12 January - 20 June 2016

Can pre-packaged portion-controlled meals lead to greater weight loss than self-selected portions?

A study published in Obesity has suggested that when combined with behavioural counselling, a meal plan incorporating portion-controlled, pre-packaged, frozen lunch and dinner entrees can promote greater weight loss than a self-selected diet.

A study published in Obesity has suggested that when combined with behavioural counselling, a meal plan incorporating portion-controlled, pre-packaged, frozen lunch and dinner entrees can promote greater weight loss than a self-selected diet.

Rock et al. report that providing pre-packaged foods may be more successful for dieting beyond portion control including convenience, reduced complexity of meal planning and decision making.   The study investigated whether providing portion-controlled foods, compared to a self-selected reduced energy diet promoted greater weight loss at 12 weeks.  It also analysed the diet’s effects on biological factors, cardiopulmonary fitness and meal satisfaction. 

The team recruited 180 participants aged 25-65 years with a mean BMI of 33.2.  Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: two pre-packaged meals per day or two pre-packaged meals per day that were higher in protein (>25% energy), or the control group who were allowed to select their own meals. All participants met with a dietician for a personalised counselling session to determine their own weight-loss goals, to receive physical activity recommendations and to learn behavioural strategies to help them achieve their goals. The overall weight loss goal was ≥5% of participant's initial weight.  The control group also had additional counselling at 2 weeks and 1 month.

The participants in the pre-packaged lunch and dinner group selected food from 50 varieties, whilst the higher energy from protein group could select from 25.  The average entrees provided 281 calories, 6.2 g fat, 40 g carbohydrate, 16.3g protein.  The higher protein food providing 250 kcals, 5.6 g fat, 32 g carbohydrate and 18.4 g protein.  Lunch and dinner provided 20-50% of total energy intake.  The meal plan specified additional servings across the different food groups: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy foods, protein foods, oils.  

At baseline and after intervention the researchers measured the participant’s weight, waist circumference, height and blood pressure.  Blood samples were taken and body composition measured.  Questionnaires reported on eating attributes, quality of life and behaviour and physical activity. 

After intervention, 74% of the participants eating the pre-packaged foods had achieved a 5% weight loss, compared to 53% in the control group. The greater weight loss also led to a decrease in other cardiovascular disease risk factors like total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol for the participants consuming the pre-packaged meals. Additionally, meal satisfaction ratings were similar among all groups, and the groups that consumed the pre-packaged meals expressed greater confidence in their ability to follow a meal plan long-term. Waist circumference decreased in all groups, and intervention participants’ lost an average of 5.7 kg of body fat, compared to 4.4 Kg body fat in the control group. Blood pressure decreased in all groups, and carotenoid intake did not differ between the groups but increased from baseline.  Mean hours of physical activity more than doubled in all study groups. 

The scientists conclude by reiterating their findings, noting that longer term studies would be beneficial.  They also state “Initial weight loss predicts long-term weight loss so these results are relevant to likelihood of longer term success.”

RSSL's Product and Ingredient Innovation Team, has considerable experience in re-formulating products to provide more healthy options including low salt, low sugar versions and using pre- and probiotics.  Using RSSL can help speed up your development cycle considerably.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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