As a busy Mom, I'm always looking for quick, easy, tasty and healthy meal ideas for me and my family. I am so excited that I had the opportunity to be part of a project that helped me do just that! Through TheMotherhood I was able to participate in a specific project with Healthy Choice. Over the years, I have enjoyed many different products from this brand, (I especially love their delicious soups!), so I jumped at the chance to sample some of their meals to review.
This week, Hubby and I headed to the grocery store to pick up a variety of Healthy Choice frozen meals that he and I could have at lunch. We purchased several meals, regularly priced at $2.69, on sale for $2.00 - you can't beat that price for a cheap date! Plus we received coupons for two free meals for participating in the program.
My goal for the week was to put the Healthy Choice meals to the test by having one for lunch each day and cutting back on high calorie afternoon snacking. A recent study was done where participants replaced either lunch or dinner with a Healthy Choice option for 30 days. By the end of the study, participants had lost an average of 6 pounds and trimmed their waistlines by 1 inch! Consistent with these recent research findings, I found that I did indeed begin to loose weight and circumference after just five days! Considering that Baby was sick, I didn't make it to the gym for my usual exercise routine, so I'm attributing these results to replacing my lunches and adding healthier snacks in between meals (particularly a whey protein shake to keep the munchies at bay.)
Most times a diet is drudgery as ya nosh through celery sticks, rice cakes or bland food devoid of any flavor, as if diet really stands for: Don't Ingest Enjoyable Things! With the Healthy Choice meals, I did not feel deprived of delicious, enjoyable food. I sampled several different varieties of frozen meals: Complete Meals, Steaming Entrees and All Natural selections.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my lunches and would readily purchase any of them again for a quick and easy meal. The meals I chose were all low in fat and calories (from 210-330) and were high in fiber and nutrients. On the box they list diet exchanges per serving, which is beneficial for those on a diabetic diet. Interestingly enough, they also list a Weight Watcher's Points value. How nice of them to be so considerate of their customers who may be involved in the WW program and now don't have to do their own calculations. As one who uses the point system, I really appreciated that!
Here's a quick synopsis of my menu this week:
Steaming Entree: Sesame Glazed Chicken - "Chicken tenderloins with whole grain rice, sugar snap peas & red peppers in a sweet sesame glaze."
All Natural: Creamy Basil Pesto - "9 grain cavatappi pasta, broccoli and tomatoes in a creamy pesto sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese."
All Natural: Lobster Cheese Ravioli - "Ricotta cheese and lobster filled ravioli, with green and yellow zucchini in a vodka sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese."
Complete Meal: Country Herb Chicken - "Chicken tenderloins with herb gravy, red potatoes, vegetables & cherry blueberry multi-grain crisp."
Complete Meal: Chicken Balsamico -"Chicken tenderloins in savory Balsamic sauce, whole grain rice pilaf, broccoli and apple cranberry multi-grain crisp."
Doesn't that sound scrumptious? My mouth is watering as I type each savory description! I thoroughly enjoyed, and yes, looked forward to my lunch each day. Much better than the grab-what-ya-can-from-the-fridge-and-hope-for-the-best mentality which I usually live by at noon. I eagerly anticipated my lunch and waited anxiously for the microwave to signal time for me to eat! The steam fresh meals come in a special container which does not need to be cut or pulled back, and I found them to cook up very nicely and were less messy to deal with when peeling off the plastic film.
Overall, I found the meals quite delicious! The Complete Meals were good, but I did like the other, all in one, meals better. The Complete Meals contain a main dish, veggie and dessert. In both instances the vegetables needed more seasoning, so I ended up mixing them in with the main entree to enjoy it more. The fruit crisp desserts were quite yummy, although a little too sweet for my taste. I think I would prefer a little less syrup and a bit more crisp! Looking at the ingredients in the Complete Meals, there is an awful lot of sugar for a healthy meal. Granted, dessert is included in these Healthy Choice complete meals and I'm sure that increases the need for more sugar. I do like that real sugar or evaporated cane juice is used as I prefer to avoid chemical and artificial sweeteners in general and especially during dieting as they can cause you to crave even more sweets and eat more empty calories. However, I would prefer a little less sugar use in my healthy meals and definitely NO high fructose corn syrup. I was disappointed to see high fructose corn syrup listed in the ingredients, although I might add that it is far down the list which made me feel slightly better.
