Bob took some cameras into two companies whose products received the Best Life Diet seal of approval. His first stop was the top secret culinary center at the Lean Cuisine headquarters, where they keep a tight lid on new ideas.
The head of product development says a group of chefs work to come up with new possibilities for Lean Cuisine products. The new dishes go through months of testing before hitting the stores, but the consumers get the final say.
One of the chefs, Eric, created a ginger garlic stir fry with chicken, which he said had "bold flavors." The flavors might have been a little too bold for American families, who called to say it was too spicy. "So we brought it back in house, adjusted the heat level and sent it out again with passing grades," Eric says.
The team behind one of Lean Cuisine's most successful new products, the panini, had to solve a big problem. How do you take a cheesy sandwich from Italy, cut the fat, cut the salt, and still make it taste good?
The chefs started with the full-fat original, complete with butter, three cheeses, grilled spinach and mushrooms. To make it lean, they trim out some of the cheese and construct a spinach and mushroom sandwich with fewer than 300 calories. "The trick is to keep it healthy, but also have it taste great," Bob says.
Next, Bob takes a trip to the Betty Crocker test kitchen in Golden Valley, Minnesota, where employees try out more than 50,000 recipes each year for the 100-plus brands that make up General Mills. CEO Steve Sanger says his company is dedicated to making its foods healthier. "We talk to our consumers a lot. We listen to our consumers a lot," he says. "We care a lot about weight management. That is probably the foremost health concern on the minds of most American consumers, is, 'How do I manage my calories? How do I manage my weight?'"
The new mission of the company includes using organic products and reformulating old favorites into new, healthier versions. In 2006, the company's Progresso brand introduced four reduced-sodium soups that earned Bob's Best Life Diet seal.
"We really had to work hard to get more flavor in the soup because it has less sodium, so we have to have more roasted chicken," says Ann, one of the tasters. "We did not give up on flavor. We did not give up on texture, but we made it healthier."
Jackie Reid says she didn't pay attention to food labels until she started Bob's plan—and it's really paid off. In 1997, Jackie weighed 287 pounds, but now she is nearing her goal weight with a total loss of 100 pounds!
Jackie attributes her success to hard work and perseverance. "That was the main thing I learned from [Bob's] diet. You have to get active, you have to stay active, and you have to do it for life. Now I'm ready to lose 20 more!" she says.
Bob says working out is crucial for long-term weight loss success—and even people with busy schedules can find the time. "You've got to find a way to fit it in," he says. "Contrary to what a lot of people say to slow down your exercise, we see better results in shorter bouts of exercise, but a little intense, where you're breathing, you're able to talk, but you don't feel like talking too long."
In addition to the benefits of working out, Jackie says the Best Life Diet seal of approval has helped her figure out what to buy at the grocery store. "It takes all the guesswork out when you're shopping. You know exactly what to get," she says. Try Bob Greene's Best Life Diet recipes.
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