University of Illinois researchers
recently used "frozen entrees" to control portion size successfully
in a weight-loss diet for men. The portions weren't "man-sized";
this was the same plan the dietitians used with women last year --
with caloric intake adjusted upward just a tad (1,700 calories) for
the male metabolism.
wanted to do the men's study separately because men and women do
respond differently to diets, and we thought the men might have a
different attitude toward the entrees," said dietitian LeaAnn
Carson, who managed the study with dietitian Sandra Hannum for food
science and human nutrition professor John Erdman.
But it turns out hungry men don't
need outsized portions. "The men in this study didn't feel
deprived," Carson said. "They liked the feeling of being able to
cinch their belts a notch tighter, and in eight weeks they had a
better idea of what a healthy portion size should be."
In the study, soon to be published
in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 60 healthy overweight men were
divided into two like groups for eight weeks, both eating diets
based on the USDA food-guide pyramid. The dietitians knew the exact
composition of the entrees, and both diets contained the same number
of calories and the same percentage of protein, fat and
The only difference was that one
group used prepared frozen entrees that simply had to be popped into
a microwave. The other group had to weigh, measure and estimate
serving size during food preparation.
The men who ate frozen entrees lost
16 pounds in eight weeks; the men who estimated serving size lost 12
pounds. Both groups had a significant decrease in the diastolic
(lower) number of their blood pressures, and all dieters' blood
lipids profiles came down as well.
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"The men who prepared their meals
were given the pyramid and told what sort of servings the pyramid
called for," Carson said. "We also told them to choose lean meats
and low-fat foods. But making choices and estimating serving sizes
is just harder to do, and it obviously allows more room for error."
Both groups added certain
easy-to-measure items to the diets for needed nutrients, such as an
8-ounce glass of milk, a piece of fruit or a cup of salad, she said.
Hannum said the study is important
because it shows that portion control is likely a key factor for
many people who want to lose weight. "Some diets have been popular
lately because they promise you can eat all you want of certain
foods, and people like to hear that. This study shows how important
portion control is in any weight-loss diet."
Hannum also said that more and more
people are choosing not to invest large amounts of time in meal
preparation, and, when people eat in restaurants regularly, they're
vulnerable to weight gain from the large portions that are usually
served. "People tend to consume the amount of food that's placed
before them," she said.
Because packaged entrees are
good-tasting and nutritionally balanced, they provide a good
alternative to restaurant fast food when consumers don't have the
time or the inclination to prepare a meal, she added.
Researchers Ellen Evans, Lauren Petr,
Chris Wharton and Linh Bui also contributed to the study, which was
funded by Masterfoods USA.
of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental
Sciences news release]