November 22, 2015 | Posted in:Eating Well, Weight Management

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I am really excited to review these Healthy Microwave Dinners by Luvo!  Cooking is a lot of work.  Frankly, it’s been wearing on me lately.  As a stay-at-home and part-time work-at-home mom, I spend a lot of time cooking and doing dishes.  A LOT of time.  Enter healthy frozen dinners by Luvo.

Disclaimer:  I received healthy microwave dinners from Luvo Inc. and decided, independently, to write this blog post.  Luvo did not approach me with a request to write a sponsored post.  As always, opinions are unbiased and my own. 

Luvo products are free of artificial preservatives, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and GMOs.  They are high protein and have vegetables.  They contain lots of vitamins and minerals, unlike many processed meals.  So, they are TRULY healthy microwave dinners.  Even better, they taste great!  They are carried in the freezer section of major supermarkets and also on Amazon pantry (affiliate link).  You can cook them in the oven as well as the microwave

Healthy Microwave Dinners by Luvo, A Review by a Nutrition Coach, Photo Credit Luvo, Inc.

Healthy Microwave Dinners by Luvo, Photo Credit Luvo, Inc.

A LOVE-OF-FOOD STORY

I value healthy, good food.  It’s one of my highest priorities, along with health and only trumped by “god” and “family.”  I know what artificial preservatives, colorings and sugar can do to the body.  I understand the value of sustainably raised plants and animals.  I live and breathe portion sizes and macronutrients.  I know these things so well that I cannot help but make all the food for my family.  I don’t buy any preprepared or packaged foods from the store, with the exception of our Friday night pizza that we have for game night. I simply would not be able to sleep at night if I did it any other way.

But, again, it’s been wearing on me.  With the addition of a second child and the temporary “exit” of my husband due to work responsibilities, I have a lot on my plate.  I have been tempted by the convenience of packaged foods.

So, it was very good luck that  I spotted these healthy microwave dinners in our local grocery store. I was shocked, so I took to instagram.

My instagrammed question was “has anybody tried these?”  I received an answer from Luvo, Inc.  They offered to stock my freezer with Luvo products, so I could find out for myself!!

TASTE TEST: HEALTHY MICROWAVE DINNERS BY LUVO

First, there was the Ricotta and Kale ravioli shared between my son and I as our dinner starch.  Then, there was the tandoori-inspired spiced chicken, the braised beef with polenta and roasted vegetables, the chicken chili verde and the chicken enchiladas.

We even got to explore a few breakfast options.  I loved the steel cut oatmeal with fruit, which I was expecting to be sugary but was not.  We made our own eggs as a protein side dish.  The farmer’s market frittata with sweet potato and mango hash was another home run.

Is it just me, or do these meals sound like they are straight from the menu of a trendy restaurant?  Trust me, they taste like it.  They have been hits with both my husband and my preschooler.  While cooking the enchiladas, I heard someone in our complex hallway say “wow, it smells like they’re cooking something amazing!”  I created an awkward moment by popping my head out of the apartment door and waving the Luvo box.

The ingredients have all been delicious and fresh.  Lean meats, whole grains, wholesome fruits and vegetables.  Minimal sugar, added responsibly.  Wonderful spices and flavors.  Appropriate portions.

ARTIFICIAL FLAVORINGS

Luvo touts that their healthy microwave dinners are free of artificial flavorings, sweeteners and colorings. You will see a few ingredients that don’t immediately strike you as natural, however.  They are: potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and caramel color.  However, these are not considered artificial additives.  Luvo’s team carefully selected them to fit within brand standards.  Allow me to explain further.

Caramel Color is a widely used food coloring.  Some caramel colors are made via a “normal” route of heating or burning sugar.  Others are created chemically with processes that use sulfites and ammonia.  According to representatives, Luvo uses a Class 1 Organic caramel color by Sethness. It is manufactured without the use of sulfites or ammonium compounds.   “Class 1 caramel colors have been growing in popularity,” says Brian Sethness, sales representative, Sethness Products Company, Chicago. “It is the most natural of the four classes of caramel. For this reason it is the only class Whole Foods, for example, will accept. It is also the only class that can be certified organic.”

Be aware, still, that Caramel colors are essentially burnt sugars and some researchers believe that burning foods increases carcinogen content.  However, the amount of caramel color used is so miniscule that I am not concerned by it – As a mom, I am sure I have ingested lots of carcinogens from forgetting to take dinner out of the oven in a timely manner (as we speak, my hair smells like burnt rice).

Potassium chloride and calcium chloride are interesting ones to talk about.  They are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the USDA.  Chemically, they are classified as salts.  In fact, table salt has a very similar name: Sodium chloride.

Potassium chloride is a simple food preservative and flavor enhancer.  It’s commonly stocked in baking sections as KaliSel.  Potassium chloride has the benefit of enhancing the salty flavor of food without adding sodium.  Thus, Luvo meals maintain flavor without excess sodium.  Interestingly, An April 2005 study in the journal hypertension found consumption of extra potassium may help lower blood pressure.

Calcium chloride is similar to potassium chloride.  According to Luvo representatives, it’s a firming agent that helps keep the tomatoes from getting mushy.

It’s true that potassium and calcium chloride aren’t classified as artificial by the USDA, but you probably wouldn’t see them in food plucked straight from nature.   For example, they are not present in large quantities in a garden fresh tomato (naturally, please correct me if I am wrong about this as I am not a food scientist).  To my knowledge, they must be created in a test tube.  However, both potassium chloride and calcium chloride are found naturally in rare mineral deposits.

Whether you choose to be turned off by this depends on your commitment to food purity.  Considering that they are simply salts, I am not at all bothered by them.  One commenter on consumethisfirst.com said “I don’t understand the paranoia involved with chemical names, like CaCl or Calcium Chloride. It’s a salt, totally harmless.  If, instead of listing ‘water’ as an ingredient, and they listed “dihydrogen monoxide”, would you freak out[?][…]”

PORTION SIZES AND MACRONUTRIENTS

Luvo dinners are perfect for weight loss and maintenance, particularly for women (based on calories needed for our body size).  Portions are small and calorie counts are reasonably low, typically falling in the 300s or low 400s.  Overall, they also contain more protein than competitor brands and don’t go overboard on the carbohydrates.  Most meals contain more than 18 grams of protein (if you eat the steelcut oatmeal or the ricotta kale ravioli, make sure to pair it with a side of protein).  Protein is vital for weight loss and overall health, so this is good news.  You might still need more protein for your meal, depending upon your goals and body size.  Consult a nutrition professional if you’re not sure.

If you are a man, or weight loss/weight maintenance is not your goal, then I don’t recommend subsisting solely off of Luvo meals unless you plan on eating two meals per sitting!

I hope you enjoy these healthy microwave dinners by Luvo.   If you want to know more about the company, check out their website, facebook, instagram and twitter.  Looking for more great tips and recipes for weight loss, health and more?  Check out my pinboards, facebook, twitter and instagram!

 

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