So you want to eat like a Loser? Then Simply Sensible meals seem like an easy solution. You’ve probably seen them in your grocery store, in the refrigerated prepared meals section. They’re relatively affordable, about five dollars for a meal that will feed two people.
But are they really that good for you? We spoke with Cheryl Forberg, RD, the nutritionist for Biggest Loser, and she told us that she was involved with the creation of the Simply Sensible meals, albeit “not in the kitchen.” We also spoke with Mary Hartley, RD, the nutrition director at Calorie Count, for a more third-party voice.
“Anything with the Biggest Loser brand is something I look at,” Forberg told us about her involvement with the show’s branded foods items. “This is especially true of the [Biggest Loser] eating plan because I co-wrote it.”
Forgerg explained that the meals were developed based on the Biggest Loser eating plan, a balance of lean protein, carbs, and good fats.
We’ve tried the Mediterranean-Style Chicken and the Zing Chicken (there are there other meal choices). The first thing we noticed was the wonderful aroma, not something you’re usually met with when opening a frozen or refrigerated meal. We were also impressed by the hearty chunks of chicken, something you usually have to try to find in most prepared meals. In the Mediterranean meal the bow tie pasta was perfectly al dente, but we were disappointed by the use of a white pasta. The white wine rosemary sauce was incredibly delicious. The Zing was a healthier replacement for our usual Asian takeout favorites and we were satisfied with the flavor, and very pleased to see brown rice as opposed to white.
In both meals we would have liked to see more vegetables – more peas in the Mediterranean and bigger chunks of peppers in the Zing. Hartley would have also liked to see more vegetables, pointing out that the meals don’t reflect the MyPlate message. “Produce seems to make up much less than 1/4th of the plate. In the beef meal, the meat makes up 3/4 of the plate and starch contributes 1/4th.”
The meals should not be eaten exclusively as an entree, as they aren’t nearly satisfying enough for that. Be sure to bulk it up with a fresh salad or steamed vegetables, as is the Biggest Loser way. This was another point on which Hartley agreed with us, saying “The servings per container are two, but I believe most people would eat the whole thing; however, a one serving, the portion is much too small to count as a major meal.” No matter how healthy it appears, eating the entire container defeats the purpose. Share it or save it for later.
We were pleased with the nutritional values, overall, for the Mediterranean Chicken meal. A 1.5-cup serving yields 250 calories, six grams of fat, yet it barely met our <500mg of sodium rule/meal with 400mg. While there were two grams of fiber, we would have liked to see more – something a whole grain pasta and more veggies would have accomplished.
In the Zing Chicken the serving is just one cup for 230 calories and far less fat with 1.5 grams. However, like most Asian dishes, this one has a lot of sodium with 530mg. Packaged foods rely on salt as a preservative. However, if Harris Food Group, the producer of the Simply Sensible meals, was using more salt for flavor, they could have accomplished that with larger pieces of peppers and more of the “hand-picked herbs” they advertise on the package. There is slightly more fiber than the other meal we tried, 3g per serving, thanks to the use of brown rice.
The end point, fresh prepared food is always best, as you can control the ingredients, a lesson regularly taught on Biggest Loser. However, in a pinch to feed two people a healthy meal, Simple Sensible is a fair option, especially if you bulk it up with your own fresh fruits and vegetables.