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tv dinner diet?


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Hi...

I'm an overworked engineering student with extremely irregular hours on a day to day basis and little time to worry about meal preparation on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, this usually means grabbing food at cafeterias, restaurants near campus or at the coffee stand.

My main problems resulting from this are nutritional imbalance and absolutely no sense of portion control.

One thought I had that I want to try and might actually work for me (I'm sorry, but making my own food isn't going to work on a daily basis I've already figured out) is this:

I'm going for a 1200-1400 calorie intake.  My thought is to eat 3 frozen tv dinners spaced out across the day that look reasonably good on veggies/meat, etc.  Most of the ones I like are between 230-340 calories.  This will put me in about 900.  Then I can make up the rest with drinks (i'm a skim milk addict) and fresh fruit snacks I can put in my backpack or buy from the vending machines in the halls (yes, they sell apples, oranges, and milk).

Does this seem reasonable?  Any problems anyone can see with this?

Also...this is a completely different topic, but how much water should a person be consuming per day?  I hear 8 glasses, but is a glass defined as 1 cup?  Because most of my glasses are physically much larger capacity and I have trouble drinking that much.  Also, does that include water from food and other beverages or is that in addition to?
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the only main problem I see with tv dinners is the sodium content. Tv dinners normally have a lot of salt in them because salt is a preservative. The way to ballance the salt intake is by drinking more water.

If you're a guy, you'll need at least 1500cals, so I would suggest that you  try to add some more healthy calories in your diet. Maybe some nuts or make your own breakfast a couple times a week (cereal & milk or oatmeal especially if it's fortified with vitamins) or something like that. If your a girl, then I don't see a problem calorie wise.

Just make sure that you get enough fiber, protien, and veggies in your diet, which it looks like you are trying to do :). Also try to go for healthier looking dishes, for example not fried chicken. lol.  a pack of prepackaged salad or something like that isn't too expensive, and it is very quick to prepare. Maybe try to do that a couple times a week with your tv dinner. Just go easy on the dressing if you use any.  

Yes a glass of water is supposed to be 1 cup (8 ounces), but I would say to drink at least 8 normal glasses because you will need more water to balance the sodium. You can drink more than that.
*L* Yeah, sorry...I am female. :)

Okay, I'll watch out for the sodium.  The salad is a good suggestion...I know I can get those relatively easily.  I hate lettuce but love spinach.  I usually try to skip dressing and go for balsamic vinegar.  I assume this is a good thing but don't actually know...
It could work.  After all, that's what those expensive meal plans, like Jenny Craig and Nutra System are. 

Just add more vegetables, make sure you eat some fruit and have 3 servings of low fat or fat free dairy products. 

You could also have cold cereal with fruit and milk in the morning to add needed fiber and the nutrients of whole grains.

You do, I assume, realize that keeping the weight off for good is going to involve changing your diet later on to include fresh foods.
If you are looking for a little more guidance for a plan like this, there is a book called "The Supermarket Diet."  I picked it up one day at the book store out of curiosity.  It basically advocates a diet based on pre-packaged meals from the grocery store.

If you are thinking of keeping this up for a few months you might want to check out the book.  It does have some very good suggestions about the nutritionally "best" frozen entrees. 

If I remember correctly, it also has some tips for finding the lowest sodium frozen dinners as well as those that are high in fiber, protein, etc.

In my own experience, frozen dinners can be very skimpy on veggies and rarely contain whole grains.  So you might need to supplement these things or keep an eye out for them when you are shopping.

Personally, I love the "Amy's Oragnic" frozen entrees.  They have super healthy choices like brown rice and vegetables with tofu.  I incorporate those on days when I'm rushed, or feeling lazy :o)
How come you can't prepare any of your own food? I'm a grad-student with no time either, but I still manage.

Even if you just cut of fruit and vegetables after grocery shopping to supplement whatever else you're eating it's still manageable. I wouldn't recommend eating strictly frozen food.
I agree that frozen and prepackaged dinners have too much sodium.  Be sure to drink lots of water in addtion to the 48 oz.  They say that foods and fruits count also as water but I would still up it if you are consuming that much sodium.

GEt some celery carrots bell peppers and other crunchy veggies that don't need to be cooked to munch on and add to your dinners.  I have been getting the low sodium progresso minestrone or vegetable soups and adding a cup of frozen mixed veggies to them before I cook em.  Get a nice filling lunch with extra veggies in the process.

