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Picking a healthy frozen dinner

Feb 19th 2014 at 11:11 PM

Stress, longer working hours and tight schedules have made frozen dinners more popular than ever before. And when it comes to portion control they're hard to beat. But how healthy are they?

According to nutrionist Leslie Beck, you can find some healthy frozen food choices for dinner, although some are definitely much healthier than others.

So what do you look for? Here are some of Beck's suggestions:

"I look for the total fat, no more than 30 per cent of the calories should be coming from fat," she said. Beck likes the saturated fat to be low as well. She recommends no more than 10 per cent of calories.

"This is where some of the dinners don't do so well," Beck explains. "Some have half your day's worth of sodium intake, 1600 miligrams at least in one dinner." She looks for no more than 200 mg of sodium for every 100 calories. For example, a light or lean dinner that gives you 300 calories, the cutoff would be 600 mg of sodium.

"A nice colourful picture on the box of lots of vegetables doesn't guarantee that's what you're going to get inside. Some of the dinners we looked at have no more than a teaspoon to a tablespoon worth of vegetables." Beck said a serving is really half a cup of vegetables.

The average low-fat, healthy-lifestyle type frozen dinner has about 250-350 calories. They're great for people who are trying to watch their waistline, Beck said. And they're definitely a better solution than hitting a bag of chips when you get home. Stock a few in your fridge as backup for those times when you don't get a chance to do your grocery shopping.

For active people, there are frozen dinners that measure in at 400 calories or more. An even better alternative is adding some vegetables to your frozen dinner. For people that aren't as concerned about lean meals, add a fruit serving and a serving of milk or some yogurt to fill you up so you aren't looking for snacks later on.

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