Finding a way to make a healthy and delicious meal can feel overwhelming at the end of a long workday. Even coming up with an idea for a meal to make can be a lot. And yet… ya gotta eat. That’s where frozen meals—yes, we said frozen meals—come to the rescue. They’ve come a long way from their not-so-healthy (and not-so-appetizing) past, with a wide range of tasty, nutritious, and budget-friendly options. Here are ways to find the best ones.
The Evolution of Frozen Meals
Frozen meals have evolved significantly over the years. What was once primarily a realm of heavily processed, sodium-laden options has now transformed into a market filled with wholesome and balanced choices. Manufacturers have made efforts to meet the increasing demand for healthier frozen meals. They offer a variety of options suitable for different dietary needs, making it easier for consumers to find meals that align with their health goals.
1. Check the ingredients
When looking for healthy frozen meals, start by checking the ingredient list. Opt for meals with recognizable, whole-food ingredients, and try to avoid those with a long list of additives, preservatives, and artificial flavorings.
2. Watch the sodium
Excess sodium can be a concern in frozen meals. Choose options with lower sodium content or, if available, frozen meals specifically labeled as “low-sodium” or “no added salt.”
3. Consider portion sizes
Pay attention to portion sizes to ensure you’re getting an appropriate amount of calories for your needs. Smaller portion sizes can be especially helpful if you’re watching your calorie intake.
4. Look for lean protein sources
Choose meals that include lean sources of protein, such as chicken, turkey, or beans. This will help you meet your daily protein requirements without excessive saturated fat.
5. Veggies and whole grains
A well-balanced meal should contain plenty of vegetables and whole grains. Look for options with a variety of colorful vegetables and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta.
6. Check for added sugars
Be aware of added sugars in sauces and other meal components. Opt for options with little or no added sugars to maintain a balanced diet.
7. Customization and supplementation
Dare to upgrade your frozen meal by adding extra vegetables, a side salad, or a piece of fruit to make it even more nutritious (and less frozen). Try using spices or herbs to enhance the flavor without relying on excessive salt.
Benefits of healthy frozen meals
1. Time-saving convenience
Frozen meals are ready in a matter of minutes, making them perfect for busy days when cooking from scratch just isn’t a thing you can do.
2. Portion control
The pre-portioned sizes of frozen meals can help you control portion sizes and calories, which is key for meeting weight management goals, if that’s something you’re doing.
3. Reduced food waste
With frozen meals, there’s less food waste since the ingredients are already portioned and preserved. You can use only what you need and save the rest for another meal.
4. Variety and choice
The wide range of frozen meal options ensures that you won’t get bored with your meals. You can explore different cuisines, flavors, and dietary preferences.
5. Nutritional information
Most frozen meals provide clear nutritional information on their packaging, making it easy to track your calorie intake and maintain a balanced diet.
Affordable Frozen Meals
1. Buy in bulk
Purchasing frozen meals in bulk can often lead to cost savings. Look for sales and discounts at your local grocery store, and consider warehouse clubs if you have access to them.
2. Store brands
Store-brand frozen meals are typically more affordable than their name-brand counterparts. Many of them are of equal quality and nutrition.
3. Plan your purchases
Plan your frozen meal purchases according to sales and promotions. Stock up on your favorite options when they are on sale to save money in the long run.
4. Cook in batches
Preparing your own meals in large batches and freezing them can also be a cost-effective way to enjoy the convenience of frozen meals while controlling your ingredients.
The bottom line: healthy and affordable frozen meals
Frozen meals are convenient, save time, and, when chosen wisely, can be a nutritious option. By checking ingredient lists, focusing on portion control, and considering nutritional content, you can make sure your frozen meals are good for your overall health and well-being.