Green Lifestyle the market collection from Lean Cuisine

Published on October 12th, 2012 | by Andrea Bertoli

7

this is NOT food: the collections from lean cuisine

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

There are many things that frustrate me about the food industry: trendy products and diet fads, misleading health claims, excess packaging, unlabeled GMOs in everything… the list could go on. But one of the things that frustrates me beyond all these is processed food companies selling their products as healthy meal options. Many things fall into this category, including advertisements for sugar-and GMO laden snack bars to serve as meal replacements and packaged flavorings for ‘decadent’ water made solely of chemicals.

But Lean Cuisine has created a new ad campaign with the tagline Be Culinary Chic, which is immediately and deeply offensive. Skinny ladies in brightly colored dresses and accessories parade around in green fields, juxtaposed with vibrantly colored produce. The fashion spin is meant to represent the, “[bold] colors and tastes” of their Culinary Collection, Spa Collection, and Market Collection. These collections include hundreds of different boxed meal options, though they all have one thing in common: THIS IS NOT FOOD.

As a woman, as an food activist, and as a chef, this makes me angry.

the culinary collection from Lean Cuisine

the spa collection from Lean Cuisine

the market collection from Lean Cuisine

Firstly, the ingredients for these meals contain very few wholesome ingredients. A typical ingredient list looks something like this (from the Sesame Chicken):

“BLANCHED SPAGHETTI (WATER, SEMOLINA), SESAME BREADED CHICKEN TENDERLOINS (COOKED CHICKEN TENDERLOINS, WATER, SEASONING (DRIED SOY SAUCE {SOYBEANS, WHEAT, SALT}, MALTODEXTRIN, FRUCTOSE, SALT, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, FLAVOR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, MIXED TRIGLYCERIDES, CHICKEN BROTH POWDER, WHEAT DEXTRIN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% BUTTER {CREAM, SALT}, CARROTS, CHICKEN FAT, CITRIC ACID, CORNSTARCH, SESAME OIL, SUGAR, TAPIOCA DEXTRIN), ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, MODIFIED RICE STARCH, ROASTED SESAME OIL, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SALT. BATTERED AND BREADED WITH: WATER, BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, BLEACHED ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), SESAME SEEDS, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, SALT, LEAVENING (SODIUM BICARBONATE, SODIUM ALUMINUM PHOSPHATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), NONFAT DRY MILK, DEXTROSE, SOYBEAN OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL, YEAST, DRIED ONION POWDER, DRIED GARLIC POWDER, DRIED WHOLE EGGS, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA AND ANNATTO. BREADING SET IN SOYBEAN OIL.), WATER, GREEN BEANS, PLUM SAUCE (SUGAR, SALTED PLUMS, WATER, RICE VINEGAR, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, GINGER, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, CHILI PEPPERS, XANTHAN GUM, CONTAINS WHEAT, SOYBEANS), RED PEPPERS, 2% OR LESS OF SUGAR, SESAME OIL, SOY SAUCE (WATER, WHEAT, SOYBEANS, SALT), MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, GARLIC PUREE, SESAME SEEDS, DEHYDRATED SOY SAUCE (SOYBEANS, SALT, WHEAT), VINEGAR CONCENTRATE (RICE VINEGAR, CORN SYRUP, NATURAL FLAVOR), SPICE.”

There are so many awful ingredients in the list above. Not only is it full of starches (to create a creamy mouthfeel without calories), isolated soy protein (not a healthy form of soy), and MSG (in the form of autolyzed yeast extract- way at the top). It’s also pretty likely that all the corn, soy, and cottonseed ingredients are genetically modified, and should not be sold as food. And one more: this product also has transfat (in the form of hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil). This is what they say about those pesky transfats:

“TFA’s occur naturally in some ingredients, such as beef and dairy products (THIS IS A PARTIAL TRUTH- naturally occurring transfat occurs in grass-fed beef and dairy. Do you think they actually use higher quality grass-fed butter in this recipe? GENERALLY, TRANSFATS ARE CREATED BY HYDROGENATING OILS), which we do use in LEAN CUISINE recipes. However LEAN CUISINE carefully balances these ingredients with vegetables and grains while using healthier fats such as canola or soy oil. [We've] succeeded in reducing or eliminating trans fat in our LEAN CUISINE products without increasing saturated fat. On a few packages, you may notice partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredient list but see 0 grams of trans fat on the Nutrition Facts panel. How is this possible? Food manufacturers are required to list amounts of trans fat at less than 0.5 gram (1/2gram) as 0 on the Nutrition panel.”

