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The Cardiologist's Wife - Healthy Frozen Meals? YES
Jun 01, 2018

Here’s a little secret: I sometimes eat frozen meals. Many of you won’t find that shocking but if you read my posts regularly, you know I am a big proponent of home cooking as the path to better health. I view much of the processed food available as unfit to eat if you want to avoid high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. But we all need a break sometimes and I am always on the lookout for quick but healthy options for lunch.

I often write about processed foods but do you know exactly what all that encompasses? Processed food is any product mass produced by combining raw food ingredients with an array of chemical preservatives, colorings and flavorings and cooking them to produce a marketable, edible product that can be easily heated and eaten by the consumer. Common processed foods that people eat every day include cereals, cheese, bacon, lunch meat, canned vegetables, snack foods like chips and cookies or frozen entrees. Not all processed foods are bad for you; canned or frozen fruits, vegetables and beans can be part of a healthy diet, especially if you buy those without added salt, sugar or food coloring.

So while I try to avoid eating as much processed food as possible and instead do my own cooking, I sometimes buy a frozen meal for a quick lunch. There are some decent frozen entrees on the market, you just have to know what to look for when shopping. Many companies now offer vegetarian, vegan, low-calorie or gluten free varieties and a host of international cuisines that are actually good tasting. Here are a few brands that offer healthier choices: Kashi, Amy’s, Evol, Luvo and Healthy Choice.

Stick with entrees that have lots of vegetables, whole grains like quinoa and lean protein. Skip the pasta/cream/cheese/gravy/fried food laden ones (sorry) and those with lots of ingredients that look like they belong in a chemistry set. Always read the nutrition label and look for entrees with no more than 3.5 grams of fat per 100 calories with no trans fats and little to no saturated fats. Watch the sodium content as processed foods are often loaded; aim for no more than 600 milligrams of total sodium. Look for meals with at least 4 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein. Most important, check the portion size so you aren’t fooled into eating more calories than you think you are. You want to stick with 300-500 calories per serving. If the portion size leaves you feeling a little hungry, add a small side salad with vinaigrette, a piece of fruit or a handful of carrot sticks.

Sometimes frozen meals can seem a bit pricy but when you consider the price of a restaurant meal, they are usually cheaper. To cut the cost, I always look for those which are on sale or look for coupons. As for frozen fruits and vegetables, buy those without any sauce or added sugar and season them yourself.

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