Maybe on the weekends cook up some chicken breasts or some soup and then have leftovers during the week.  That way you aren't having as much sodium.  I nuke up about 6 chicken breasts and chop em up and add some fat free miracle whip and then have that for sandwiches all week. 
I think you can probably eat just as well, if not better, using TV dinners and pre packaged supermarket foods, than eating at fast food joints.  True, TV dinners are high in sodium but fast food is just as high if not higher in sodium not to mention the fat content.

I incorporate TV dinners into my diet as a time saver and a way to portion control.  Better a TV dinner on those busy nights of running the kids around than driving thru McD's.

I have found the Kashi brand of dinners to be tasty and to have whole grains, especially the Lemongrass Coconut Chicken w/ whole grain & quinoa pilaf.

I noticed that in the frozen veggie section you can now buy veggies that you steam in the microwave in the bag they come in.  Haven't tried these but they might be worth looking into.

Have you considered using one of those George Foreman type of grills? Perdue sells a prepackaged marinated chicken breast that's not bad. 6 individually wrapped single servings.  Takes about 8 min. on the grill. Pop a potato in the microwave, open a ready to eat bag of salad and you have a pretty good meal.

Good luck with your studies.  Hope this helps a little.


the brands of frozen dinners vary a great deal in their sodium content.  You can get some weight watcher and Healthy Choice, or I think it's called Lean Choice.

Also, you might try the commercial soups.  I enjoy the Healthy Choice in the microwavalbe containers.  They start at 160 calories for the whole container (and they mark how much the whole container is, in addition to the serving size, which is 1 cup.)  They are low in sodium compared to other commercial soups.  And they have very good taste.

You obviously have access to a microwave, so that would work well.  I usually have a peanut butter sandwich with mine -- 1 tbsp peanut butter on 1 slice of 100% whole wheat bread.  That wouldn't be too much trouble to prepare.  Heck, if you have a locker, you can keep a loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter in it.

Also good are the frozen vegetables by Green Giant -- the veggie medleys with low-fat sauces.  The boxes are a good size for eating the entire thing -- since you won't want to deal with leftovers. 

And, you can always pack along some fresh fruit --

In other words, you can have some pretty good nutrition and not cook a thing --
I eat a frozen dinner frequently for lunch.  That's pretty much it.  I have high fiber cereal for breakfast and cook dinner.  I used to be a busy grad student many years ago (graduated in 1990) so I know how it is.  I remember I used to take a bagel and a thing of cup of soup.  Then I'd buy a little individual sour cream and get a free cup of hot water and I'd have a cheap, filling lunch out.  But I usually did cook something simple for dinner like barbeque chicken baked in the oven and a baked potato, that sort of thing.

I do add veggies to my frozen meals, like 3 servings of broccoli or something.  You could bring vegetable soup for that.  I'm at home, so I just make fresh or frozen. 
My friend at work is on weight watchers and she doesn't cook.  She has had good success by relying heavily on frozen food.  I do think a fresh diet is better for you, but if frozen foods help you stick to your plan, I see nothing wrong with that.  Keep a close watch on your fat content and sodium intake, and you should be fine.  You might also want to get a good daily multiple vitamin, and eat fresh foods whenever you have the time.
#11  
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Hi there!

I'm a female engineer too...and a professor.

In the stress of being a new prof (yes, we are under stress) and having no time, I reverted to a tv dinner diet because, like you, I found it very easy.

The health nut I am, I opted for organic tv dinners with few if any preservatives, like Amy's. Early on, I noticed the sodium content of the dinners was higher than what I wanted.

Knowing this, I never felt very good about what I was eating, and this took a toll on me. I think that to feel good every day, you need to feel good about a number of things---what you eat, how you move your body, your relationships with friends and family, your positive contributions to society, and so on.

I didn't feel good about my food because of the high sodium content, so I later trashed the diet in favor of snacking all day, which I really enjoy because it keeps me energized, not so focused on food (I just need to plan my snacks each day), and happy.

Best of luck in your studies.
#12  
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    I eat frozen dinners rarely when I have no time to cook, but I am choosy because of the salt content and the nutrient content.

Where I live I have found Spa Lean Cuisine to be good. My 2 favourites that I have tried are Shrimp in a Creamy Seafood Sauce(comes with whole wheat pasta & red peppers) and the other one is Wild Salmon with Basil (Pacific Salmon with whole wheat orzo pasta and veggies).

They seem to me to be healthier choices of what you can get out there. And low in calories too. And both taste great too, which is important! :)

Also Crazy Plates Pizza - Kickin' Chicken and Las Veggies varieties, I divide it into 4 though not 3 like the pkg suggests, and add servings of veggies and fruit to make a well rounded meal. The pizzas both have thin whole wheat crusts and veggies, and low-fat cheese toppings, but taste great!

