SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Most people don't select frozen meals because they are delicious, or necessarily good for you. They are popular because they are cheap and easy. Nutritionists say it doesn’t take much to make them a “real” meal.
Frozen meals, once called TV Dinners, now comprise a large part of the frozen food department at any grocery store. They come under many brands names and include exotic entrees, to home cooked cuisine. They are popular in the office and at home.
Christie Peas, of Salt Lake City, eats them, but says they can be less than satisfying. "Home cooked meals are way better, but when you are in a hurry, you just grab the others."
Dietician, Kary Woodruff, from Intermountain Healthcare's TOSH Sports Medicine Clinic, says they can taste a little more like homemade. She says first check fat and sodium, and try to avoid those undesirables, then, start adding things. "By increasing the fruit and vegetables, and or whole grain additives, that you add in your kitchen, you can make them much more healthy."
She says take a close look at your frozen meal in a box. Imagine it on a plate. It should be half fruits and vegetables, one quarter lean meat, and a quarter whole grains. So, what's missing?
Here are some ideas to liven things up, and balance them out. Fettuccini Alfredo: add tomatoes, fresh garlic and basil. Woodruff says keep chopped, canned tomatoes in your pantry, they are full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, and they are easy to use.
If your boxed dinner has a Polynesian flare, add a little shredded coconut, it is full of good fats known to increase your good cholesterol levels.
Lean Cuisine Salmon and Basil can become a yummy wrap with a little spinach, full of magnesium, white beans, high in fiber, protein and potassium, and served in whole wheat tortilla.
Fresh bell pepper added to a frozen stir fry, along with some toasted sesame seeds, adds new life, fiber, and vitamins C and A to oriental dinners.
Woodruff says those fresh fruits and veggies make the food more filling, and satisfying. "By doing that you are going to decrease the potential for you overeating later or going back to the kitchen."
She says eating shouldn’t be just about the nutritional facts on the label. It’s also about enjoyment. Woodruff says not satisfying the need for flavor and nutrients can lead to feeling more hungry, faster, even if filling the hole in your stomach has left a new spot in the freezer.