Nutritious Frozen Meals for Families: Healthy Eating Guidelines

Nutritious Frozen Meals for Families: Healthy Eating Guidelines
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Nutrients

Frozen foods are now the food of choice for many families, not just owing to their convenience but also owing to their claim to promote healthy eating.

Most nutritious frozen meals for families equate with low calories and low fat. An average person however requires about 2,000 calories a day for performing normal body functions, and people leading active lifestyles need more. Much of the low calorie, low fat frozen meal options found on grocery shelves provide just 250 or 300 calories, which remains grossly inadequate for the busy executives, and even children. The fact that frozen meals are portion controlled leaves little scope for eating more.

Check out the nutrition label on the food packet, making sure to reconcile the portion size on the nutrition label with the net content of the meal pack.

A good light frozen meal provides about 300 calories and 8 grams of fat, and a good regular frozen dinner provides 360 to 400 calories and 25 grams of fat. Intersperse frozen meals with mini-meals or snacks to ensure that the body obtains the required calories. Another option to boost the calorie and nutrient intake is to add a side salad with low calorie dressing, a serving of fruit without syrup or a glass of low fat milk to the frozen meal. At the same time, avoid calorie dense cheese sauce packets that usually come with most frozen meals.

To ensure healthy eating, ensure that the calories from fat do not exceed 30 percent of total calories, and that the calories from saturated fat do not exceed 10 percent of the total calories.

Most frozen ready meals tend to remain high in sodium. The optimal daily sodium intake for a normal person is 2,400 milligrams, and a standard rule of thumb is about 200 milligrams of sodium per 100 calories. Especially avoid frozen foods where sodium levels exceed 800 milligrams of sodium per person per serving.

Balance

The second major consideration is to ensure a balanced diet. Ensure that the selected frozen food is rich in vegetables. Vegetables remain rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, while remaining low in calories. Opt for brown rice or whole wheat, and choose lean meat, fish or chicken as protein sources when possible.

One example of a good balanced frozen ready meal is a cup of veggies, half to one cup of brown rice or whole wheat pasta and three-fourth cup of beans or three ounces of lean meat for protein. Such a combination provides about 300 to 400 calories, 5 grams or less of saturated fat, 5 grams or more of fiber, 14 grams or more of protein, 45 grams of carbs and about 600 milligrams of sodium.

Variety

Lean Cuisine

Brands such as Amy, Michelina, Ethnic Gourmet, Uncle Ben, Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Trader Joe, Weight Watchers and others rank as popular frozen food brands, and offer a wide range of nutritious frozen meals for families.

A few good picks from the many available frozen ready meal options are:

  • Healthy Choice Sweet and Sour Chicken, which provides 420 calories, 9 grams of fat including 2 grams of saturated fat, 480 milligrams of sodium and 71 grams of carbs including 6 grams of dietary fiber per serving of 340 grams.
  • Lean Cuisine Salmon with Basil, which provides 260 calories, 8 grams of fat including 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 680 milligrams of sodium and 5 milligrams of fiber per serving.
  • Lean Cuisine Chicken a l’Orange, which provides 268 calories including 20 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 360 milligrams of sodium and 39 grams of carbs including 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving of 255 grams.
  • Lean Cuisine Parmesan Crusted Fish, which provides 290 calories, 8 grams of fat, 650 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of fiber per serving of 255 grams.
  • Uncle Ben’s Sweet & Sour Chicken Rice Bowl, which provides 360 calories, 3 grams of fat including 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 620 milligram of sodium, and 65 grams of carbs including 2 grams of fiber per serving of 340 grams.
  • Michelina’s Budget Gourmet Chinese Style Vegetable & Chicken with rice, which provides 300 calories, 7 grams of fat including 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 690 milligrams of sodium and 3 grams of fiber.
  • Trader Joe’s Chicken Tandoori with Spinach, which provides 360 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat, 520 milligrams of sodium and 5 grams of fiber per serving.

Burgers are a popular frozen meal, but rank low in calories, and count more as a snack or mini meal rather than as a regular full meal. Most fish burgers provide about 100 calories, 3 grams of fat including 1 gram of saturated fat, 17 grams of protein per 91 grams serving. A 113 grams serving of chicken or turkey burger on the other hand provides 160 to 170 calories, 8 grams or less of fat, 2 1/2 grams or less of saturated fat and 21 grams of protein.

Frozen pizza provides about 450 to 470 calories, with 7 grams or less fat per 450 grams serving. The problem with pizza however is the high sodium and carb levels. Topping up the pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni, beef or sausage toppings lead to the calories also shooting up drastically.

Selecting the right nutritious frozen meals for families allows for the best of both worlds: healthy eating with little time or effort required to prepare meals, allowing families to spend such quality time in other creative pursuits.

References

  1. Jibrin, Janis. “A Frozen Food Guide.” Retrieved from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/nutrition/nutrition-frozen-food-jibrin-0506 on April 16, 2011.
  2. MedicineNet.com. “Dinner on Ice.” Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50726 on April 16, 2011
  3. MedicineNet.com. “The Best Frozen Dinners.” Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=56243 on April 16, 2011.
  4. Garden-Robinson, Julie. “Good Nutrition for Busy Families.” Retrieved from https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1432.pdf on April 16, 2011.
  5. Colins, Karen. “Should you defrost your diet?” Retrieved from https://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11992264/ns/health-fitness/ on April 16, 2011.

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