To eat or not to eat?
Frozen food has come a long way since the 1950s. Thankfully, healthy frozen food and meals are finding more grocery store freezer space these days.
Most of us don’t have time to make dinner every night, but rest assured—popping a frozen entree in the oven isn’t as bad for you as you may think. Of course it’s important to read the ingredients listed on the label.
Heart healthy oils
When choosing a frozen meal make sure you look for healthy fats and oils. Olive oil and canola oil are good choices that can help lower your risk of heart disease, according to the Dietitians of Canada. Safflower, sunflower, soybean, and corn oils are also good as they help lower your blood cholesterol.
Make sure your frozen entree contains no hydrogenated oils, a source of trans fats that raise blood cholesterol levels. These oils are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. Hydrogenation can also convert unsaturated fats—the healthy ones—into saturated fats, the unhealthy ones.
Beware of trans fats
You’ll want to pick frozen meals that contain 0 grams of trans fats, according to Crystal Dow, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant in Vancouver, BC. Dow recommends looking for the lowest amount of saturated fats, ideally meals containing no more than 2 grams.
Dow says that most of us are well aware that trans fats should be avoided, but we’re still learning about saturated fats. Animal fats should also be avoided.
“Generally manufacturers have done a good job of reducing trans fats, but then they limit the hydrogenated oils and increase the saturated fat,” says Dow.
When it comes to frozen fare, Dow says it’s fine if you are crunched for time, but it’s not something she recommends on a regular basis. For those times you are in a pinch, though, there are plenty of healthy frozen foods available.
Super supper options
Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Tamale is made with roasted poblano peppers, zucchini, and organic corn; contains no trans fats, and only half a gram of saturated fat. Amy’s Veggie Loaf Whole Meal and Black Bean Enchilada Whole Meal are also options made with healthy fats.
Helen’s Kitchen can also help you put a quick and healthy meal on the dinner table. The Hearty Bean Chili with Vegetables and Tofu Steaks contains no saturated or trans fats. Helen’s Kitchen also makes a Rotelli Primavera with only 1 gram of saturated fat, and an Indian Curry with Tofu Steaks over Rice with half a gram of saturated fat. Both dishes contain no trans fats.
For guilt-free ethnic cuisine, Indian Life is also a healthy choice. The Mattar Paneer with Brown Rice and Naan meal, a delectable mix of fresh peas and Indian-style cheese lightly saute in a creamy sauce, has 0 trans fats and only 1 gram of saturated fat. The same can be said for the Bombay Garbanzo Bean Curry Entr?ee
Tasty frozen meals from Ethnic Gourmet are another option. The Chicken Pad Thai, Chicken Korma, and Pad Thai with Tofu are all made with 2 grams or less of saturated fats and contain no trans fats.
So enjoy your frozen meal, but make sure you check the ingredients list first. No one says you can’t put on your fancy apron, even if it’s just to open the oven door. Bon appétit!
For more info on frozen dinners, check out alive’s "Frozen Assets" article.