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No Time to Cook? Frozen Dinners to the Rescue

Here's how to choose and use them wisely

Choosing and Storing Frozen Meals

When buying a frozen dinner, check the label to be sure it fits into your eating plan. We encourage you to stick to "light" frozen entrees with less than 300 calories and 10 grams of fat, and "regular" frozen entrees with less than 400 calories and 25 grams of fat.

Be sure to look for meals that contain plenty of vegetables and whole grains. And if you're watching the salt in your diet, look for frozen dinners with less than 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Healthy Choice is probably your best bet; its dinners generally have less than one-fourth of the government's recommended daily value of 2,400 milligrams.

Of course, with a little planning, you can lay in a supply of home-cooked frozen meals that taste delicious and are more economical than frozen meals you buy. Simply make a big batch of your favorite healthy chili, stew, pasta sauce, or whatever you like, and pack it into individual portions for quick microwave meals.

Once you've bought or made a batch of your favorite frozen entrees, you're set for a while. Frozen food can be safely stored in the freezer for several months, as long as it's tightly sealed and there's no evidence of thawing. First in, first out is the strategy to keep frozen food from becoming encrusted with ice or suffering from freezer burn.

My Family Favorites

What lurks behind the door of your freezer? If you looked in mine, you'd find bags of frozen veggies, whole-wheat dinner rolls, bagels, veggie and lean-meat burgers, an assortment of healthy frozen dinners, and individual portions of all kinds of home-cooked dishes, from soups to lasagna, ready for my son to take back to college.

Everyone in my family has their own favorite frozen meal. My daughter loves Weight Watchers Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetable Bowl, an easy-to-eat bowl full of flavorful chicken, rice, and veggies in a slightly sweet sauce. Paired with a side salad and a glass of skim milk, it makes a nutritious meal for an active teenager. She is also a fan of the Lean Pockets that satisfy her pizza urges.

One of my favorite frozen meals is Lean Cuisine Herb Roasted Chicken, while my husband loves Healthy Choice Beef Pot Roast. Another of my favorites is Lean Cuisine's Fettuccine Alfredo, which I doctor up with chopped veggies for a great family side dish.

Whatever varieties your own family prefers, frozen meals can be a lifesaver in our busy worlds. Take a little time to taste-test several and find your own favorites -- and always check those labels to be sure they meet your nutritional needs.

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