Frozen foods can easily be incorporated into all meals for a healthy lifestyle.
Laurie Beebe, a registered dietitian and weight loss coach, says if you have pounds to lose, head to the freezer section at your local grocery store. “It’s a proven weight loss technique,” she says. (It’s the business plan of lots of weight loss programs even–NutriSystem, for instance.) “With frozen dinners you don’t have to eat the same exact food every day (like chicken and rice) but you can eat a 350 – 400 calorie meal every day and vary the contents. This works because it takes away choices, which takes away decision making–this is the part of dieting many people find to be difficult … thinking too much about what they will have, so they just throw up their hands and eat whatever they want. Bringing your frozen diet meal to work every day takes that responsibility away from you and frees up your mind for other tasks.” Plus, she adds, “they’re good because they are already measured and portioned, so less work for you. Just heat and eat!”
Here’s how to pick the best frozen meals:
1. Calories. Frozen meals should be one third of your daily calories. This means if your meal plan is 1200 calories then look for meals around 400 calories.
2. Look for frozen meals with vegetables. Some frozen meals only contain a protein and a starch–chicken and rice, shrimp and pasta, turkey and stuffing, etc.–and have very little vegetable content
3. Check the sodium content. If you are watching your sodium intake for health reasons, such as high blood pressure, check the sodium content of the meals. You want to make sure that the sodium in it is no more than 30 percent of the daily recommendation of 2300 mg. therefore, less than 700mg. is ideal.
4. Fiber. The meal should have at least three grams of fiber to help you feel full, and look for ones with about 10 grams of protein. And now that there are so many tasty whole grain options, look for meals made with things like brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
5. Ingredient List. The first ingredient should be real food, whether it’s chicken or pasta or vegetables. It shouldn’t start out with stabilizers and fillers.
6. Check the fat content. Stick to entrees with less than 15g of total fat, and no more than 5g saturated fat. And if you happen to choose one that has more fat, calories, or sodium, it’s not a total disaster – just make sure you balance out the rest of your day with lots of low fat, low sodium choices.
Matt Lauer: “When it comes to fruits and vegetables, is fresh always better?”
Joy Bauer, RD: “Not necessarily. You may actually get more nutrients from frozen fruits and vegetables. One reason for this it that the ‘fresh’ produce you just bought at your corner grocer may be a lot older than you think. Unless you live on a farm or shop at a greenmarket, these items generally spend days being sorted, packaged and then shipped (often cross country) after being harvested. During that long process, fluctuations in light and temperature rob fruits and vegetables of important nutrients such as vitamin C and folate. Also consider how long they sit in your fridge! Canned and frozen produce sometimes retain more nutrients because it’s been whisked off the fields to a processing plant in a fraction of the time it takes for the fresh stuff to make it to your dinner table.”
· Leslie Goldman and Leslie Bonci, Runner’s World
In the February 2007 Runner’s World article, “A Cold Case,” Bonci states, “Eating frozen foods, especially fruits and vegetables, makes sense for runners looking for the best nutrient bang for their buck… Produce is picked when ripe, then flash frozen, which preserves nutrients.” She continues, “In fact, some frozen fruits and vegetables may be better for you than their fresh counterparts, because in the five to eight days it takes for most produce to go from harvest to your table, nutrient levels begin to drop.”
Goldman adds, “What made TV dinners popular with 1950s housewives holds true for runners dashing from workouts to the kitchen today: Frozen foods save time. You can skip the week’s second trip to the store for fresh foods, and there’s no need to wash and chop vegetables, mix marinades, or wait 40 minutes for chicken to broil.”
· Timothy Grower, Men’s Health
Grower sings the praises of frozen foods all around in his October 2005, Men’s Health magazine article, “Frost Bites,” calling the freezer “the unsung and, too often, underused hero of any kitchen.” Not only does Grower point out that frozen fruits and vegetables are often tastier than their fresh counterparts, but they are often more nutritious, too!
· Janet A. Johnson, Montgomery Advertiser
In the article, “Fresh vs. Frozen,” appearing in the October 24 issue of the Montgomery Advertiser, Ms. Johnson states, “There is no difference in the nutritional value of fresh and frozen fruits or vegetables.” The article describes the many ways in which frozen fruits and vegetables can be used throughout the year as an alternative to their fresh counterparts.
· Irma S. Rombauer, Joy of Cooking
The 75th anniversary edition of the Joy of Cooking cookbook mentions, “Home chefs are urged to… save time if necessary by using frozen vegetables.” This statement incorporates two conclusive benefits of frozen food: quality and convenience.
· Adam Campbell, Men’s Health
Adam Campbell writes in the May issue of Men’s Health magazine, “Researchers at the University of Illinois recently found that frozen dinners may help speed rapid weight loss.”
· Janis Jibrin, R.D., Good Housekeeping Research Institute
Janis Jibrin states in her book The Supermarket Diet, “Frozen foods are surprisingly nutritious and you should not dismiss them.
· Jennifer Savenake, Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania, Australia
Jennifer Savenake of the Hobart Mercury states in the February 1, 2006, article, “Budget with price freeze,” “Frozen food is almost as good as fresh food and in some cases can be better.” Savenake also acknowledges that “frozen vegetables are just as nutritional as fresh, although not subject to the same seasonal price fluctuations.”
For more information contact:
Diana Young, RD, LD/N, CDE