Single Minded Meals: Wag a Frozen Finger in Their Faces

By Tracy Morris

Never mind the struggles we strong women face when trying to lose weight – just preparing a real meal, low fat or not, is a daily challenge. One of the biggest differences between my single-with-child life and the lives of many married friends is the time they have to create good, healthy meals for their families and themselves.

In fact, the difference is so irritating, it’s a topic I steer away from altogether. People with partners (and especially those with kids) can’t resist dispensing advice, “Well, why don’t you just…” or “Oh, it’s not that hard, it’s really very simple…” right before they launch into the myriad details of their planning, shopping, preparing, and cooking decent meals.
Yes. It’s not rocket science. And I do have a college degree. Plus, get this — I was once a card-carrying member of the American Home Economics Association, a weird factoid that gets loads of laughs at parties. (By the way, the organization has mercifully updated its name to the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences …) Let’s just say I know a lot about nutrition.
But does that mean I have the time to eat the right way every day?
When you toss in the mix a carnivorous, carb-craving young boy who liked all manner of vegetables until he got to the age when peer influence started to take over — no, we don’t experience optimal nutrition in my house daily. Would I be the Health Food Queen if I lived alone again, with only my own stomach to fill? Absolutely not. Again, it’s a matter of time.
Trust me. Those cooked-from-scratch, perfectly nutritionally sound concoctions from only fresh ingredients that we all know we should be eating take more time to produce than most of us have to spare.
Enter Frozen Meals
I won’t name names, but there’s a certain member of my extended family who has managed to survive primarily by way of a stuffed freezer. So I know it can be done.
But is it a good idea to eat frozen foods day in and day out?
Many frozen meals with “lean” on the package can be relatively well-balanced in terms of food types, but their sodium levels prompt most nutrition experts to warn against eating them daily.
“Some are still laden with saturated fats,” warns Lona Sandon, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, “so you’ve really got to do some label-reading.”
Great. More time in the grocery store, poring over frozen food boxes. Don’t worry about all the additives that you can’t pronounce. Sandon say a quick glance at the overall calories, sodium and fat contents should tell much of what you need to know before tossing the iced chunk in your cart.
She recommends:
  • No more than 600 calories per entrée
  • No more than 600 mg sodium
  • No more than 5-10 grams of fat
Frozen meals also have portion-size in their favor — but who among us feels satisfied after eating those slivers of meat and handful of whatever-on-the-side?
My own taste buds find that frozen entrees and meals start to resemble each other too closely after eating the first three or four. “That’s funny — my chicken cordon bleu tasted a lot like King Ranch casserole…”
Bring On the Veggies
Vegetables, though, are a different matter. There’s enough variation and, since they come in relatively unadorned form (obviously not counting the buttered and sauced-up varieties, which we know are full of fat and sodium, right?) you can have them plain, add them to dishes, or flavor them.
Still, isn’t fresh always better?
Registered Dietitian Veronica Juarez says, “If you hold yourself to ridiculously strict standards that are impossible to meet within your lifestyle, then chances are good you’ll wind up not getting the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet that are essential for good health.”
Here’s the deal — most of us were taught to create meals, especially dinner, around the centerpiece of a meat protein source. Wrong approach. The reality is we need more fruits and vegetables to get the nutrients necessary for both healing and maintaining a healthy body.
Lona Sandon calls them “natural disease fighters” and says we’re supposed to eat four (4) to five (5) cups of fruits and veggies every single day. At least she also adds that the form they come in — fresh, frozen, canned, or even 100 percent juice — isn’t as important as is the fact we’re downing them.
Kick the Cans
Like frozen entrees and meals, canned vegetables are notoriously high in sodium content (unless you buy the ones with “no salt added” on the label, and then, you might not enjoy the taste enough to eat the stuff.)
Additionally, Juarez says about canned veggies, unless you drink the water that they’re packed in, you’ll be missing out on a lot of the nutrition that’s inherently leeched out from the veg while in the can. One way around that — add canned vegetables to soup (homemade or “store-bought“) and dump the whole contents in the pot.
If your choice is processed veggies or none at all, go with frozen when possible.
Iced Strawberries, Anyone?
Here’s an interesting note: Veronica Juarez says that frozen vegetables can sometimes beat fresh in the race to superior nutrition.  It has to do with time from ground or tree to your table.


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