Best Buys: Diet dinners

(National) June 1, 2004 - With a regular workout and the help of the Weight Watchers program Nancy Lobrace and Karen Miceli have together lost 100 pounds. They say one of their strategies is eating frozen diet dinners.

Nancy, "I definitely use them to get me back on track."

Karen, "It's a nice quick meal, and it's healthy and nutritious."

Sales of diet frozen meals are close to $2 billion. The three top sellers are Smart Ones from Weight Watchers, Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine. Consumer Reports just tested a dozen of these meals.

Most cost $3 to $4 and have fewer than 350 calories. The tests compared everything from roasted chicken to chicken teriyaki, beef pot roast and fettuccini alfredo.

They're easy to prepare; most take just a few minutes in the microwave. But, testers found some boxes, like Healthy Choice Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo, make it look like you're getting more food than you are.

Maxine Siegel of Consumer Reports found Smart Ones Roast Beef with Gravy also came up a little short, "There's just three chunks of meat in here."

But, Maxine says when it comes to taste there's big news. Though not gourmet, the diet dinners proved much better than the ones Consumer Reports tested five years ago, "These were tested in blind taste tests, and our panelists did not know they were diet meals. They were quite flavorful, and they stacked up pretty well."

The best of the bunch was the Smart Ones Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetable Bowl. It costs $3.50.

If you find frozen diet meals leave you longing for more, try adding a salad or some fruit. That will keep your meal healthy and make it more filling. If you like these frozen diet meals, Consumer Reports says keep an eye out for sales. At any given time at least one brand should be on sale, so you can stock up.

by Troubleshooter Judi Gatson

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright @ 2004 Consumers Union of U. S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED