Friday, February 25, 2011

Confessions of a Dieter

Here’s a confession:  I went on an actual, follow-the-instructions diet a few weeks ago.  I’d never done this before because – frankly – I never had to.  Not so anymore.  The physical toll of pregnancy added to the fact that I’m not in my twenties anymore elevated the need for a diet – at least, if I wanted to fit into those pre-pregnancy t-shirts.  Also adding to my need for a diet was the fact that I was – and am – still only learning how to buy and prepare food for just one person. 

The diet I followed was the much-publicized, post-holiday Yoplait Two-Week Tune-Up.  The plan is centered - of course - on Yoplait yogurt, which I already eat quite a bit of.  The gist of the plan is to eat a yogurt cup, a serving of fruit, and a grain for both breakfast and lunch; two servings of vegetables as snacks throughout the day; and a sensible, lean-protein dinner, adding additional dairy servings as necessary to achieve the recommended daily allowance. 

I am well aware that dieting only works when it is part of a lifestyle change that also includes exercise.  I think I’m doing pretty well with that.  Never one to refuse fruits and vegetables, I have now made a deliberate choice to always eat these *first* in my food day.  And the exercise has been helped tremendously by my discovery of a couple of well-scheduled group exercise classes at my gym and some work colleagues who have been doing some group P90X workouts midday (thank our work at a university, which affords us some empty classrooms with projectors very near our offices). 

The result?  Well, in five weeks, I’ve lost half of the pounds I’d like to lose to get to that pre-pregnancy weight.  That seems like a good start to me.  More to come…

So all that said, I’ve had little opportunity to enjoy frozen meals, due to all the fresh fruits and veggies.  But I did have the opportunity recently to enjoy Marie Callender’s Penne Chicken Piccata.  As a Marie Callender steamer, it automatically starts with a gold star and after eating it, I’m comfortable leaving the gold star.  This one contained capers, which is a fun, welcomed flavor.  But there weren’t nearly enough of these flavorful gems.  I would have loved more.

This meal is in a white wine lemon butter sauce.  Call me crazy, but I swear that I could actually *feel* the alcohol a little bit.  Maybe the relaxation of a Friday evening caused me to feel this, but I just can’t be sure.  I do know that it was pleasantly flavorful.  The parmesan cheese also added positively to the flavor. 

Overall, I would have preferred more vegetables, but the flavor truly could not be beat. 

Calories:  370
Fat:  14 g
Sodium:  860 mg
Notable good nutritional content:  15% Iron / 10% Calcium / Folic Acid 35%
Notes on cooking:   single shot, 3 ½ - 4 minutes
Notes on packaging:  clear plastic bowl and colander, reusable/recyclable 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Call to the Lean Cuisine Corporation

A couple months ago, an interesting thing happened to me; I might even daresay that – given that I write this blog – it was an ironic thing.  I opened a box of Lean Cuisine’s Spinach, Artichoke, & Chicken Panini only to discover that the panini was missing both its plastic wrapping and its silver REVOLUTIONARY GRILLING® tray.  That's right - the two halves of the sandwich were just sitting there in the cardboard box, sort of embarrassed by their nudity.  As the writer of this blog, I had to take a photo of the naked panini and also seize the opportunity to CALL THE LEAN CUISINE CORPORATION to see what recourse I had.

The customer service representative with whom I spoke apologized for the manufacturing flaw and took all kinds of product details from me.  She also asked for some demographic data so that I could be mailed a coupon for a free future Lean Cuisine meal of choice.   The best part, though, was that she said “We do recommend that you not eat the product” about six times before the conversation was done.  Time after time, her bland tone indicated to me that she was reading the sentence from a computer screen. 

A couple weeks later, my coupon arrived.  I was surprised, actually, to only receive a voucher for one free meal.  That only replaced the meal that Lean Cuisine “recommended that I not eat” and required me to go to the grocery store to replace it.  I was hoping for a whole windfall of Lean Cuisine coupons, much like the flood of formula coupons I received after the Similac baby formula recall in the fall. 

Humorous incident aside, I am surprised to find that in at least this particular panini, there is a surprising amount of nutrition:  30% of Vitamin A, 30% of calcium and 20% of iron.  As evidenced by earlier posts, frozen meals just really don’t reflect the epitome of nutrition, so it’s always pleasing to me when a meal boasts a significant percentage of more than one nutrient.

I don’t particularly care for the idea of a frozen sandwich as a meal, but I think I’m pretty alone in this opinion.  Many readers and friends have made verbal and posted comments to me about how much they love these Lean Cuisine paninis.  While each of them generally includes at least a couple of vegetables in the ingredients, they just don’t feel like a complete meal to me (of course, no one ever said you couldn’t add other items to create a fuller meal).  But additionally, REVOLUTIONARY GRILLING® tray or not, a microwaved sandwich just lacks a little luster for me. 

Calories:  310
Fat:  9 g
Sodium:  660 mg
Notable good nutritional content:   Vitamin A 30% / Calcium 30% / Iron 20%
Notes on cooking:   2 minutes and 45 seconds
Notes on packaging:  cardboard and plastic wrap, grilling tray not recyclable