When you’re under time pressure in the morning or too exhausted to cook in the evening, there’s nothing simpler than picking up a frozen meal. After all, there’s no preparation time involved. However, how can you ensure that these convenient meals aren’t hindering your commitment to maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle?
Especially for you, we have curated eight valuable suggestions to remember while scanning the frozen food section.
How to find the best frozen meals
While numerous frozen dinners contain excessive amounts of salt and saturated fat, it’s important to note that these options are not the only ones available. There are methods to discover nutritious and convenient frozen meals suitable for you and your family!
Go for quality
The ingredients list should be your primary focus. According to her, if you can discover meals with less than seven ingredients, there’s a higher chance that you’ll be consuming whole foods and fewer additives and preservatives.
Furthermore, the quality of ingredients holds greater significance than the calorie count alone. Merely because a product is marketed as ‘organic’, ‘natural’, or ‘vegan’ doesn’t guarantee its healthiness. It is essential to carefully read the nutrition label and ingredients list to ensure accuracy.
Select the best optimal meals
Optimal meals consist of a generous serving of vibrant vegetables, a lean source of protein (such as chicken, turkey, beans, or fish/seafood), and either a whole grain or a starchy vegetable.
In the event that any of these components are absent, consider incorporating them as side dishes. For instance, you can pair a chicken and sweet potato entree with a side salad or complement your meal with raw vegetables and hummus.
Make sure it contains whole grains
The preferable choice is to opt for entrees that incorporate 100% whole grains or alternative grains, such as bean pasta and cauliflower rice. Discovering refined grains, such as white rice, within a frozen meal is a deal-breaker for individuals who prioritize their health.
Keep it light
In contrast to conventional frozen entrees, ‘lean’ and ‘light’ varieties typically offer significant reductions in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. These meals usually contain fewer than 400 calories, which is a beneficial limit when you’re mindful of your weight.
Avoid opting for ‘hearty’ or ‘family-size’ meals unless you intend to share them. Even in shared portions, these products often contain high levels of unhealthy saturated fats, sodium, added sugars, and refined grains, so it’s important to carefully review the label.
Give preference to fiber
The majority of processed foods lack an essential nutrient—fiber. Fiber plays a vital role in promoting digestion and providing a feeling of fullness, preventing overeating. Opting for meals that include beans, whole grains, and vegetables is an effective strategy for increasing your fiber intake. It is recommended to aim for a daily fiber consumption of at least 25 to 35 grams.
Leave the starch
Make an effort to steer clear of frozen entrées that consist solely of starch, like macaroni and cheese. Instead, opt for more well-rounded alternatives that include both lean protein and vegetables.
If you have a hankering for a comforting starchy meal, consider consuming only half of the portion and complementing it with a source of protein and some vegetables. For instance, you could pair it with a hard-boiled egg and a side salad. Striking a balance is crucial for supporting your overall health and satisfying those cravings for carbohydrates and sugars.
Consume saturated fat and salt in moderate quantities
Frozen meals often have a reputation for containing excessive amounts of sodium and saturated fat. The most unfavorable frozen meals surpass 700 grams of sodium and exceed 4 to 5 grams of saturated fat.
To make healthier choices, it is advisable to restrict the sodium content in frozen meals to 600 milligrams or less, while keeping the saturated fat to 3 grams or less.
Say no to sugar and trans fats
Refrain from consuming any meals that contain trans fats, as the FDA has deemed them unsafe for human consumption. To identify trans fats in the ingredients list, look for the term ‘partially hydrogenated oils’.
Additionally, it is advisable to minimize the intake of added sugars. The recommended daily limit for added sugars is 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men. It is worth noting that numerous frozen entrees labeled as ‘healthy’ contain high amounts of added sugar, with some reaching 12 grams, which is equivalent to a tablespoon.
8 ways to discover the finest frozen meals conclusion
For the majority of days in a week, it is advisable to prioritize fresh meals or enjoyable leftovers. Ideally, frozen meals should be limited to a maximum of twice a week. However, when the convenience of a frozen entrée is necessary, our handy tips can assist you in making informed choices.
PS. Don’t forget to read our ‘How to make healthier fast food choices‘ too.