The allure of the frozen food aisle can have a strong pull, with prepackaged meals that proclaim to be fast, easy and healthy. But many frozen foods contain hidden ingredients and calories that could be sabotaging your health. Fortunately, if you know how to make smart choices, you can give your diet a boost and cash in on convenience at the same time – just stick to these easy frozen food guidelines.
Avoid "pre-seasoned" meat: If you're tired of having fresh meats go bad before you use them, opt for frozen meats (or freeze your own). While a fresh steak only lasts three to five days before it goes bad, a frozen steak can be stored from six months to a year! Plus, high-protein foods take more work to digest and metabolize, which means they help you burn more calories and keep you fuller, which is great for weight loss. However, avoid any packaging that says the meat is pre-seasoned – this could mean that it's packed full of sodium and unhealthy processed ingredients. Instead, season your meat yourself using herbs and spices like cayenne, turmeric and ginger, which may help you with weight loss.
Keep sodium under 200: Surprisingly, frozen vegetables may be more nutritious than fresh ones. This is because frozen vegetables are usually picked at their peak and then immediately frozen, saving them from days to weeks sitting on trucks and in stores. Plus, buying frozen veggies allows you diversify your diet by adding in veggies that aren't in season. Vegetables are great for weight loss because they're low in calories and packed with filling fiber. Just be wary that you're not picking up vegetables that have been preserved or packed with a lot of sodium – this can cause you to retain water and feel bloated. Make sure the label says it has less than 200 mg of sodium.
Watch the serving size: Preparing healthy carbohydrates can be time-consuming, so it's no wonder that frozen carbs can be a tempting option. To maximize your nutrition benefit while minimizing your waistline, look for healthy frozen carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa or beans. Avoid carbs that are creamy or cheese-based. And, be sure to check the serving size. You may think you've found the perfect meal only to find that you're consuming way more than a serving.
Check for sweeteners: Frozen fruit can be a healthy and delicious snack or dessert, especially if you blend them together to make your own sorbet or smoothie. Plus, it's a great way to get some of your favorite fruits out of season. Just be sure to check the fine print on the label for the sugar content and to see if it contains artificial sweeteners or syrup. These hidden sweeteners could add inches to your waistline and slow your metabolism. And since fruit is so sweet on its own, you don't even need them.