I Am Boosting the Economy One Frozen Dinner At A Time

While trying to bend with a learning curve that comes with graduate school, I am discovering what it means to forsake oneself for something bigger. Although my nutrition knowledge pool may be on the rise, my diet has gone to the gutter. Amid hunting for my normal foods, learning to run errands by subway, bike or on foot and trying to tackle the mountain of homework that calls my name each and every night, my dietary world feels to be in shambles at the moment. Oh, and let’s not forget my new Game of Thrones addiction. Say what you will about literary adaptations, but that show makes True Blood look like a tacky bargain bin romance novel meant for those without taste. Game of Thrones makes me want to put on a forty pound dress, learn how to ride a horse, shoot a bow and arrow and eat a turkey leg…simultaneously. Word to the wise – get HBO. If profanity, nudity or gore offends you – don’t get HBO.Long ago I found my freezer can be my greatest ally in the kitchen. Gone are my days of lounging, cooking, and baking. I am still batch cooking, just on a smaller scale. Thanks to my time and space constraints, my traditional food choices have been slightly compromised for the sake of my own sanity. Lucky for you, my total anguish and partial melt down has paved the way for your body’s betterment. Rest assured, I receive no monetary compensation for this blog so the products spotlighted here are purely of my own opinion. There is no exchange of money for product endorsement. Just ask my depleted bank account.

Like so many people around our great nation, I am pressed for time. My coursework is demanding, homework is unrelenting and I live two blocks from Fenway Ballpark so you better believe I am getting used to living with noise. Perhaps my greatest Boston rival to date has been eating on a budget. Holy bagel sandwiches! Food is expensive out east. My conservative mid-west food spending days are over.  When my plane flew over the Pennsylvania border, there was no turning back. My new home city is awesome but high-priced.

Frozen Dinners – often times these words next to one another makes the health conscious cringe. Understandable. For MANY years frozen entrees meant three things: high sodium, high fat and no vegetables. Over the last decade however, the food industry has made some pretty substantial improvements in these pre-made meals. Still, at times walking through the freezer section can feel like a bad movie preview you can’t look away from because your intelligent inner self just wants to see if it can get any worse. Well that and those twenty milk duds you just ate make you think the lead actor looks like your gym teacher minus the unisex polyester gym shorts.

Enough schticking. There are two important things to remember when opening that freezer door:

  1. Not all frozen meals are created equal.
  2. Just because the word ‘healthy’ is on the cover doesn’t necessarily make it your waist or heart’s friend.

Below are three more favorable choices I find to be both nutritious and delicious. Because, let’s be honest, no matter how nutrient packed a meal is, if it tastes like crap from a dumpster that been rotting in the sun for four days, I sure as heck ain’t eating it.

PRODUCT #1
Amy’s Light in Sodium Vegetable Lasagna 

Yes, it’s a vegetable lasagna. Get over it. With stacks of organic lasagna noodles layered with tomato sauce, roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese, this one is unapologetically delicious. One serving has 290 calories and 8 grams of fat. The real thing about Amy’s Vegetable Lasagna that gets my heart pumping (in a good way) is its sodium content. With 340mg per nine-ounce piece, Amy’s makes Stouffer’s like a bottle of soy sauce. Most traditional frozen lasagna pieces run around seven ounces, pack 350 calories, 12 grams of fat and carry between 600 to 800 mg of sodium. You’re body and taste buds will thank you.

PRODUCT #2
Kashi Mushroom Trio and Spinach Pizza

With a whole grain and flax crust topped with a tomato Parmesan sauce, baby Portobello, champignon and shiitake mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella and provolone cheeses you really can’t go wrong. One serving (1/3 the pizza) has 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. The sodium content on this one isn’t a bragging point, however, it does bring a sizable amount of dietary fiber (4 grams) and protein (2 ounces). Enjoy it for dinner and heat up the leftovers for lunch the next day. Yum, yum!

PRODUCT #3
Amy’s Light & Lean Bean & Cheese Burrito

It’s like a fiesta in your mouth. This burrito has a whole-wheat tortilla filled with pinto beans, Cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, brown rice and a tab of chili sauce. One serving contains 280 calories and 5 grams of fat, 8 grams of fiber and nearly 2 ounces of protein. Does the word burrito make you flatulent simply reading it? Well, take your Beno, drink some water and put the dog outside. No but really, for some, beans require practice. With practice will come tolerance. It may not be pleasantville, USA the first time around but it does get better with time.

Note: If you can’t find the Light & Lean version, the traditional bean and cheese burrito is just as good and honestly, the nutrition profile is not greatly different.

One final frozen dinner tip. Add vegetables. Toss up a side salad. Roast or steam vegetables. The possibilities are endless. The frozen dinners can be on the smaller end and rightfully so for the sake of calorie, fat and sodium control. The trick to making sure they are both filling and nutrient dense is to add some color either directly into the dish or on the side.

Happy Heating!

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