Thursday, September 08, 2011

Study suggests eating Chef Boyardee helps weight loss?

If I worked for Chef Boyardee I guarantee I'd be featuring this study in an advertising campaign. I'd be doing the same if I worked for Smucker's, Lean Pocket's, Kashi or Campbell's.

Here's the scoop. Straightforward study. 17 folks were provided with all of their meals and snacks 5 days a week for 5 consecutive weeks. First week was a buffet where foods were weighed before and after eating. Next two weeks half the group selected their lunch from a selection of six commercially available portion controlled "foods" and could eat whatever and however much they wanted for the rest of the day. The other half kept hitting the lunch buffet. For the last two weeks the split groups were reversed.

The calorie controlled "foods" being consumed at lunch (you'll understand why I put "food" in quotes in a moment)?

All rang in at roughly 200 calories and included Chef Boyardee Pasta, Smucker's Uncrustables, Kashi Bars, Lean Pockets or Compbell's Soup in Hand.

What'd the study find?

Consuming portion controlled ultra-processed awfulness at lunch led to a daily caloric savings of 250 calories!

That's actually a great many calories.

Mathematically eating 250 fewer calories per day could lead a person to 1/2lb of weight loss weekly.

So should you start eat calorie controlled portions of ultra-processed "food" for your weight management effort?

Only if you plan on doing so forever.

I know I'm a broken record, but whatever strategy you employ in your weight management efforts, unless you plan on keeping it forever, is just a waste of time.

The argument about the nutritive value of this intervention? That's a toughie. Sure it's easy to look down at these "foods" and make fun of them nutritionally, but you might just as easily make the case that were a person able to lose and maintain a loss by eating them, that the benefits of the loss shouldn't be casually discounted.

[Thanks to Dr. Arya Sharma for passing the study my way, and thanks too to all the readers here - today marks my 1,500th post!]

Levitsky, D., & Pacanowski, C. (2011). Losing weight without dieting. Use of commercial foods as meal replacements for lunch produces an extended energy deficit Appetite, 57 (2), 311-317 DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.04.015

Bookmark and Share


  1. Sounds like the same principle as the Subway Diet.

  2. This is why I have an issue with calorie counting.

  3. As a first step for the obese, we would be better off to say no sugar, no grains. Wheat is evil, sugar is worse.

  4. You might want to do a protein check on canned pastas meals. When I was a student nurse many, many years ago, the protein count for some of them was so low per serving that they were allowed for kids on pku diets.

  5. Anonymous12:07 pm

    FredT- I love wheat and sugar. Porridge in the morning and a bar of chocolate every day or second day, plus an hour or two of walking, and I lose weight until I go to my 'norm' and stay there.

    For some reason that regimen means I eat more vegetables and less meat and starch. Go figure.

  6. Laura1:55 pm

    The first thing that comes to mind for me is the "yuck" factor: the study participants could very well have lost weight because the food that they were given - i.e., all the processed crap - was so unpalatable, awful and disgusting that they were happy to eat much less of it than they would have if they were offered actual food. Thus, while there is a real calorie deficit, it could be linked to participants' avoiding eating altogether because of their limited options.

    I wonder if the study controlled for participants' dislike of the available foodstuffs?

  7. Laura - if that's the case, the Chef Boyardee Diet follows the same principle as the so-called Israeli Army Diet from the 1970s.

  8. Anonymous8:21 pm

    Did this finding possibly have anything to do with the fact that the foods consumed were repetitive?

    Not sure if this study was featured on weightymatters before. I think one of the conclusions of the study was that people with limited food choices eventually end up eating fewer calories. The authors in the original study don't draw as strong as a conclusion as the globe and mail, but it's still in there.

  9. Laura - my thought exactly. I love Macaroni and cheese (complete guilty pleasure), though I eat it in moderation, and I tried Chef Boyardee's Mac' & Cheese from that line of product and after two bites, I was nauseous and couldn't eat anything for a few hours. It tastes absolutely disgusting, hopefully the rest of their food is a little better.

  10. This reminds me of the new research revealing Weight Watchers works best for people who want to lose weight.

    Obviously, if you eat less calories, you're going to lose weight. But will people really stick to such extreme portion control measures for the rest of their lives? I doubt it.

    People need to realize there's more to being healthy than just losing weight. Eat real food, not processed junk. That way, you can eat food that tastes delicious, makes you feel good AND helps manage your weight.

    Great post! We're definitely on the same page with these ridiculous findings.