Don’t you just love this time of year? It’s when everyone seems to make the decision to get in shape, lose weight and eat healthier. It’s also the time when all the television, radio and newspaper ads are trying to convince us to buy the new “diet foods” … but are they worth trying?
Before you read all those ads, you need to get in the right mind-set, so here are the FIVE things you need to know about the new diet foods.
- Taste is keyIf the food is not satisfying — no matter how low in fat or calories — you are not going to continue to eat it. Or you’ll wind up cheating.
- Read those labels carefullyMany of the foods proclaim their nutritional benefits on the front of the package — but a quick look at serving size, the nutritional fact panel or ingredients may well tell a different story.
- Less is moreConsuming less is the key to losing weight, so smaller portions are essential. A good balance of nuturients means your plate should hold mostly vegetables and whole grains, with just about 4 to 5 ounces of protein.
- Eat 5 to 6 meals a dayStudies have shown that consuming 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day will actually help you keep the weight off. Give your digestive system a break by avoiding the internal shock of trying to digest a heavy meal all at once.
- Keep a fat diaryResearch has proven that if you write down what you eat, you’ll actually consume about 15 percent less food. Just being aware of your consumption can help you reach your goal.
To assess the new diet foods that hit the shelves this time of year, we decided to rate them on nutritional value and taste. So, we served the “regular version,” then the “healthier version” to our taste testers — Katie, Matt, Ann, Al and Alexis — to see if we could convince them to switch to the healthier choice. Then we compared the nutritional information of both products to see how much of a difference there really is.
Lean Cuisine Spa Cuisine
(Leancuisine.com)This latest line from Lean Cuisine is brilliant. The key to sticking to any diet is to eat food that is tasty and satisfying; and Spa Cuisine does just that! Like all the Lean Cuisine products, this is low in calories (240), has only 6 grams of fat, and has two servings of whole grains. It’s the whole grain innovation that is significant: Eating whole grains helps eaters feel satisfied — and three daily servings of whole grains can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, Type II diabetes, digestive system cancers and hormone-related cancers. Look in the freezer case for all the varieties. Retails for $3.99.
Kettle™ Brand Bakes
(Kettlebrand.com)Rich in potato flavor because they’re made with fresh slices from whole Russet potatoes, instead of unnatural, compressed potato flakes used by other brands. They deliver on the Kettle brand’s reputation for flavor, with 65 percent less fat than regular potato chips. An individual serving (one ounce) of 20 potato chips — that's 50 percent more chips than for other baked brands — has only 120 calories and 3 grams of fat. Plus, there are no trans fats, cholesterol or MSG. Varieties: Aged White Cheddar, Hickory Honey Barbeque and Lightly Salted.
Tropicana Fruitwise Fruit Bars
These are made with real fruit and juice. The bars deliver the same nutrition as fresh fruit but are a portable, convenient and longer-lasting alternative. Delivers 1 to 2 servings of fruit, which is great for helping meet USDA guidelines of 4 to 9 servings of fruit a day, especially when on the go. It also contains 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C. Tropicana FruitWise will be rolling out in grocery stores nationwide (in the natural food and produce sections) this January. Three flavors: Cherry Berry, Orange Citrus and Strawberry.
Orville Redenbacher Trans-Fat Free Microwave Popcorn
(Orvilleredenbacher.com)In February, ConAgra Foods will introduce its popular Orville Redenbacher's and ACT II microwave brands that will be made with popcorn that is 100 percent whole grain, and will have 0 grams of trans fat — smarter nutritional choices for popcorn lovers.
Knorr-Lipton Chicken & Broccoli Rice Side Dish
(Letsmakeknorr.com)Here's a new line of rice side dishes made with whole grains. This is an easy way to obtain 1 or more of the 3 whole grain servings recommended per day by the USDA food pyramid. Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. Varieties include: Chicken Broccoli Rice and Sesame Chicken Rice. Also available are Pasta Side Dishes made with whole grains. No preservatives, artificial color or flavors.
So, as you put together your shopping list and walk down the aisles, remember that if you want to eat as healthfully as possible and keep in shape, rule number one is reading those labels. When you're eating, slow down and savor each bite: You’ll find that the experience will be that much more rewarding and you’ll actually eat less. For me, I find eating with chopsticks, rather than a knife and fork, is a trick that slows me down.
Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at