Monday, October 25, 2010

Frozen meals' nutritional report card

I have to tell you that I am woefully disappointed in the nutritional content of most frozen meals.  I am discovering more and more that “lean” does not necessarily equal “nutritional”.  Most meals can boast only mentionable percentages of one or two key vitamins.  That said, here are some important things to keep in mind:

  1. Take a multivitamin.  I don’t know that I need to say anything additional about this.  You know it’s a good idea.
  2. Consider thoughtfully how you will supplement your frozen meal.  Especially for those of us who consume our frozen meals for lunch at work, it is fairly unrealistic to think that we won’t need to eat anything else the remaining hours we work.  While the frozen meal may be good for giving us some calories, protein, and carbs, but may not suffice when it comes to nutrition, why not consider a piece of fruit?  What about some yogurt (again, preferably with fruit)?  Or my favorite from the past few days – some celery with peanut butter?  Yum, yum!  In addition to well-planned supplements providing you with additional needed nutrition, they might also prevent a 3 p.m. trip to the vending machine.
  3. You really should opt for the frozen meals that boast healthfulness.  I cannot even imagine the contents of those that do not claim at least “lean” or “healthy” and you likely won’t find me blogging about them.  Of course, these are marketing claims only; I will try to cut through the fat and call them like the contents read here on the blog.
  4. Consider your breakfast.  I know it doesn’t really have anything to do with this blog, but please eat breakfast.  You’ve been told by a million sources just how important it is.  In the past year or so I picked up a couple tidbits about breakfast that have stuck with me.  Unfortunately I don’t recollect the source of these tidbits, so take them with a grain of salt and/or look them up if you want to:  one tidbit was that sumo wrestlers do not eat breakfast because this helps them pour on the pounds later in the day.  The other was that if you ate a breakfast that contained *eggs*, you’d likely consume about 300 calories less over the course of the day than if you didn’t.  By consuming early in the day, you avoid some later-day mistakes! 

Have I mentioned fruit?

Yes, I believe I mentioned it in my last entry.  Fruit, I believe, is the nutritional saving grace of frozen meals.  Today's meal, the Healthy Choice Pineapple Chicken, contains 50% of the U.S. RDA of Vitamin A and 25% of Vitamin C.  I attribute it primarily to the pineapple, but it could also be the yummy addition of carrots and red peppers.  Additionally, this is a brown rice meal – kudos to the whole grain power of brown rice!  And there are only 190 mg of sodium, which seems amazingly low compared to what I’ve noted in other meals (560 mg in my most recent entry). 

Where this meal stumbles is in the chicken.  The chicken is defined in the ingredient list as “fried tempura fritter chicken breast chunks.”  Ew.  I’m just not sure that any kind of frozen and reheated tempura could ever be good, at least not when cooked in a microwave when it is already mixed with cooked vegetables, rice, and sauce.  Not a fan.  A few bites of it were tough and difficult to chew.  I believe there are better textured, better tasting meals of a similar recipe available and I intend to uncover them in the coming weeks.

Calories:  380
Fat:  7 g / 0 g trans fat
Sodium:  190 mg
Notable good nutritional content:  50% Vitamin A / 25% Vitamin C
Notes on cooking:  3 – 3 ½ minutes, single shot
Notes on packaging:  black tray, recyclable

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