Convenience may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about frozen dinners, but a recent study suggests there’s more to it. On the other hand, whatever your reasons for buying a meal in a box, there are probably more nutritious choices.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Duke University decided to find out why processed foods are so popular with parents, considering they’re usually higher in calories, sugar, salt, and saturated fats than natural foods. While 57% of the participants said they were trying to save time, they had other reasons as well.
About half said their families liked frozen dinners, about one-third said they wanted their kids to be able to help prepare meals, and about one-quarter thought they were saving money. Researchers also discovered that many adults lacked confidence in their cooking abilities.
Fortunately, there are simple solutions that make whole foods as simple as a frozen pizza. Before you buy another TV dinner, read this.
Master Simple Cooking Skills
Microwave it. Your microwave can handle a lot more than popcorn. It cooks vegetables almost as well as steaming because it needs minimal water and time. Heating up leftovers is also a breeze.
Shop frozen foods. You can still visit the frozen aisle for ingredients like vegetables and fruit. In fact, frozen produce often has more vitamins than fresh items that have spent a long time in shipping.
Make one pot meals. Soup and casseroles can use up whatever you have on hand in your kitchen without trying to coordinate multiple procedures. Plus, you only have one pot to clean.
Eat more fish. Most experts recommend eating fish at least 2 to 3 times a week. That’s easy once you realize you can often grill it or bake it in 10 minutes or less.
Teach your kids. Encourage your children to develop healthy eating habits with age appropriate tasks. Even toddlers can shred lettuce or help set the table.
Save Time and Money on Healthy Meals
- Try beans and legumes. Beans, lentils, and peas are packed with protein, and amazingly versatile. They’re also a great bargain, especially if you purchase them in bulk.
- Buy generic. Compare the store brand unsweetened breakfast cereal with the pricier options. You may find that you and your family like it just as well.
Shop around. There can be a huge price difference on the same items at different markets. Plus, many whole foods have a short shelf life so you can get salad greens at half price if you’re using them the same day.
Stock up on sales. Do you love saffron and extra virgin olive oil? Buy expensive items when the prices are reduced. Just be sure you’ll be able to use them before they reach their expiration date.
Eat less meat. There are plenty of protein sources less expensive than steak. In addition to beans and legumes, consider dairy and soy products.
Cook in batches. One big time-saver is preparing multiple meals at once. Freeze the leftover lasagna or chili for future quick dinners or lunches.
Skip cooking. A balanced meal can be assembled rather than cooked. How about hummus with pita triangles and cut vegetables or a salad with sunflower seeds or thawed shrimp?
An occasional frozen dinner is fine, but making whole foods the mainstay of your diet will provide more balanced nutrition for you and your family. In fact, the more you eat natural foods, the more you’ll start preferring them to processed fare.