Portion Controlled Ready Meals can be Good for Weight Loss

Portion Controlled Ready Meals can be Good for Weight Loss

Portion control and planning play a key role when you’re trying to lose weight, get either of these wrong and you’ll likely struggle to get anywhere.

The problem for many people is that busy and complex lives don’t leave a lot of time, or headspace, for planning, preparing, weighing and cooking food.

So could portion-controlled pre-packed lunch and dinner options (aka ready meals) help?

The answer would appear to be yes according to new research published in Obesity, the scientific journal of the Obesity society.

In fact, using ready meals helped people to lose more weight over a twelve week period, than those who were on a self-selected diet.

The study

To conduct the study, researchers assigned the 183 participating adults to three groups: 

  1. Prescribed two ready meals meals per day 
  2. Prescribed two ready meals per day that were higher in protein (>25% energy)
  3. control group allowed to select their own meals

All participants met with a dietitian for a one- to two-hour personalized counselling session in which they determined their own weight-loss goals, received physical activity recommendations and learned behavioural strategies to help them achieve their goals.

“Participants who were prescribed twice-daily prepackaged meals lost about eight percent of their initial weight, compared to participants in the control group – who could select their own diets – who only lost about six percent,” said Cheryl Rock, PhD, RD, lead researcher and Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. 

“What’s more, our study found that food satisfaction was comparable among all groups, which is a critical factor that may determine long-term usefulness of this strategy. 

We believe that removing the complexity of planning and preparing low-calorie meals was beneficial to the participants in the intervention.”

Main Findings After Three Months

  • 74% of the participants eating the ready meals had achieved a 5% weight loss
  • 53% of the control achieved a 5% weight loss
  • Greater weight loss also led to a decrease in other cardiovascular disease risk factors like total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol for the participants consuming the ready meals
  • Meal satisfaction ratings were similar among all groups

Other Interesting Findings

Among the ready meal participants, self-reported compliance was 100% at two weeks, only going down minimally, to 80%, after 12 weeks at the end of the study.

Weight loss was similar in both ready meal groups; the small difference in protein content did not make a difference.  

Groups that consumed the ready meals expressed greater confidence in their ability to follow a meal plan long-term.

WLR Says

Eating fewer calories is essential for weight loss, but it does require a certain amount of learning and quite a lot of planning, especially when you first start out. This study shows using ready meals is an effective option.

The meal satisfaction levels, and high level of adherence are particularly encouraging since, in our experience, getting started and keeping going through the first month or two seems to be the hardest part for many people.

We think the confidence-enhancing aspect of using ready meals is also an important factor, since a person’s confidence in their ability to do something is associated with their success in doing it.

It would be interesting to know if the control group were given advice or tools for planning, as this is always a key aspect in the success of any diet.

Ready Meal Plans

WLR’s Supermarket Chefs series of diet plans focus on ready meals and pre-packed portions to make them easy to follow, quick to prepare and well-balanced.

So far we have plans for Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose - there are more on the way so watch this space.

If you prefer a little more flexibility in your diet, but still want speed and convenience have a look at our Working Person’s Diet Plan.

As with all WLR plans, you can load them into your food planner and make adjustments that suit you. Take a free trial to give it a whirl.

Read the full paper published in Obesity, the scientific journal of The Obesity Society here.

Learn about portion size and how to lose weight with the tools in WLR

Seeing the figures in black and white can show you where to make small changes in portions that lead to big changes on the scales - Try it Free.

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