Are Pre-Packaged Meals Cheating?

Are Pre-Packaged Meals Cheating?

Humans don't like cheaters and we tend to hate it even more when cheaters prosper.

Some nutrition purists see pre-portioned ready-to-eat meals as cheating and you may even feel this way yourself.

These nutritionistas want everyone to cook every meal at home and slowly eat it in pure silence listening to the crunch of kale as the breeze rolls past.

That sounds nice, like a children’s book my toddler might read, but it ain’t real life.

Real life is messy, on the go, and real people need real solutions that work…not more judgy perfectionists.

Here’s the thing: in a 16 month 2016 trial [1] published in the Journal of Nutrition portion controlled meals INCREASED diet quality before and after the active weight loss phase and we already know that giving people pre-portioned meals has beat giving people dietary advice for fat loss in every single study to date [2-7].

This increased diet quality finding obviously yums our yum and it also fits my personal bias that people can learn a lot about food and health not just by listening to someone drone on about the importance of vegetables and fiber, but by doing something and taking action.

You can learn so much just by eating My Fit Foods and if you love to cook you can learn a ton from reverse engineering your favorite meals or even just doctoring um up a bit. Add some air-fried broccoli to a lean lemon turkey…it’s crunchy deliciousness I promise.

But, that wasn’t even the finding that stuck with me the most.

“Studies suggest replacing as little as one meal per day with a portion controlled meal is associated with superior weight loss maintenance compared to programs utilizing conventional diet tactics, such as calorie counting”

-Ptomey et al., 2016 [1]

Just think about that!

What if you could get BETTER results with LESS effort and then maintain those results just by eating a primarily whole-food-based diet [8-10], increasing physical activity [11-15], and replacing even just one meal a day with a delicious pre-portioned option.




1. Ptomey, L.T., et al., Portion-controlled meals provide increases in diet quality during weight loss and maintenance. J Hum Nutr Diet, 2016. 29(2): p. 209-16.

2. Rock, C.L., et al., Randomized clinical trial of portion-controlled prepackaged foods to promote weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2016. 24(6): p. 1230-7.

3. Mellor, D.D., et al., Weight loss in a UK commercial all meal provision study: a randomised controlled trial. J Hum Nutr Diet, 2014. 27(4): p. 377-83.

4. Foster, G.D., et al., A randomized comparison of a commercially available portion-controlled weight-loss intervention with a diabetes self-management education program. Nutr Diabetes, 2013. 3: p. e63.

5. Cook, C.M., et al., A Commercially Available Portion-Controlled Diet Program Is More Effective for Weight Loss than a Self-Directed Diet: Results from a Randomized Clinical Trial. Front Nutr, 2017. 4: p. 55.

6. Hannum, S.M., et al., Use of portion-controlled entrees enhances weight loss in women. Obes Res, 2004. 12(3): p. 538-46.

7. Hannum, S.M., et al., Use of packaged entrees as part of a weight-loss diet in overweight men: an 8-week randomized clinical trial. Diabetes Obes Metab, 2006. 8(2): p. 146-55.

8. Wing, R.R. and S. Phelan, Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005. 82(1 Suppl): p. 222S-225S.

9. Varkevisser, R.D.M., et al., Determinants of weight loss maintenance: a systematic review. Obes Rev, 2019. 20(2): p. 171-211.

10. Rolls, B.J., Dietary energy density: Applying behavioural science to weight management. Nutr Bull, 2017. 42(3): p. 246-253.

11. Ostendorf, D.M., et al., Physical Activity Energy Expenditure and Total Daily Energy Expenditure in Successful Weight Loss Maintainers. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2019. 27(3): p. 496-504.

12. Church, T.S. and C.K. Martin, Exercise is the Key to Keeping Weight Off, but What is the Key to Consistently Exercising? Obesity (Silver Spring), 2019. 27(3): p. 361.

13. Foright, R., et al., Effects of Exercise during Weight Loss Maintenance on Appetite Regulation in Women. Transl J Am Coll Sports Med, 2020. 5(12).

14. Foright, R.M., et al., Is regular exercise an effective strategy for weight loss maintenance? Physiol Behav, 2018. 188: p. 86-93.

15. Melby, C.L., et al., Attenuating the Biologic Drive for Weight Regain Following Weight Loss: Must What Goes Down Always Go Back Up? Nutrients, 2017. 9(5).