Let's face it: frozen meals are handy. And on hectic days, having a meal in minutes can be a lifesaver. Even if you're making an effort to cook more, stocking your freezer with a few emergency meals can save you from ordering delivery or hitting the drive-thru, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. All of these meals keep sodium, calories, saturated fat and carbohydrates in check, which are important nutrients for people who have diabetes. These options are healthy choices for anyone who needs an easy meal to grab straight from the freezer in a pinch.
Here are our favorite healthy options to stock up on plus what to look for at the store.
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Healthy Choice Power Bowls Cuban-Inspired Pork Bowl
CAL 340, FAT 8 g (2.5 g sat. fat), SODIUM 600 mg, CARB 46 g (7 g fiber), PROTEIN 20 g
Smart Ones SmartMade Roasted Vegetables & Garlic-Herb Quinoa Bowl
CAL 360, FAT 11 g (4 g sat. fat), SODIUM 580 mg, CARB 49 g (11 g fiber), PROTEIN 16 g
EatingWell Chicken & Wild Rice Stroganoff
CAL 280, FAT 9 g (3 g sat. fat), SODIUM 590 mg, CARB 29 g (5 g fiber), PROTEIN 21 g
Frontera Tinga Taco Bowl
CAL 260, FAT 5 g (1 g sat. fat), SODIUM 590 mg, CARB 33 g (6 g fiber), PROTEIN 19 g
Lean Cuisine Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes
CAL 240, FAT 7 g (3.5 g sat. fat), SODIUM 540 mg, CARB 25 g (3 g fiber), PROTEIN 20 g
In general, look for products that are under 400 calories, 5 g saturated fat, 600 mg sodium, and 50 g carbohydrate per frozen meal.
Package descriptors such as "lean," "fit," or "smart" may give dishes a health halo they don't deserve. Look beyond the marketing lingo and review the Nutrition Facts label on each box. Nutrient amounts such as sodium and carbohydrate may vary widely within a product line.
Many frozen meals are swimming in sodium—some topping 1,000 milligrams. That can be bad news for blood pressure. Opt for frozen meals with 600 mg sodium or less, which is about a fourth of the daily limit of 2,300 mg.
Protein and fiber make meals more filling. Aim for at least 15 grams of protein for meals containing meat; at least 10 g for vegetarian meals. Choose dishes with at least 3 g fiber—look for meals that contain whole grains, beans, and vegetables, which are all good sources of fiber.
In general, avoid frozen dinners containing fried or breaded meats, lots of cheese, or rich sauces. These ingredients add calories and saturated fat, but provide few nutrients.
A dish with just 180 calories may seem like a win for your waistline. But, you'll likely feel hungry later on. You may need to add a serving of brown rice, a side salad, and/or fruit to complete your meal.