Hy-Vee Dietitian: Frozen Foods

Frozen entrees have been transformed. Created by chefs in state-of-the-art test kitchens, you'll find a variety of entrees in the freezer section that look nothing like the frozen meals of the past. And these meals are consistent with what My Plate suggests: half the entrée with veggies and/or fruit, along with lean protein and whole grains. Add a low fat dairy serving and a serving of fresh fruit, and you have a delicious, complete meal.

The convenience from a frozen entree does not sacrifice nutrition. According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there is virtually no nutritional difference between fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits. Those frozen vegetables many times go from the farm to freezer within 24 hours, preserving the nutrition content in those veggies. Also consider that many single-serve frozen entrees have fewer calories and less sodium and saturated fat than a typical meal selected by a consumer.

Another advantage to a frozen entree is the convenience. There is no need to wash, peel or cut, making them truly a timesaver and solution for busy consumers pressed for time, needing to put a healthy meal on the table in minutes. And it's a great option for those with limited cooking abilities or those cooking for one. Jazz up that meal with some fine china, silverware and goblets and you have an elegant meal!
Consider these advantages of using frozen meals as part of your daily diet:

• Consume fewer calories – a typical meal when self-selected is around 700 calories. A Healthy Choice frozen entrée averages 280-290 calories and a Banquet frozen entrée average is around 300 calories.
• Control portion sizes. Portion control is key for weight management. A single-serve entree helps identify correct portion sizes.
• Improve your waistline. Controlled research studies have found people who ate single-serve frozen meals were better able to maintain reduced calorie diets, resulting in greater and more sustained weight loss.

Use these guidelines when choosing a frozen entrée (per serving):

Calories: 450 calories or less
Sodium: 600 mg or less
Saturated fat: Not more than 10% of total calories
Total fat: Not more than 30% of total calories
Fiber: Include a variety of whole grains, vegetables and fruits to increase the fiber content of the meal

Note: NuVal Scores of frozen meals vary. Choose the higher NuVal scores to obtain the highest nutrient density for the calories.

Preparation Guidelines:

Read the manufacturers' directions carefully when reheating frozen meals to ensure thorough cooking of all portions of the entrée. Microwave wattages vary considerably. Carefully remove the plastic covering after reheating to avoid being burned by the steam. Stir the entrée or dishes to distribute the heat, and let these cool slightly prior to consuming.

Making small changes one at a time can make a big difference in eating healthy and improve overall health. Frozen meals are a great value at your neighborhood Hy-Vee as we celebrate Frozen Foods month! On your next visit to the grocery store, remember to visit the freezer section and consider adding frozen entrees to your cart.
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