I’ve been wanting to dig into some popular weight loss products that provide pre-made meals to see what was hiding in their nutrition info and ingredients lists. I’m hesitant to even open this can of worms. I feel like I’m a major-league slugger being asked to hit a baseball that’s resting on a tee… and I’ve got one of those over-sized bats.

Look, the truth is ANY pre-packaged meal is going to contain some ingredients I wouldn’t feed my worst enemy. Some might argue that when you’re in a pinch, one of these meals is better than nothing. I would disagree unless you’re suffering from some sort of blood sugar issue – at which point you’d be planning ahead and wouldn’t get stuck needing one of these meals anyway. Most times, delaying a meal is better than eating a meal of poor quality.

Lean Cuisine’s Chicken Primavera

First, notice the calorie amount: 260. Then check the servings per container: 2. This means if you chow down on the whole container, you’re actually consuming 520 calories. Too many people are still missing this when reading food labels. Always check the serving size and servings per container!

Now look at each macronutrient (fancy word for protein, carbohydrate, and fat). Remember that each of these numbers will double if the entire container is eaten. At the time I’m writing this, the carbohydrate number is 0. This is a misprint, but we can figure out how many grams of carbohydrate there are with a little math.

Each gram of protein and carbohydrate yields about 4 calories. Each gram of fat yields 9 calories. So let’s start with the total calories and work backward:

260 total calories

subtract calories from fat: 54 (6 grams of fat x 9 calories)

206 calories left

subtract calories from protein: 76 (19 grams of protein x 4 calories)

130 calories left

These remaining calories must come from carbohydrate, so let’s figure out how many grams of carbohydrate:  32.5 (130 calories / 4 calories per gram)

So the carbohydrate number on the package should read 32.5. In reality, numbers on food labels are rounded so it would most likely just read 33.

Remember that these figures are PER SERVING. If you eat the whole container, double them.

Since there are 3 grams of fiber per serving, we’ll say there are 30 grams of carbohydrate per serving, or 60 grams for the whole container. How does that fit into your low carb plan? Many people don’t eat 60 grams of carbohydrate in a whole day, let alone one meal.

There are almost 40 grams of protein if the entire container is consumed, which is a good amount. When you look deeper, a portion of that protein comes from isolated soy protein. This is NOT a health-promoting form of protein and should be avoided whenever possible.

In SPEED, Jeff and I recommend a low carb, medium protein, high fat diet for weight loss. When you crunch the numbers on this Lean Cuisine meal you get:

50% of calories come from carbohydrate

21% of calories come from fat

29% of calories come from protein

This is more of a high carb, medium protein, low fat meal. Yo u may be thinking, “Well, I guess Lean Cuisine or any meal like it is completely out of the question on SPEED.” Well, you might be surprised.

In Part 2, I’ll take a look at the ingredients of this Lean Cuisine meal and talk about whether or not a meal with these percentages of macronutrients can fit into SPEED.

What's in your weight loss meal? – Lean Cuisine nutrition facts