Is It Healthy? Lean Cuisine.

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I have never been a frozen dinner type of person but since I get so many questions about the health value of the Lean Cuisine brand of foods, I decided to add it to my “Is It Healthy?” series.  I’m not sure if it’s the TASTE of Lean Cuisine meals that make them so popular OR if it’s the idea that they are considered “healthy diet food,” either way, I thought I would take a closer look.

1. Are they REAL foods? When I define real foods, I am generally thinking in terms of food as least processed as possible. Frozen entrees are typically highly processed and the “healthy” choices are no exception. There’s no denying that even though they boast ”no preservatives,” they still contain food coloring and lots of chemical additives, which are not the type of ingredients I recommend consuming on a daily basis. 

2. Nutrition Facts. The nutrition facts label for most Lean Cuisine entrees is not terrible. They are generally low in calories and have less sodium than other varieties. However, the portion sizes are pretty measly relative to the amount of calories and they are not very nutrient dense. Most of these entrees are filled with empty calories in the form of sugar, salt, and refined grains, leaving you hungry shortly after. 

3. Taste. I have to be honest here; I have only ever tried TWO Lean Cuisine meals in my life; some sort of mini pizza and a chicken panini sandwich. I was extremely disappointed with both. The bread on the sandwich and pizza tasted like cardboard and the chicken resembled chicken…I THINK it was chicken, but it did NOT taste like chicken. Maybe I’m a food snob, but I did not have a pleasant experience.

4. Weight-Loss. I do not think that Lean Cuisine meals are going to aid in your weight-loss efforts. In fact, I think they might be contributing to your weight problem. I notice I see more overweight people who regularly consume “diet-type foods,” than those who eat minimally processed, homemade foods. I think these “diet foods” are either highly unsatisfying and leave you craving MORE sugar, salt, etc OR you believe since you ate a “healthy” Lean Cuisine for lunch, that now you can eat whatever you want for dinner. Either way, this is not healthy eating and will not lead to weight-loss. I think you can do better. Try making a casserole you can individually portion out for the week OR make a meal plan so you aren’t tempted by convenience!

Doesn't that wrap look SO tasty and fresh?

 Recipe Click Here!

Bottom Line: I would not discourage Lean Cuisine entrees from people completely, especially if you truly enjoy their taste *cringe*. However, I would suggest limiting their use to once or twice a month. I know that life is hectic and grocery stores are confusing with all their “health talk,” but trust me, the less you rely on convenience foods, the healthier you will be! A little effort goes a LONG way!!

QUESTION:

Do You Eat Lean Cuisine meals? If so, what appeals to you most?

Do you believe they are healthy?

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47 comments to Is It Healthy? Lean Cuisine.

  • Barb

    I joined Weight Watchers September 2012, in 6 months I’ve lost 47 pounds. I’m single and I like a variety of food. I eat a Lean Cuisine Meal for lunch at work 5 days a week, I usually have a cup of soup or raw vegetables with the meal. The Lean Cuisine Meals I eat are 600 mg of sodium and less. I watched Dr. Oz and he recommends under 600 mg for frozen meals. The Lean Cuisine “Chef Picks” are really good. I love pizza and the Barbeque chicken pizza is really good, I add some red onion to it and a little black pepper and parmesan cheese. Eating Lean Cuisine Meals makes it easier to track points. Prior to September I never ate frozen meals like Lean Cuisine. Breakfast I eat fresh fruits. Dinner is usually home cooked meal of protein, veggies, carbs. I love the Weight Watcher Raspberry Frozen bars only 2 points each. I eat one or two of those daily. It’s working for me and I feel great!

  • [...] take a closer look at the “no preservatives” claim. Healthyapron.com, a blog written by Erin Coates (registered dietitian) declared that as much as Lean Cuisine wants [...]

  • Alicia

    Most people who are obese, like myself, are consuming way more sugar and salt than Lean Cuisine, and aren’t eating fresh foods anyway. Lean Cuisines have less sugar, less sodium and far fewer calories than what I was eating, and even though they are not fresh foods, let’s face it, they’re better than donuts, ice cream, and fast food! The lifestyle changes that some are suggesting here will set up obese people for failure. Obese people need a reduction in calories and typically don’t want to measure everything out, go to the store often, or stand at the counter and stove, slicing, dicing and cooking. If it’s convenient and less calories, sodium and salt that what they have been consuming, then it’s at least an improvement…maybe not the best, but at least it can get the weight off…I’m proof of that, and my health and lab work has improved immensely…and I’ve lost a lot of weight and have kept it off. Don’t push YOUR way as the answer, instead support others’ efforts to improve their lives in what works best for them.

