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How to Diet Eating Lean Cuisine

author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
How to Diet Eating Lean Cuisine
A portion of Lean Cuisine spaghetti with meat sauce has 310 calories, compared to 411 calories in a serving of canned spaghetti. Photo Credit psphotograph/iStock/Getty Images

No matter how much weight you have to lose, losing fat is about burning more calories than you eat daily. Incorporating low-calorie frozen meals, like Lean Cuisine, into your diet is one way to keep your calories in check to shed pounds. While you'll still need to exercise and follow a balanced and varied meal plan, using Lean Cuisine meals to practice portion control, avoiding over-indulging, and staying away from fast food can help you diet and lose weight.

To Learn Portion Control

Frozen meals like Lean Cuisine have built-in portion control -- a major benefit when you're trying to lose weight. When you're dieting, you can use Lean Cuisine to ensure you're eating the proper portion size.

Many people under-estimate just how much food they're eating, and food marketing distorts your concept of what a portion looks like, so you're more likely to overeat, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Underestimating calorie intake is one of the major causes of obesity, according to a review published in the Journal of Marketing Research in 2007. It makes sense -- if you don't truly know how much you're eating, it's impossible to ensure you're taking in fewer calories than you burn each day, which is essential for weight loss.

Since Lean Cuisine packages their meals in single-portion servings, there's no guesswork or estimating the "right" portion size. You'll know exactly how much food you're supposed to eat -- and how many calories you're taking in.

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For Diet-Friendly Comfort Food

Many dieters treat losing weight as an exercise in deprivation, but that shouldn't be the case. Letting yourself enjoy your favorite comfort foods can keep you feeling satisfied with your diet, and the occasional indulgence is good for your overall wellness, according to Rutgers University. Lean Cuisine meals offer a lower-calorie alternative to many comfort food classics and a "safe" way to indulge.

For example, Lean Cuisine Vermont cheddar mac and cheese has 260 calories, while a cup of macaroni and cheese made from dried sauce mix weighs in at 376 calories. A portion of Lean Cuisine spaghetti with meat sauce has 310 calories, compared to 411 calories in a serving of canned spaghetti. And because the Lean Cuisine options have built-in portion control, you're less likely to pack several servings into one bowl.

As a Fast Food Alternative

Use Lean Cuisine as an alternative fast food or takeout to save hundreds of calories. Lean Cuisine meals contain a moderate amount of calories -- roughly 250 to 400 calories -- depending on the type you choose; whereas, takeout can set you back 700 calories or more.

For example, a cheeseburger and large fries meal from a leading fast food restaurant contains 810 calories, and that doesn't count the extra calories you'll take in if you wash it down with a sugary soft drink. Two slices of pepperoni pan pizza at a leading pizza restaurant will set you back 658 calories, compared to 390 calories in a Lean Cuisine personal pepperoni pizza.

If you currently hit the drive-through for a cheeseburger and fries once a week, switching to a 250-calorie Lean Cuisine could save you up to 29,000 calories per year -- or more than 8 pounds of fat.

Dieting With Lean Cuisine

While Lean Cuisine has some major diet advantages, it has a few drawbacks too. Like most packaged foods, Lean Cuisine is relatively high in sodium. For example, their Vermont cheddar mac and cheese has 690 milligrams of sodium -- 30 percent of the recommended intake limit for sodium, which is 2,300 milligrams.

Reaching for Lean Cuisine too often might also mean you're not developing the culinary skills you need to make great-tasting food that fits into a calorie-conscious diet. Plus, you're not developing a sense of portion control for homemade food, so when you make your own meals, you might still overeat. To use frozen dinners, like Lean Cuisine, as part of a healthy diet, make sure you're still eating a variety of foods in your diet, recommends Columbia University.

A Day on the Diet

Dieting with Lean Cuisine doesn't mean you need to eat nothing but their frozen entrees; mix them with convenient meals made from whole, unprocessed food. For example, start your day with an orange paired with a slice of whole-grain toast topped with almond butter, or make a simple omelet from 2 whole eggs and a handful of chopped spinach. Keep your lunch convenient by enjoying a Lean Cuisine entree with a handful of berries or an apple on the side. At dinner, prepare a simple green salad -- try arugula, red pepper and a raspberry vinaigrette or baby kale, slivered carrots and rice vinegar and lime juice dressing -- to pair with your Lean Cuisine. Enjoy a sweet-and-savory dessert of non-fat plain Greek yogurt topped with raspberries and mint chiffonade.

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