Frozen meals vs. restaurant meals


This week I received the following question from http://foodpicker.org ……

Since I live alone, I rarely cook (if ever).  I have type 2 diabetes and I’m wondering which is better… eating frozen dinners or restaurant food?  Thank you for your help.

It’s not uncommon at all these days for people to eat out or to pick up a  frozen meal. We’re always on the go, we’re busy with school or work, or maybe we live alone. Unfortunately, not being nutrition-conscious when choosing your meals can catch up with you, especially with type 2 diabetes.  Then, if you do keep your diabetes in mind when eating out or grabbing a frozen meal, you might be noticing that some of the nutrition facts are scary.

Why is this? In regards to frozen meals, many contain a LOT of sodium, and sometimes  unhealthy fats (trans fat), depending on what you choose. Sodium and trans fats increases the shelf-life of the product and therefore is cost-saving to the manufacturer, but it isn’t so great for you.  You should always check the nutrition label of a frozen meal-not to forget its carbohydrate content. One advantage over frozen meals is that they tend to be cheaper than going to a restaurant. Here are the top 12 healthy frozen meals as researched by WebMD:

  Calories Total Fat (g) Sat. Fat (g) Sodium (mg) Fiber (g) Prot.(g)
Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake 340 9 1 380 8 9
Healthy Choice Cajun Style Chicken and Shrimp 260 4 1 570 3 15
Lean Cuisine Sundried Tomato Pesto Chicken 290 9 2 570 4 18
Healthy Choice Pumpkin Squash Ravioli 300 6 2.5 600 6 9
Kashi Black Bean Mango 340 8 1 430 7 8
Lean Cuisine Beef Chow Fun 320 5 1.5 520 3 15
Smart Ones Thai Style Chicken Rice Noodles 260 4 .5 570 2 14
Healthy Choice Sweet Asian Potstickers 380 4.5 1 600 6 8
Lean Cuisine Glazed Chicken 220 3.5 1 500 1 21
Kashi Ranchero Beans 340 7 1 570 11 12
Smart Ones Cranberry Turkey Medallions 350 4.5 1 560 4 18
Healthy Choice Café Steamer 5 Spice Beef & Vegetable 290 4.5 1.5 560 4 14

These all have fiber and are lower in fat and sodium, however make sure to check the total carbohydrate content on these meals. If they go over 45 grams, I’d recommend looking for something else.

What about restaurant meals? Well, this really depends on where you go. Many restaurant chains and fast food joints also have a lot of sodium and fat in their servings, sometimes more than you would think.   Many restaurants will provide their nutrition info on their websites, or should (the key word is “should”) have nutritional information available if you request it there.  For those who eat out a lot and are not exactly sure how to go about choosing healthy options at restaurants in their area, this is a good site to check out: http://www.healthydiningfinder.com/ .

So which is better in the end, shopping in the frozen food aisle or hitting up a restaurant? I would say its all about what you choose in each category. Be aware of what you are being served, and what’s in it. Ask for nutritional information,  and read labels to check those carbohydrates and calories.

I can understand that cooking for one can be difficult, but you may still want to give it a shot. When you cook yourself, YOU have control of the ingredients, salt, fat, sugar, you name it.  Try making the amount that a recipe calls for and refrigerate/freeze the  leftovers. It’s very cost-effective and is typically a lot healthier than what you might find in the frozen aisle, or when you go out. I can vouch for this myself: its cheap, left-overs don’t take long to reheat, and it has less preservatives than what I might get otherwise.

How far we have come since those days!

Till’ next time!

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