The one dish meals in the All Natural and Steaming Entrees selections were definitely my favorite! They are full of natural ingredients and did not contain any high fructose corn syrup, which I really appreciated! When I was eating the Sesame Glazed Chicken, I found myself comparing it to the Chinese food we had ordered the other day and was equally impressed. It tasted like it had just been made to order! Hubby also enjoyed the sesame chicken. He took that and the Steaming Entrees Lemon Herb Chicken to work for lunch. He reported that his co-workers were envious of the delectable smell as he heated up his lunch! His only criticism was that the tomatoes were not too pretty, although they tasted fine. He suggested that perhaps a sun-dried tomato would be a better choice for the lemon chicken meal.
The Creamy Basil Pesto and Lobster Cheese Ravioli were my ultimate favorites of the week! I felt like I was dining at the local Italian bistro down the road. The noodles in the pesto sauce even reminded me of their homemade pasta! The lobster ravioli compared to the same dish at a nearby Italian place which would have charged me nearly eight or nine times what I paid at the grocery store! I loved the ravioli most of all, so much so, that I may even consider purchasing several, heating them all up and serving them family style. Perhaps a nice candle lit dinner with Hubby? He doesn't need to know that I didn't slave all day in the kitchen...sshhhh!
I must say that it was quite a treat to enjoy such succulent, scrumptious meals each day and not feel that I was on a D.I.E.T! The ready-to-eat, pre-portioned meals made it so simple for me to stick to my diet and begin to see improvement before week's end. If you too, are looking for a simple, inexpensive, tasty way to eat healthfully and reclaim your skinny jeans, then I would recommend incorporating some Healthy Choice meals into your diet plan. Since portion control seems to be fundamental to weight loss success, this is an easy and delicious way to get yourself accustomed to eating smaller amounts. I really appreciate not having to weigh and measure things to figure out if I'm eating the right amounts, it's already done for me!
Along with incorporating some Healthy Choice options into my diet plan, here are some other healthy choices that I have been making to improve my overall health.
Exercise: I try to make it to the gym 3 times a week. I make sure to do stretches, weight training and aerobic exercise. If I don't make it to the gym, as happened this week, then I will walk in the neighborhood or enjoy a 10 minute dance party with my toddler (you wouldn't believe how much of a work out that is!)
Water: Drinking water is vital to any weight loss program. This keeps you hydrated as you exercise, flushes toxins out of your system, and helps you avoid other tempting drinks or snacks. I find that a glass of water before each meal helps me control those portion sizes a little better. I am so used to toting my water bottle around with me wherever I go, that I feel a bit lost whenever I may forget it!
Eat!: Just because it's time to diet, does not mean ya have to starve yourself! I find that I do best with controlling my appetite if I do have a healthy snack in between meals, this keeps me from chowing down on less healthy options when I become ravenously hungry. Filling my plate up with more fruits and veggies and less grains and meats, helps me to feel better all around. Making sure that our pantry and fridge are stocked with more veggies or fruit, helps our whole family eat less sugary sweets and maintain a more healthy lifestyle.
I hope that some of these ideas, and the scrumptious options from Healthy Choice, will be a help to others, as they have been to me. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. This puts them at risk for heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. As one who has been in "at risk" for quite a few years, my goal is to climb out of the overweight category, (or should I say shrink down from?) and get back on track to a healthier me!
(Disclosure: Compensation received for my participation, however the opinions given are all mine! Research was presented by the Rippe Lifestyle Institute at the Experimental Biology Conference in April 2011 & funded by ConAgra Foods.)