped overweight men lose weight more easily.
Conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois, the men were randomly divided between two test diets, each providing approximately 1700 calories. One was a self-selected diet made up of a recommended number of servings from different food groups, in line with healthy eating guidelines. The other included two portion-controlled frozen ready meals plus additional food servings to balance the diet.
At the end of the 8-week study period, both groups managed to lose a beneficial amount of weight, but the portion-controlled group lost around a third more - an average of 7.4kg versus 5.1kg for the self-selected diet group.
These findings more or less replicate the findings of a very similar study carried out last year with women, on calorie levels of 1400 calories a day.
The researchers believe that the simplicity and portion control of the ready meal diet meant it was easier for subjects to keep to their calorie level. It also seemed to improve their knowledge of how much was a good portion size for them.
Weight Loss Resources says...
Two reasons so many people find it hard to manage their weight are: food is tempting us wherever we go often in large portions; and it takes effort to choose, prepare and serve recommended amounts for weight loss. This can be even more tricky for men who often have fewer food and cooking skills.
Studies now show, and you will probably know from your own experience, that giving structure to your eating plan, and taking time to plan ahead to have regular meals and the right foods to hand at the right time, can make weight loss success more likely. However, that doesn't mean you need to, or even want to, rely on ready meals to control your weight! Cooking is a pleasure and also a way to ensure you know what is in your food.
However, different approaches suit different people. And in the midst of food overload, including at least some portion-controlled ready meals could help you get used to portion sizes that suit your needs. They are also handy at the end of a busy day when you're simply too tired to cook or if it's hard to buy or prepare something healthy for lunch (or during shifts) at work.
The big question with this study is will it help people now keep the weight off in the long term, without having to keep relying on ready meals. Let's hope they can rerun similar studies for a longer period to find out more.
Tips for choosing ready meals
- Opt for those with around 300 calories, or 400-450 calories if they come with rice, potatoes or pasta
- Look for controlled levels of fat and salt
- Serve with plenty of vegetables or salad
You'll get tons of ideas, plus seeing the figures in black and white can help you make small changes and put your own diet plan together - Try it Free.