The producer of a frozen meal I buy quite often has come out with a new line of “healthier” options. I’m excited to try out my first SmartMade meal by Smart Ones. It’s the Chicken with Spinach Fettuccini dish.
-Overall: Recommended for your Shopping List
–Best Use: Moderation for pasta lovers, in a rush, don’t feel like cooking/cleaning, easy work/dorm meal
-The Good: Calories (220); Protein (22g), Sodium (620 mg), Vitamin A (50% DV), Vitamin C (25% DV), Calcium (15% DV), Iron (10% DV) Taste (5.7/10), texture and appearance = pretty normal
-The Not-So-Good: has some saturated fats (3g or 15% DV), only a small amount of fiber (2g or 8% DV), fear-based marketing on label, small-medium portion size, stored in freezer only
–DIY Improvements: volume, fiber, & fullness could be helped by adding a side salad, cooked veggies, and/or grilled chicken; garlic & pepper to enhance flavor
The control that pasta has over me is pretty embarrassing. If you were to witness me eating pasta you might ask yourself questions such as, “Has that girl ever had pasta before?”, “Has she been starving for a while?”, “How long has she been a competitive eater?” or maybe “Is this her last day on Earth?” I love everything about pasta: the way it mixes well with so many toppings, how it comes in fun shapes like bow-ties and raviolis, how it has such fun names like oriecchette and tagliatelle, etc. etc. That being said, I have enough willpower to mostly keep it out of the house- but not enough willpower to never have it. The deal I made with the devil (myself) is that I have only controlled portions of pasta that are made by someone else. My faves are the 3-Cheese Ziti Marinara by Smart Ones and either Penne option from Freshly.
I jump at any chance to try a new “convenience”-pasta to add to my list. This meal was right next to “old-faithful”. I found it interesting that a brand that already promotes smarter meal choices is launching an additional line based on naturality. Wow- that speaks to the power of marketing! I was turned-off immediately by some of the claims on the box that promote fear in the mind of the consumer: “Ingredients you can pronounce”. On the other hand, I was impressed by the nutrition facts label and the white bean puree. So I bought it anyway, with my written apologies to some of my favorite dietitians who work against fear-based marketing (a great cause)!
Eating at my desk: commence!
Let’s begin with the “not-so-good”. The nutrition facts on the website do not match the label on the box. I used the numbers on the box because they were mostly higher values. The chicken + rib meat in this dish provides the saturated fat of 3g (grams), which really isn’t too bad for the healthy adult. If you have heart issues or history of such in your family, it may be recommended that you stay below 7g or 10 g per day. This meal is still something you could fit into your daily sat fat allowance, but I wanted to mention it since sat fats are one of our “bad” fats. With some tomatoes and spinach, this dish provides only 2 grams of fiber- which is something Americans don’t get enough of. Add vegetables to this dish to boost it’s fiber content. The portion was a bit small. For a full-meal I would think most people would want a little bit more in terms of volume. Those veggies or a salad and maybe more grilled chicken could help with that (protein gives us the best feelings of fullness) but will knock down the convenience of this meal.
Now, the good stuff starting with calories: 220. That’s not even really enough for a meal, so being able to add foods (even later in the day) and keep calorie control is a plus in my book. The protein (22g) content is above average for the size of this meal, and would fit well into the daily diet of most of us. As a post-workout meal, you may want to find at least an additional 8g of protein from another source, though. Sodium (620 mg) is under the recommended amount per meal. Vitamin A (50% DV) and vitamin C (25% DV) are in abundance. I love anything that has calcium (15% DV), since I am a low-dairy intake human. Taste was pretty good. The white bean puree didn’t pass as cream (as the box advertised), but it did keep a nice saucy texture and wasn’t strong in flavor. I felt that the tomatoes watered down the dish a bit (but I also do not prefer tomatoes, so I can’t say that I should be trusted on this issue). I added garlic and pepper to this dish, and although already edible, it really upgraded the meal without adding sodium. Texture and appearance were also comparable to a regular pasta dish.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this for anyone who needs/wants to moderate their pasta intake (hi, friend!), could be a tool for weight loss, and/or as a tasty item to be used for anyone whose meal-time priority is quick, easy, and healthier food!
**I flubbed and forgot to note the price, so I can update that later. I know it was more than the $2 bucks I normally spend.
Happy nutrition, busy bees!