The facts on frozen dinners

How
can you tell which frozen dinners are healthy and which are just “healthy
sounding?” With so many brands to choose from these days, most people can often
end up judging a frozen dinner solely by its packaging. 

Who
would believe that Weight Watchers Smart Ones Spicy Szechuan Style Vegetables
and Chicken could pack a whopping 900 milligrams of sodium in a measly
240-calorie meal? Unless you take the time to read the nutrition label, you can
never be certain that the frozen dinner you are choosing is as healthy as its
name implies.

So
what should you be looking for on the nutrition label? Three things: saturated
fat, sodium and vegetable content.

Saturated
fat is the type of fat that raises LDL (bad) cholesterol. Your intake of
combined saturated fat and trans fat should be limited to 10 per cent of your
total daily calories. 

On
a 2,000-calorie diet, this would mean that no more than 20 grams of saturated
fat plus trans fat be consumed daily; on a 1,400-calorie weight-loss plan, your
daily limit would be 15 grams.

If
you buy frozen dinners often enough you may notice that many brands can pack
quite a lot of sodium per tray – at least half a day’s worth or more! To put
this in perspective, consider that adults ages 19 to 50 need only 1,500
milligrams of sodium per day. Older adults, who may be more sensitive to the
blood-pressure-raising effect of sodium, need less – 1,200 to 1,300 milligrams.

One
of the most overlooked parts of a frozen dinner is vegetable content. Some brands
may provide more than others, but it is not often you will get more than one
vegetable serving (½ cup) in a frozen meal. 

A
daily value (DV) of 15 percent or more for vitamins A and C (listed on the
bottom of the nutrition facts box) will indicate whether the product supplies a
good source of antioxidant nutrients. Fibre content can also indicate more
vegetables or legumes like beans, peas, or lentils.

Your
nutritional check list for choosing a healthy frozen meal:

1.     No more than 4 grams of saturated fat per
serving

2.     Less than 700 milligrams of sodium per serving

3.     At least 4 grams of dietary fibre per
serving

Supplementing
a frozen meal may be indicated if you are an active person and your frozen
dinner is a little on the lighter side in terms of calories. A glass of milk or
soymilk to drink with the meal, and a fruit and a yogurt for dessert are two
ideal recommendations for increasing the nutritional value of your meal. 

Also,
if you notice that your frozen meal choice doesn’t measure up in terms of
vegetable content and fibre, just add your own. Not only will this help you
boost your fibre and vitamin and mineral intake, it will also help fill you
up. 

Finally,
keep in mind that if you are going to eat a frozen meal for dinner, keep your
other meals and food choices low in sodium that day by avoiding other processed
foods and restaurant meals.