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Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine have been making healthier versions of "tv dinners" for many years. They have steamers, they have desserts, they have just about everything. A while back I was in my local Stop & Shop and realized they have something else—they have ALL NATURAL dinners. Normally I don't shop in the frozen food area except maybe to buy produce in the off season. I was walking by and I saw a 5/$10 sign and then of course on select varieties a 6/$10 with a "must by six" label. Intrigued, I went to the case and I was completely shocked to see these all natural frozen dinner choices. There are others available, these just happen to be the four that I decided to try.
Lean Cuisine offers a number of organically made, GMO free options.The Vermont White Cheddar mac and cheese is one of my absolute favorites. It has 14 grams of protein, no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. While it does contain a lot of sodium (nearly 700 g), it is less than 300 calories. It is comparable to my other favorite frozen mac and cheese made by Stouffers. That has always been my go-to comfort food (I always have a box in the freezer). That has over 300 calories and over 800g of sodium.
Stouffers does have their own set of healthy eating options for you, it is part of their Fit Kitchen series. They are called FitKitchen Bowls. I haven't tried them yet but they look amazing. Let's take for instance the Rotisserie Seasoned Turkey with 21 grams of protein and no artificial flavors. It comes with red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Just over 300 calories and 960 g of sodium. But it has 25 grams of protein. They have many varieties to choose from.
The downside to most frozen meals is that they do tend to have a lot of sodium, which helps to preserve and make foods more flavorable. Another downside, and what I found out recently when eating one of the above companies products for lunch, is that the photo doesn't always match the product inside the box. It was a chicken with mushrooms/peppers and spinach in a cream sauce over pasta and when I opened it there was so much spinach that I had to literally scrape half of it in the trash. I normally do not have issues with that company's products so I certainly will continue trying new meals, just not that one.
The upside to most frozen meals is that they are all easy to make, a good portion size, and really delicious. Healthy frozen food has come a long way, and these new all natural choices make it all the more healthy.
For those of you who don't feel you can eat something like this at work because you don't have the time and sit and wait for the microwave when you are crunched for time... I have a tip for you. This is something a friend of mine shared with me a few years ago when I came to work one day with a frozen meal and it was taking forever to cook... meanwhile there are four other teachers waiting to get their lunches heated. If you are like most, you put your frozen meal either in your work freezer or fridge, if available... it makes sense. But the tip I was given was to not put it in the cooler at all, and instead just keep it in your lunch bag. I started doing this and by the time lunchtime came around I wouldn't need to heat up my lunch for 5 minutes, I could pop it in for 2-3 and it would always be finished. It never thawed enough to ruin anything, and it definitely sped up the cooking time (and the grumbles from grumpy hungry colleagues).
A nice pairing with one of these meals, if you feel you need a little something more, could be a yogurt or a nice piece of fruit as a dessert. These have grains but you could also incorporate a couple whole grain crackers or lavash bread (wrap)... you could use it with the sauce.
Check your local supermarket for these healthy meal options, and keep an eye on your circular because they go on sale all the time.