  • Lisa

    I’m actually disappointed when I told my coworker I had purchased a week’s worth of lunch/dinner Lean cuisines since they were on sale ($1.40, and $1.65 for Healthy Choice) and she mentioned they had too much sodium.

    Thing is, I don’t have time to cook (with full time school/work) so it was easier and cheaper for me to eat one box, than to go to the chinese take out place and spend $8 on a meal – that i would most likely eat whole (approx. 800-1000 calories)
    I was gaining too much weight and thought the low calorie Lean Cuisines/Healthy choice would help me curb those calories. Now I find out they have too much sodium? Well, compared to restaurants that i eat at- don’t those meals have just as much sodium? I only eat one per meal and finish with fruits and hot tea.

  • emily

    I don’t diet, but lately I have had stomache issues and bought a couple lean cuisines BECAUSE they are measly portions, & seemingly “light” food I thought I would have a better time consuming with my lately sensitive stomache.
    But in picking some out, I noticed a few of the entress had up to 18 grams of SUGAR! Isn’t that like half a coke? People keep ignoring that sugar does NOT help you lose weight, it really doesn’t help anyone for anything, (cavities, immune system, dibetes, premature aging, etc)

    I took one of the flavors w/out so much sugar, but its true: the taste leaves a lot to be desired. Also noticed while I ate, why arent the noodles whole wheat if this is supposed to be diet or healthy? white foods just make you hungry again. good thing im not dieting!

  • Wanda

    I eat them from time to time, no guilt. I would add fruit or a little salad with it. I don’t take a lot of salt in, so the sodium in these aren’t hurting me. My sister lost a ridiculous amount of weight eating these. I eat them because I count calories and if I need something quick. Most of the time, I’m eating to live…then there are times on the wkend that I live to eat :)

  • I had the baked chicken for dinner tonight. I haven’t eaten a Lean Cuisine dinner for quite a long while, many many years. I didn’t care for it. It tasted horrible, no taste, blahsae, like chewing rubber. There was a time when I did eat them on a regular basis, roughly 25+ years ago. What happened? I won’t be buying them again. My stomach is upset. I cooked it properly, hot, and yak. Sorry to say.

  • kory

    I eat Lean Cuisine and similar “diet” frozen dinners on occasion, and by no means do they stack up to a healthy, homemade meal. However, they do suffice in a pinch and aren’t too bad. I’d love to be able to eat organic, but it’s just so expensive, especially while paying for college.

  • crystal

    I eat Lean Cuisine usually a few times a week for lunch and they do in fact help with weight loss..not a whole alot..but a small amount..just like any other diet “food”. I have searched all over the internet on what is a good plan on how to loose weight..and what foods to eat..and to be honest…anything we eat even if it;s fruit…whole wheat etc…will not help u loose weight 100%. I have tried every kind of method..and what i find out to be the main cause of weight loss is simply…working out 3-4 times a day and eat small portions..and stay away from fast foods and soda. Even goin to subway which is popular fast food joint that helps loose weight..which..Not really. It takes dedication and alot of time working out n eating good portions to get to your weight goal.

  • Nicole

    I think they’re fine maybe once or twice a week when you don’t have time to put together an all natural lunch/dinner. Eat it with a salad and some other healthy little snack and you’ll be filled up.

  • birgit

    ugh, now i feel horrible! i eat them for lunch and dinner evryday ! and i have lost alot of weight with diet and exercise!

  • Stacymay

    As I’m saving my money for tuition, I can’t exactly buy all those organic, fresh ingredients. I find it much easier to zap a Lean Cuisine during my lunch breaks than to whip up some miracle dish, though I know that would be a better option. I have no idea where they sell flat bread in this town, and the farmer’s market is tiny and expensive. However, I eat Lean Cuisines in moderation; not often a’tall. Also, it’s the only frozen dinner I eat (though occasionally I buy a box of those frozen egg rolls… they’re so deliciously bad for you I MUST HAVE THEM!)

    I think the roasted turkey with stuffing and baked apples is delicious. Also, the sundried tomato and pesto chicken pictured at the top of this page is pretty dang delicious. I’ve also eaten the meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes. The meat doesn’t taste like meatloaf, but it’s edible. The chicken in LCs is usually pretty nasty (although the sesame chicken is pretty good), but the turkey is always flavorful and tastes pretty real.

