No time to cook? Try one of these 12 healthy options
Stroll down any supermarket frozen food aisle and the evidence is clear: frozen meals are big sellers, claiming more shelf space than virtually any other type of frozen food. Beyond the old-standard TV dinners, you'll find ethnic (especially Asian), vegetarian, low-calorie, supersized, natural, and organic meals.
Choosing a Frozen Meal
There is no getting around it. When selecting a frozen meal, you'll need to read the "nutrition facts" panel on the package to make sure your choice is a healthy one. So allow yourself a little extra time on the frozen-foods aisle (or use my handy list of picks below).
Weight Loss Clinic eating plans prescribe two levels of frozen meals: a light frozen dinner, with less than 300 calories and no more than 8 grams of fat; and a regular frozen dinner, with 360-400 calories and a maximum of 25 grams of fat.
Jot these numbers down and refer to them when checking labels. Of course, whenever possible, it's best to select a lighter frozen meal, with fewer calories and fat.
Here's a label-reading tip: Make sure you check the portion size, listed on the very top of the nutrition label. Some crafty manufacturers measure a portion as something less than the entire contents of the box.
As a general rule, look for entrees that include plenty of vegetables. These tend to be lower in calories and higher in vitamins and minerals as well as fiber (which helps fill you up). Opt for brown rice or whole grains whenever possible, and choose lean meat, fish, or chicken.
Some frozen dinners are loaded with fat, sodium, and calories. Sticking with the lighter versions (such as Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Smart Ones) is usually a safe bet. But there are no guarantees. You still need to read the label to be certain.
If you're watching sodium, be especially careful about frozen meals. My advice for everyone is to look for meals with less than 800 milligrams of sodium (that's about 1/3 of a day's recommended allotment). If you're on a low-sodium diet, divide the total number of sodium milligrams recommended per day by three. Then use that number as a guide when selecting frozen entrees.