Frozen foods are convenient and popular. Since many people reach for them in times of indecision, here are the four things to watch for so that you can eat as healthy as possible.
Salt is often the X factor when it comes to frozen dinners. Know that the most salt you should get in a day is 2,300 mg. If you have high blood pressure, it should be more like 1,500 mg. So see how much salt each dinner contains, and think of the rest of your day as well.
A frozen dinner shouldn’t have more than 200 mg of salt for every 100 calories. Low-fat, “healthy” dinners aren’t necessarily low in salt. So check into that. And, whatever the case, if you frequently eat frozen meals, cut down your salt intake elsewhere in the diet.
— Saturated fat
This fat raises levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in your body. Try to make sure your meal has less than 3.0 g of saturated fat per serving. While most entrees provide one serving, some may dish out two, so be careful. But since fat is big these days, frozen meals should be relatively low in it.
But watch for cheese, meat and cream — this trio can pack a saturated fat punch. Watch for any breaded shells (e.g. pot pie) and dense dinners like lasagna and anything with a breaded shell. Follow this overall rule: saturated fat shouldn’t exceed 10% of your daily calories. So, if you’re aiming for 1,500 calories a day, it means no more than 15 g of saturated fat.
Hidden calories lay waste to diet plans. Read caloric content closely. If the frozen dinner is around 300 calories, that is good. The bad news is this isn’t enough food to satisfy most people. This means people search for some snacks afterward to fill them up, or even another side dish to add their dinner. Here’s another general rule: about 400 to 500 calories is good for a meal. That’s enough to fill you up and keep the body energized. If still hungry, try some fruit and a glass of low-fat milk.
A frozen meal should get you at least one serving of veggies. Slivers of red pepper and dilapidated broccoli don’t amount to the half cup needed to reach a serving. It may be hard to gauge how many veggies a product contains.
So, to get a sense, turn to the fiber content. The fiber in frozen dinners will come mostly from vegetables and beans. You’d like at least four grams of fiber in that box. The “bowls” tend to be reasonably good with veggie content. But if your favorite, low-fat entree doesn’t stack up in this category, feel free to add your own vegetables to it! An easy way to do so is a side salad.