  • Bill W.

    Part of eating healthy and exercising is educating yourself. Overweight people in the Midwest that are 400 pounds aren’t going to care much about learning about food and nutrition at first. Eating Lean Cuisines is going to be better for them than going to McDonald’s and rightfully so. Education takes time and is a process. Let them get down to a healthy weight first, and then they can change up their eating habits to incorporate the whole organic/fresh/whole food thing.

  • I often bring lean cuisines to work just because I don’t always have time to prepare my own lunches (and fiance’s), so this post definitely is making me re-assess whether I should be eating this kind of processed food – even though it’s soo tastey!

  • I have a coworker who believes that eating Lean Cuisine for both lunch and dinner EVERYDAY is going to help her lose weight. I cringe every time I see her heat one up on our lunch break.
    Occasionally I will buy an Amy’s meal to have on hand since I don’t like to go out to eat for lunch at work.

  • I don’t like Lean Cuisine, and not a fan of frozen meals in general (but I do like frozen veggies and always keep them on hand). When I’m pressed for time, I’d rather just eat some eggs, or a peanut/almond butter sandwich :)

  • Now that I’m vegetarian I can’t really eat the frozen meals except for Amy’s. I never really relied on them, but I would buy them when they were on sale just to have on hand. I like to bulk them up with spinach when I do it them, just to give them a little more volume. I don’t think they’re a healthy food, but everything in moderation is okay.

  • Really good topic. Yes these are processed and people love them. There are better options organic, lower sodium but I agree these shouldn’t be a staple.

  • I used to be a loyal Lean Cuisine lady! I loved knowing exactly how many calories and fat grams I was eating…And the fact that those numbers were low made me love them even more. I haven’t purchased one in over a year, however I did buy a Healthy Choice entree several months ago (it had sweet potatoes in it, which is unusual for frozen foods, so I HAD to try it!), and threw it out after a few bites. I hate to waste food, but it was truly THAT bad!! I’m never wasting another dollar on these meals, even though they’re often on sale for $1.99! :-)

  • I don’t eat them- I think they’re overpriced and the sodium content is ridiculous!

  • I’m with you…no frozen dinners for me! The only ones I’ve ever tried were Kashi’s Pizza line (and they were decent). My mom used to make lean cuisine, and the smell alone turned me off. Thank you for sharing, sweetheart. I hope you have a wonderful Friday…and an even better weekend.

  • I used to eat Lean Cuisines all the time, but I would end up being hungry again 1 1/2 later. No Thank You!! I could wake a way more satisfying meal for about the same # of calories!

  • Lindsay

    sooooo since you have ruled almost every “are they healthy” food in this series unhealthy what DO you eat?! Do you have vices that overrule the pretend not healthy sticker that is on most items?

  • egads, no way. i used to eat tv dinners YEARS ago, but one just never fills you up. i’d ALWAYS have two, and then really – what’s the point?? (plus they’re hella expensive.) they’re probably loaded with sugar as well, and you know me, i’d much rather go straight for the chocolate. :P

  • I used to LIVE LIVE LIVE on Lean Cuisine! I ate the herb roasted chicken bc it was the lowest calories and I loved the veggies. That was back in my frankenfood era. I wouldn’t touch them now!

    I am loving this series!! I had an idea for you today for a “is it healthy” post. I am so mad right now I can’t remember (pregnancy brain). I will email you when it comes to me ;-)

  • I used to eat TV dinners a lot, but now I much prefer made–scratch stuff. A few weeks ago, I tried one of those TV dinners, and I thought it was AWFUL! The sauce was so totally not tomato-saucey, but it was more sugary. :/

  • It’s funny because a bunch of my co-workers always bring these for lunches and I joke about them eating “space food”!!

  • I also pay close attention to the ingredients in pre-made food I buy and I have noticed all of the chemicals and what-not in these. But I do have to say, they have a great baja quesadilla. But I barely ever buy it. I could probably make one just as good, if not better, myself. I also tried their chicken alfredo and it was DISGUSTING!

  • I’ve never been a big frozen meal girl. I’ve had Lean Cuisines in the past, but I’ve never enjoyed them enough to go back to the grocery store for another round. I think they can be alright in a pinch (better than running to a fast food joint for lunch if you didn’t have time to prepare anything in the morning) but I think there are other, better brands out there. I love Trader Joe’s frozen meals, as well as Amy’s!

