Frozen Meals: Good or Bad?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A mixture of assorted frozen vegetables in pan ready for cooking on brown wooden table. Top view

By: Sheridan Jonas, Contributing Blogger

When you’re in a time crunch, it’s easy to turn to packaged frozen meals. However, mixed messages on the healthiness of frozen meals can be confusing. Are they healthy or filled with junk?

The Good

  • Quick and portable: Time can be a major obstacle to preparing healthy meals. Instead of turning to fast food or take-out, some frozen meals can be a healthy alternative that are ready in minutes. Look for options that contain plenty of veggies and lean protein.
  • Variety: Frozen meals are available in a wide variety of cuisines and flavors, making it hard to get bored from eating the same thing. Additionally, many brands are trying to boost the healthiness of their meals by offering low-calorie and heart healthy options. Some brands are also offering organic meals.
  • Portion sizes: One of the best qualities of frozen meals is that they are pre-portioned. This means no measuring or stressing over serving sizes. Just remember to look at the food label, which will provide a clear picture of the nutrients of the meal.

 

The Not-So-Good

  • High sodium content: Many frozen meals are high in sodium. Fortunately, many brands are offering lower-sodium options. Look for the “low-sodium” or “reduced-sodium” labels on the packaging, and choose frozen foods with less than 600 mg per serving1. Remember, sodium recommendations suggest eating less than 2,300 mg per day.
  • Preservatives: In order to preserve freshness, frozen meals may contain preservatives in order to extend shelf-life, preserve quality, and minimize microbial growth. Some companies contain more than others, so compare companies to see which best works for you.
  • Expensive: A frozen meal can range from $1- $6. Organic brands tend to be more expensive, but you can still find some low-sodium and calorie options at lower price points.

 

The Bottom Line

Frozen meals can be healthy, quick, and convenient option (although nothing can compete with good old healthy home cooking!). You can now find a variety of frozen meals that are lower in calories and sodium and cost less than fast food or take-out meals. A good rule of thumb when selecting frozen meals is to look for ones with less than 500 calories and 600 mg of sodium.

References:

  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/your-sodium-controlled-diet

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