They’re convenient, at times delectable and an inexpensive solution to eating out. But did you know that not all frozen meals are worth their weight nor their risk to your overall health?
Many frozen meals advertise their health benefits boldly on their packaging but flip the meal on its back to the nutrition label and you’ll discover a plate full of salt.
“As a category, frozen meals are a mixed bag,” says Jackie Keller, founder of NutriFit and a certified health coach.
“There are exceptionally healthy brands that are very wholesome and when planned out, can make for a nutritious meal plan designed to aid in weight loss. But generally, frozen meals are higher in salt (not always, but generally), fat and lack adequate, high fiber vegetables and fruit.”
Federal law regulates what frozen meals can be legally labeled “healthy.” This means that for every 100 grams a product must contain less than 3 grams of fat and the sodium content must be less than 600 milligrams. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your salt intake to less than 2,000 milligrams per day, but without careful watch it can become fairly easy to surpass the recommended amount in one frozen meal sitting alone.
But you don’t have to totally ditch frozen meals all together. Simply get savvy on how to choose the best ones and what to look out for. Kashi sits at the top of the list as one of Keller’s favorite brands packing the most nutritent-rich punch. Other brands delivering convenience, variety and a little more than the old fashioned TV dinner include Smart Ones, Light & Lean, Healthy Choice, and Ethnic Gourmet.
Remember to skip the creamy sauces and always check to make sure your chosen meals are under the recommended sodium content. Mary Perry, licensed dietician and clinical trials director for the Zone Diet, recommends that when choosing an entrée aim for one where protein (chicken or lean beef) and vegetables are the main components of the dish.
“If pasta and rice are included keep them to condiment size portions or skip them altogether and add a piece of fruit to your meal instead,” advises Perry.
Do you know if your frozen meals are truly healthy?