  • I completely agree with you. I used to eat Lean Cuisines for lunch every day! The problem? They left me unsatisfied, so I would always overeat later in the day! Now I reach for whole, unprocessed foods and they keep me satisfied for hours! :)

  • I agree! Before I became interested in fitness and nutrition and how are bodies really work, I used to eat frozen dinners to try to lose or maintain my weight. I was a total “dumb consumer” and fell for the gimmicks without looking at or understanding the nutrition label. I was always hungry, tired and was certainly not losing weight. Now that I learned what is good fuel for out bodies, what our bodies need to burn calories and how to cook, I have so much more respect for food. The preparation and time that goes into a meal makes me appreciate it. Now, I can’t eat anything frozen because I know how good fresh, real food tastes, and I know how much better it is for my body. I feel better, I have more energy and I’ve never been this satisfied with my weight. To each his own, but I would encourage people to try incorporating real food into their diet and see the difference it makes. :)

  • I keep a couple in reserves. But as I mentioned today, I had one yesterday that left me wanting to eat my hand after an hour… they don’t satisfy me nearly as much as I’d like.

    I went through a phase with them a couple years ago- they made up probably 4 out of 5 of my lunches during the week. I was much happier with lunch once I started bringing fresh food in, though. :)

  • I used to eat these when I was in college. It was never to lose weight more of something quick and easy. I could never eat it now bc as you said i think i might have become a food snob. That or i know just how bad they can be for you!

  • I am definitely not much of a fan. I used to get one here or there just for an easy lunch at work but if I do get a frozen entree its usually Amys or Kashi. They taste soooo much better!!

  • I used to only eat Lean Cuisines when trying to lose weight and now I can’t remember the last time I’ve had one. They NEVER filled me up… I’m not a fan :)

  • I LOVE that you blogged this! I think about this often and don’t have the guts to OFFER my opinion about them. If asked…I will ask back if eating out of a box is the best option! Love the post though!!! Your blog is one of my VERY faves!!! LOVE IT!!!

  • I don’t mind eating them once in a while, especially since I’m on a college campus and they are a good alternative. I try to stick to Amy’s, rather than Lean Cuisine, though.

  • I’m ashamed to say I have been eating them because I’ve been lazy and not planning my meals and I keep these in my freezer for just in case. They do taste horrible and they’re so small! For me, it’s not really picking the healthiest option, it’s picking the lesser evil between a Lean Cuisine and eating McDonalds. I just found your site today and I absolutely love it!! Can’t wait to read more!

  • Love this series! I agree in that I think unprocessed foods are far healthier than heavily processed foods like this! When I was doing WW before my wedding, I ate these everyday for lunch. I did lose 10 pounds, but I don’t attribute it to eating this – I attribute it to smaller portions and lots of exercise. These left me so hungry!

  • I used to eat lean cuisines a lot! They satisfied me for the most part… If I made something that was chicken and veggies i would throw it on some tofu noodles…or an asian one on top of bean sprouts!

  • My mom and I used to eat these a lot because they were quick to bring to work. We’ve both been cutting back sodium though and that was one of the first things to go. Now I love packing lunches!

  • Oooh great feature! I personally have never purchased or tried a Lean Cuisine – mainly because they really don’t appeal to me. My roommate used to eat them all the time and said there were some that she really liked, but I’d rather just cook a regular meal. I’m not sure they’re healthy, but I DO think they’re healthier than some of the choices people might make otherwise.

  • Nope! They are gross, salty, and unsatisfying! Though there is one good meal of the bunch out of their line! The lean turkey slices in a light gravy with green beans and cranberries. Its 150-200 calories I think and a perfect small lunch for an office setting when paired with a side salad or fruit. Though the rest of their line seems like nasty faux food!

  • I used to live off of Lean Cuisine meals in college – now I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole.

  • i have never tried a lean cuisine, but have no intention either! just the thought of packaged meals makes me cringe!!..

  • I don’t eat Lean Cuisine and only once in a while will grab a frozen meal, but am usually left very unfilled and know that I can get something twice as filling for the same number of cals if I make it myself.

    The rare times I do eat a frozen meal, it’s always vegetarian, like mexi rice and beans or ravioli. They usually are “ok”.

  • “i think it was chicken” – haha! i totally get that. i eat them occasionally but i always feel guilty…

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