When I know I am going to have a frozen meal, I try and cut my sodium in other places...I just try and watch and I try and drink 4 litres of water a day which helps too.
I just had a Healthy Choice meal (WITH peach Crisp) and It was 320 calories, 600 soduim (not horrible) and I felt like I actually ate and enjoyed a meal.  I think they can be a good tool to help with portion control and variety of food. 
#14  
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I agree that frozen meals are generally high in sodium and are probably best eaten in moderation. 

Maybe you could buy a slow cooker.  On the weekend, just throw in some vegetables, meat and broth - enough for a few meals.  Then store the meals in plastic containers in your freezer or fridge.  That way you can rely on microwaved meals during the week but without the chemicals and preservatives. 


I've wondered the same thing about this sort of diet and am trying it myself.  I'm going to give it at least a month.  I'm blogging about it over at http://www.lazymanfoodplan.com if you care to see what my results are.  I think I'm going to use the weight-graph thingie from this site to give a more visual representation of what is happening.

It most certainly isn't the best diet, or even a "good" diet.  However, changes we make in our diets are probabaly best compared to our existing diet to determine if it is an improvement or not.  Going from all fast food, every day, this sort of TV dinner diet is most certainly better (and cheaper).

Well, in theory anway.  :-)
Someone mentioned the steam fresh vegetables that you put in the microwave.  I have those every night with my dinner! 5 minutes and they are done and crunchy, and soooo good.  The asian medly is WONDERFUL, especially if you put it in some sort of stir-fry with brown rice, chicken, shrimp and a tablespoon of sweet and sour sauce.  one of my best creations yet!  haha
here is a meal plan using amy's organic meals. even if you use other microwave meals the shopping list and "extras" they add in might be helpful for balancing out your diet.
There's also this research that shows that "tv dinner" type meals can help somebody lose weight versus somebody who selects their own food amounts:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/ 050614000600.htm
TV dinner meals, though high in sodium, cholesterol, preservatives, and added sugars, are definitely portion-controlled. As long as you are taking in less calories than you burn, you'll lose weight, but you may as well be eating cardboard.

As for healthy meal ideas for the overworked, I've got about a million of them. Coleson's fish sells pre-rolled salmon rollade that take about 7 minutes to cook. Slap it on a plate with some couscous and frozen peas, and you've got yourself a balanced meal in the same amount of time for a microwave dinner. Quesadillas made with LF cheese and those precooked chicken strips are also fast and good, as are salads wraps, and stir-fry. All you really need for healthy food in a few minutes is those precooked chicken strips, frozen veggies, and instant rice.

If you insist, those Lean Cuisine meals aren't half bad. I eat the chicken in peanut sauce when I'm having a really exhausting day, but I put it on a real plate and pair it with an extra side of veggies. Good luck to you!
Yes, it can be done. I'm busy during the week, also with irregular hours and I frequently go to the gym after work. By the time I get home and shower, I'm eating dinner anywhere between 9 and 10. I have no intention of doing any "real" cooking and eating at 10 or 11. I've lost about 25 of the 45 lbs I want to lose since I started this routine in early January. I don't do slow cookers because, personally, I dislike anything that tastes or smells "stewed".

I eat All Bran with Extra Fiber and Hood Calorie Countdown fat-free milk for breakfast most days, some form of frozen entree for both lunch and dinner (usually Amy's Organics or Cedarlane. I don't like most Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice entrees; too bland and they aren't as filling for me) and eat veggies and extra protein (usually as something like fat-free cottage cheese) to make up for the missing calories. Sometimes I eat two frozen dinners for my evening meal if my calorie budget allows. I also throw frozen bags of cleaned, cooked shrimp into the fridge before heading to work so I can have shrimp cocktail when I get home if I'm in the mood for that. I take a multivitamin and calcium supplement, just in case, but I'd be doing that even if I were home-cooking every meal.

I'm not sodium sensitive so I don't care about the sodium content of frozen meals. I eat more "normal" foods on weekends because I usually have the time to cook or to go out to a restaurant for more relaxed, unrushed meals than I have time for during the week. I'm finding it much easier to lose weight this way. In fact, with the automatic portion control and the good range of organic frozen food choices available these days, it's requiring very little willpower for me to stick to the plan. I let my husband fend for himself during the week. It's not like I was home cooking dinner for him every night when I had more time, anyway! Usually, HE did the cooking because he's home long before I am and it always involved more calories than I can lose weight on. Our schedules are so different right now that eating meals together on M-F isn't practical.
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