When you’re dieting to lose weight, you can enjoy all your favorite foods if you keep calories under control by eating a smaller amount. This type of portion control is the concept behind prepackaged frozen meals, whether they come from Jenny Craig or your local grocery store. You only need to choose substitutes that have the same calories and nutrients as Jenny Craig products.
Benefits of Prepared Foods
Prepared foods have a legitimate spot on a weight-loss menu because they offer two important benefits: They automatically limit the portion you eat and they're ready to pop into the microwave when you're hungry and tempted to reach for a high-calorie snack.
Researchers from the University of Illinois had two groups of overweight women eat about 1,300 calories daily, consisting of 55 percent carbs, 25 percent protein and 20 percent fat. One group ate frozen foods, while the other group prepared their own meals. After eight weeks, the group eating frozen entrees lost more weight and body fat than the other group, reported Obesity Research in 2004. The fact that the frozen meals gave them accurate portion control contributed to their success.
Jenny Craig’s breakfast meals contain 150 to 250 calories. Depending on whether you choose a carb or protein based meal -- for example, pancakes versus scrambled eggs -- you'll get about 23 grams to 35 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams to 14 grams of protein and 3 grams to 8 grams of fat. The meals also provide 1 gram to 4 grams of dietary fiber. Look for meals with similar macronutrients when shopping for a grocery store substitute.
The easiest way to choose an alternative is to buy a brand that caters to weight loss; a variety of brands offer frozen breakfast entrees, and many have 250 calories or fewer per serving. Just check the label, because some have significantly more fat than Jenny Craig, while others are low on carbs and high on protein.
Lunch and Dinner Options
Lunch options from Jenny Craig include beef sliders, quesadillas, fajitas, stuffed shells, pizza, chicken sandwiches, stuffed potatoes and tuna salad. The dinner entrees also offer a wide variety of options, including cheese ravioli, chicken fettuccine, meat loaf, fish and chips, garlic shrimp, mac and cheese, roasted turkey, and spaghetti and meatballs.
You can find similar entrees in the frozen food section of your grocery store; just be sure the brand you buy stays within 200 to 300 calories per serving. Jenny Craig lunch and dinner meals have about the same amounts of carbs and fat as breakfast, but they supply as much as 20 grams of dietary fiber and 8 grams to 22 grams of protein.
Tips for Balanced Eating
While freezing retains most of the frozen entrees' natural nutrients, some may not be well balanced. They’re likely to be low on vegetables, so even Jenny Craig recommends supplementing them with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Prepared foods are also known for being high in sodium, which is added during cooking. The Institute of Medicine recommends limiting your total daily sodium to no more than 1,500 milligrams.
Jenny Craig offers the advantage of providing pre-measured, portion-controlled condiments. Grocery stores stock a variety of low-calorie and low-fat options, but your most accurate bet with these is to use a measuring spoon to keep track of calories and portions.