Healthy Microwave Meal: How to Choose?

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Microwave Meal

Figure 1:  Microwave Meal

A frozen dinner may not be what comes to mind when you think about trying to eat healthy. For people who live alone or are single, it might be difficult to cook healthy because small portions can be difficult to cook.  If you cook large portions, part of all 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 with the purchase of the small pre-packaged meals that produce a lot a 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 clearly not the old TV dinners I remember as a child.  The old dinner required your mother to preheat the oven and then place an aluminum clad brick into it.  Today’s microwave meals only owe their predecessor an acknowledgement of the history because they are vastly different and are much healthier if you choose the right meal.  

PROs for Microwave Meals:

  1. 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.
  2. Choices: The meals are diverse and it is less likely that a diner today will become bored of the choices.  
  3. Nutrition: The meals of today are vastly better than their predecessors.  These are vitamin and mineral rich and most of the meals are planned by a registered dietician to ensure they have a macronutrient balance and better meet the RDA guidelines.   
  4. 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.
  5. Affordable: The microwave meals are much more affordable than eating out.  Each costs between $1.75 to $5 each.  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.  

Tips:

  1. Sodium: Microwave and prepackaged meals tend to be higher in sodium.  I like to stick to 700 mg or less per meal.
  2. Calories: For weight loss, you need to limit calories.  Some microwave meals are deceptively high in calories and fat.  
  3. 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.
  4. Protein: Microwave meals are often low in protein.  You need to make sure the meal has at least 12-20 grams of protein;
  5.  Fiber: Fiber is often low in prepackaged meals.  Make sure 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.  

Recommended Brands:

  • Adkin’s Meals
  • Amy’s
  • Digiorno’s Thin and Crispy Pizzas
  • Healthy Choice
  • Lean Cuisine
  • Luvo meals
  • Kashi
  • Stouffer’s Fit Meals
  • Weight Watcher’s Smart Ones

Remember, the key to weight loss is exercise and portion control.  Microwave meals, when chosen wisely, fit into this mantra.  

 

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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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