13 December 11 Meal Replacements at Lunch Can Help You Lose Weight

I just read an interesting study about how meal replacements at lunch can promote gradual weight loss. Levitsky & Pacanowski published their nifty study in the peer reviewed journal Appetite: "Losing weight without dieting. Use of commercial foods as meal replacements for lunch produces an extended energy deficit."

Note that weight loss researchers have long known that meal replacements can encourage gradual weight loss. What was different about this study was that the meal replacements were commonly purchased prepackaged foods, not liquid high-protein supplements, special high fiber meals, or expensive diet-branded meals. The study used five commonly purchased foods that are not typically considered "diet" foods: Chef Boyardee Pasta (microwavables), Smucker's Uncrustables, Kashi Bars (GoLean style), LeanPockets, and Campbell's Soup in Hand.

These products average about 200 calories per container. Study participants were allowed to add one piece of fruit to their meal replacement of choice. Over the course of the 10-day study period, participants consumed an average of 250 calories less per day on these meal replacements compared to eating unrestricted lunch meals. This resulted in an average weight loss of 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) by the end of the study. Average calories intake at other meals remained consistent despite consuming the lower caloric lunch. As well, study participants did not rate their hunger any higher or lower at subsequent meals despite the lower caloric lunch meal.

What might be the teaching point from this study? The authors state that "these data suggest that substituting any meal that contains less energy than a typical meal can be used successfully as meal replacements for the purpose of weight reduction."

My take home message from this study is that we don't have to spend a fortune on specially formulated prepackaged products to lose weight. We can simply use affordable prepackaged foods to control calories at lunch and lose weight gradually, without an increase in hunger at other meals.

Of course, I would rather have folks choose a balance of less processed, whole foods for their meals to maximize nutrient intake while limiting calories, sodium, saturated fat, sugar, and preservatives. But losing weight if you are obese (BMI ? 30) is extremely important for your health too. If eating a calories-controlled processed lunch meal helps you achieve a safer weight then do it. After all, a plan to eat a calories-controlled lunch meal cooked from scratch from whole/unprocessed foods is only a good plan if you actually execute it! Be practical. If you are worried about nutrient intake, examine your daily, weekly, or monthly nutrient intake averages by using MyNetDiary's report tab on the web.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Meal Planning & Diets/High Protein Meal Planning & Diets/Meal Replacment Plans

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