The nutrition label (available from the same link above) is not pretty either. Yes, it’s low in calories (330 for a whole serving) but crazy high in sodium (almost 30% DV). Yes, it has protein (16 grams) but you could get that same amount from one cup of cooked lentils (generally figured at 18grams/cup) without all the extra ingredients. There is only a scant 2 grams of fiber and pitiful amounts of vitamins A, C, Iron, and Calcium (between 4-6% for each). This information can be found via PDF at the top of any nutritional information site, such as this one. And if you want to ask the Nutritionist questions about their ingredients, you will be given this response: “We’re sorry, we couldn’t find any questions for the topic you requested. Please click another topic on the left to try again. Check out the links below for more PR (bullshit) answers about dietary guidelines (and don’t worry about those high sodium amounts, just eat two lean cuisines eat day and you’ll be under the limit).

Using misleading language about the health benefits of their products, and juxtaposing a handful of colorful, wholesome ingredients with pretty ladies in fancy dresses, the new advertising campaign at Lean Cuisine encourages women to choose fake foods over healthy options because it looks cute. Yes, some of the foods contain a handful of real, wholesome ingredients (peas, peppers, squash, eggs), but they are mixed with so many unhealthy products that it simply does not constitute a healthy meal for any time of the day. Surely busy women- moms, caregivers, runners, activists, wives, workers- are pressed for time, and Lean Cuisine might seem like an easy option. But I would really like to see more women (and men!) realize that this type of edible food-like substance (as Michael Pollan would say) is not a replacement for wholesome ingredients and real food. The nutrition offered by these packaged foods is quite minimal, and the worst ingredients (the oils, starches, gums, etc) are simply empty calories that do nothing to nurture our bodies or minds. And none of these recipes are terribly complicated to make at home: a seasoned protein, a handful of vegetables, and either noodles or rice. The Sesame Chicken I featured above as an example of ingredients is simply breaded chicken over noodles and a scattering of vegetables.

So what would these meals look like without the box- even if you are pressed for time? Here we have two, super easy recipes based on real, whole food ingredients. I don’t eat chicken, so these recipes feature plant-based proteins like tofu and beans- they are vegetarian/vegan, dairy-free, and cholesterol free. Both of these recipes feature components that can be made ahead of time and then quickly tossed together for a quick meal at the office or on the go. Let it come to room temperature while you are at work, or stir it quickly in a saucepan for a wholesome, nurturing, homemade solution to these unhealthy boxed options. I veganized/healthifed the Sesame Chicken and the Ginger Garlic Stir-Fry with Chicken. I don’t have the nutritional information for these homemade recipes, but because they feature wholesome plant-based foods you can be sure they are host to plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and quality vegan protein.

Sesame Tofu with Noodles

10-12 oz block of tofu, sliced into rectangles
some oil for grilling
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon orange zest (very important!)
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons honey or agave
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon each onion powder, garlic powder, dried ginger
2 servings noodles (soba, udon, spaghetti, etc)
1 cup green beans, shelled pea, and/or asparagus
1 cup chopped red pepper
handful of fresh greens (kale or cabbage)

  1. Slice the tofu and grill with the oil in a hot pan until lightly browned on each side.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sesame oil, zest, orange juice, honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and onion, garlic and ginger.
  3. When tofu is finished grilling, toss with the sauce and let marinate as long as you like.
  4. Cook noodles according to package directions. Before draining water, add all vegetables to hot water to quickly blanch. Drain, and portion into serving bowls. If serving at a later time, rinse with cool water and pack in an airtight container.
  5. Top with tofu and serve to your loved ones!

Ginger Garlic Chickpeas with Rice

3 Tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil, divided
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup snap peas or green beans (or shelled peas)
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or other bean
handful of fresh greens (kale or cabbage)
2 servings cooked rice (brown, basmati, jasmine, etc)
1 teaspoon each garlic powder and ginger powder

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil until warm. Add broccoli, peas/beans and saute until just browned. Add red pepper and chickpeas. Cook five minutes more, until peppers are tender. Turn heat to low and toss in greens and rice. Stir until greens are just wilted and rice is warmed through.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 2 tbsp oil with garlic and ginger. Add to skillet when vegetable/rice mixture is finished cooking. Toss to coat, and serve!
  3. Note: the rice can be cooked ahead of time, and the vegetables/chickpeas can be cooked and stored separately for easier preparation later in the week.

We here at VWJ are passionate about eating and sharing whole foods recipes, and want to encourage everyone to learn more about our processed food industry. This is a huge issue that affects the collective health of the nation, and something that we here at Important Media are very passionate about. We would love to hear what you think about this topic! Comment or contact us with your thoughts about this topic!


Tags: , , , ,


About the Author

Vegetarian chef, educator, blogger, and yogi based on the gathering isle of Oahu. Follow her foodie adventures at Vibrant Wellness Journal, Vibrant Wellness Education, Green Living Ideas and Green UPGRADER. Find more from Andrea on Facebook, , Instagram and Twitter.



Back to Top ↑