Here I’m sharing about the pitfalls of frozen meals and how to make frozen meals healthy. Pin it here.
I’m not against frozen foods. In fact, I’m a big proponent of frozen veggies, fruits and proteins (if you can remember to thaw them in advance!). But one thing, I’m not a big fan of are frozen meals. I’m sharing what I don’t like about frozen meals, but how to make them better for you.
Disclosures: None. This post was not created in partnership with any product or brand.
What I Don’t Like About Frozen Meals
Too Low in Calories
Some health-centric brands emphasize frozen meals too low in calories (like this one at 260 calories). Most people need at least 400 to 550 calories per meal. Choosing low calorie frozen meals can set you up for overeating later or potentially slow down your metabolism if you chronically under-eat.
Too High in Calories
On the flip side are frozen meals way too high in calories (like this one at 970 calories). Obviously, super high cal meals aren’t ideal either. Choosing excessively high calorie frozen meals can lead to undesirable weight gain.
Too High in Sodium
A lot of frozen meals go way overboard on sodium (like this one that clocks in at 1,020 mg). Salt is a preservative and is used to enhance flavor. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2300 mg (the equivalent of one teaspoon) of salt for an entire day, or less if you have pre-existing heart conditions.
Too Low in Fiber & Protein
Lastly, a number of frozen meals are low in both fiber and protein. Fiber is found in vegetables, whole grains, fruits and beans. Protein is highest in animal foods (poultry, fish and lean red meats, dairy) and plant forms like tofu and legumes, and found in smaller amounts in grains like oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa. Protein and fiber both help you full after meals and both have essential roles they play in the body.
How to Make Frozen Meals Healthy
If you hate cooking and love frozen meals, all is not lost! It just takes a few tweaks to make a frozen meal better balanced.
1. Start with a healthier frozen meal. Brands actually do tend to matter when it comes to frozen meals. Choose a meal that’s not excessive in calories (goal: ~550 calories or less), moderate in sodium (goal: ~700 mg or less), has fiber (goal: at least 3 g or more) and protein (goal: 15 g protein).
- You could start off with: Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, Luvo or Amy’s.
2. Read your food labels. Each dish will be different so don’t assume every entree by one brand will be the same.
- Check the nutrition facts label to look for calories, sodium, protein and fiber.
3. Add to it! Add nutrient-rich foods to your meal to make it adequate in calories, fiber and protein.
- You can add: a piece of fruit, a side salad, a high fiber starch (like a baked potato, beans) or grain (brown rice, a slice of whole grain bread). This will add nutrient-rich calories and fiber.
- If it’s less than ~15 g protein, you can add easy protein with a glass of milk, string cheese, a serving or Greek or Icelandic Skyr yogurt, beans, lentils or tofu.
Frozen meals alone are often too low or high in calories, high in sodium, and low in fiber and protein. Just a few tweaks can make frozen meals a balanced choice!
Do you like to eat frozen meals?
How do you balance frozen meals in your eating routine?
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