One pass through the frozen section of your grocery store and you’re inundated with hundreds of microwave meals that claim to be healthy options to aid your weight loss efforts. The biggest upside of a microwave meal is the portion size, but the downside is the huge dose of sodium. With some careful shopping, you can make these quick cuisines a truly healthy choice.
A really easy way to make microwaveable meals healthier is to make them yourself. If you’re an avid home cook, make additional batches of easily microwaved foods like roasted veggies, pasta primavera, turkey meatloaf and chicken parmigiana. Portion them out into microwave-safe dishes and freeze them until you’re ready to eat. The key is to control what you add to the food when you make it. Limit fats and salt, and go big on veggies. Not a cook? No problem! There are still ways to make your meals healthier.
Many health food stores, farmer’s market-style stores or organic sections of the grocery store offer a variety of frozen meals that don’t have as much fat and sodium, and may even use whole grains and organic ingredients. Check the ingredient list when you’re buying the meals. Look for ingredients that you know, like whole wheat, cheese, veggies and meat, instead of chemical names that you can barely pronounce. Lots of brands even have delicious pizzas and tasty entrees that rival homemade favorites.
Since convenience is usually the name of the game, try assembling easy meals from microwaveable favorites. Grab a box of veggie patties and pair them with a whole grain bun after you microwave the fully cooked meal. Or chop some cherry tomatoes and throw them in a microwaveable bowl with some healthy veggie-filled ravioli. This way, you can choose lower fat, lower calorie, or lower sodium ingredients and control additives, getting the nutrition from the food instead of added salts thanks to thick sauces. Because you get food in those packages, this is a great money-saving way to make your microwave meals.
Get Your Veggies First
You may be excited about your meal, only to open the box to four tiny pieces of chicken and about 1/4 cup green beans. That sure doesn’t match your rumbling tummy! Pack a salad with your lunch and eat that first. Make a green salad with just veggies to fill you up with some fiber and vitamins, and you’re sure to feel much more satisfied with your lunch. Substitute a bag of tiny carrots or raw veggies, or even a piece of fruit to fill you up and save time in the morning.
Choose Meals Wisely
Coupons, tasty meals and quick fixes may lead you into the aisle with the frozen foods. Careful scrutinizing will help you grab the best option available. Choose a meal that has less than 800mg of sodium – the lower the better. Go for a meal that has around 300 to 400 calories, so it is substantial enough to keep you full. A number of those calories should come from protein, which should list 15 to 20 grams. Check to make sure the meal doesn’t surpass about 6g fat, and has around 5g fiber to keep you feeling full. Plan to grab an apple or a container of non-fat yogurt for dessert, and skip the meals with calorie wasters like cobbler or baked apples. They have added sugar, which means less food to fill your tummy. Above all, maintain moderation when it comes to microwave meals, to keep your sodium and preservatives in check.