A frozen dinner may not be what comes to mind when you think about trying to eat healthily. For people who live alone or are single, it might be difficult to cook healthy because small portions can be difficult. If you cook large portions, some of the leftovers might spoil, or you may feel compelled to eat them just because they are there. With microwave meals, there usually are no leftovers. You might feel guilty about purchasing small pre-packaged meals that produce a lot of waste from the packaging. Let’s face the facts, most of us do not have the energy or time to make a home-cooked meal every night.
Microwave meals are a big business. Frozen dinners today come in many shapes and sizes, and they are not the old TV dinners I remember as a child. The old dinner required your mother to preheat the oven and place an aluminum-clad brick into it. Today’s microwave meals only owe their predecessor an acknowledgment of history because they are vastly different and are much healthier if you choose the right meal.
PROs for Microwave Meals:
- Portion control: The new microwave meals limit portion size. These proportioned meals are self-limiting. You can stop after one without guilt that it might go to waste.
- Choices: The meals are diverse, and it is less likely that a diner today will become bored of the choices.
- Nutrition: The meals of today are vastly better than their predecessors. These are vitamin and mineral-rich, and most meals are planned by a registered dietician to ensure they have a macronutrient balance and better meet the RDA guidelines.
- Convenience: Each meal takes minutes to make, so you can quickly make one at work or home, between meetings, or while on the way out the door.
- Affordable: Microwave meals are much more affordable than eating out. Each costs between $1.75 to $5. Sure, it might be cheaper to cook meals the old fashion way, but this might not be as much saving as you think when you add in wasted food and spoiled ingredients.
- Sodium: Microwave and prepackaged meals tend to be higher in sodium. I like to stick to 700 mg or less per meal.
- Calories: For weight loss, you need to limit calories. Some microwave meals are deceptively high in calories and fat.
- Fat: Microwave meals are often high in fat. Limit your intake to 30% of the calories from fat with 2-3 grams from saturated fat.
- Protein: Microwave meals are often low in protein. You need to make sure the meal has at least 12-20 grams of protein;
- Fiber: Fiber is often low in prepackaged meals. Ensure you get at least 4-6 grams of fiber per meal.
Step one in picking meals is to visit your local grocer and the freezer aisle. Read the nutrition label closely before buying. Scrutinize the label carefully, but especially check the sodium levels and grams of saturated fat.
- Adkin’s Meals
- Digiorno’s Thin and Crispy Pizzas
- Healthy Choice
- Lean Cuisine
- Luvo meals
- Stouffer’s Fit Meals
- Weight Watcher’s Smart Ones
The bottom line: Remember, the key to weight loss is exercise and portion control. Microwave meals, when chosen wisely, fit into this mantra.