A dietitian’s review of the best & worst prepared meals

While a home-cooked meal sounds appealing, it’s not always feasible or reasonable. Think about coming home after a long day at the office. The idea of whipping up a VPFC meal isn’t all that appealing, even to me! This is why a key tenet of what I discuss with my patients in all programs is how to achieve mealtime success using prepared meals. Ready for the keys to identifying the perfect meals using a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator tips? Let’s start!  

Meal Time Success Checklist

Ideally, a protein-rich meal made with real food ingredients that contain fiber-rich veggies, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates. It also should avoid excess sodium, sugar and inflammatory ingredients. Sounds simple right? Well yes, when you’re preparing the meal from scratch but what about pre-made meals such as frozen dinner or meal delivery services? Both of those are excellent resources for providing a quick, nutrient-dense meal that’s easily accessible. But as we know, looks can be deceiving. With all of the boxes lining the freezer-dinner aisle starting with words like “Lean, “Healthy” and “Smart” you’re bound to get overwhelmed, and quite frankly, tricked by marketing. So many of these deceivingly “healthy” options have not so healthy components lurking in the shadows, a.k.a the label. This is why reading labels, a staple of all the Whitness Nutrition programs and protocols, is so important. Being able to read the label properly can make or break your pre-prepared meal time decision. prepared meal

My go-to when it comes to prepared meals is always Eat The 80. Their meals are delivered fresh but can also be frozen for up to a few months. Open my freezer and I’ve pretty much always got one on hand. The Eat The 80 meals don’t use preservatives, artificial ingredients, or added sugar. I know that even though it’s pre-prepared, it’s still packed with nutrients. I call that a win for din! Their meals are also made with grass-fed protein and farm-fresh produce. This gives me the sense of a home-cooked meal without all the work.

How do you achieve meal time success when it comes to pre-prepared meals? I’m here to educate you to make smarter choices. Whether it’s in the grocery store freezer aisles or for while you’re perusing the newest meal delivery service. First off, I want to talk about what NOT to look for in a frozen prepared meal and why. Let’s take a look at the four worst frozen meals that I personally avoid and advise my patients to avoid. 

The Worst Prepared Meals

  1. Stouffer’s: how many of us grew up looking forward to night where we got to dig into that creamy comfort food hot from the microwave? I know I loved their Chicken Pot Pie! Unfortunately, but not all too surprisingly, stouffer’s meals are filled to the brim with simple carbohydrates. This mix of not-so-healthy ingredients result in a not so blood sugar friendly meal. The sodium levels are through the roof! Their mac and cheese comes in at a hot 1170 mg of sodium per serving. That is over half of the recommended daily value of sodium! My thoughts on Stouffers? Skip it. 
  2. Marie Colander’s: similar to Stouffer’s, these comfort food entrees waiting to be popped in the microwave aren’t offering any nutritional value. High-carb meals with little to no veggies present, with copious amounts of sodium don’t gravitate towards meal time success. The Marie Colander meals are perfect examples of when label reading is important. Their sweet and sour chicken has 25g of sugar. This is more than the amount of protein or fat, not to mention 6x the amount of fiber. 
  3. Hungry Man: If you go to the Hungry Man website you’ll see the slogan “packed with protein power.” Catchy, but it seems they forgot to mention they’re also packed with simple carbohydrates, added sugar and inflammatory oils. If you’re up for some light reading, take a peek at the ingredients list on a Hungry Man box. If what you see doesn’t shock you, I’m not sure what will!  
  4. Lean Cuisine: similar to skinny latte or low-fat snack, lean cuisines are just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A 400 calorie or less meal might sound appealing but won’t keep you full for long. Sure, they have protein and a sprinkling of vegetables included in their meals. Unfortunately, the Lean Cuisine label tells a whole different story. The carbohydrate to protein ratio is 2:1 if not more. There is also the presence of inflammatory oils, sugar and artificial flavors. 

Even some of the frozen meals that have healthier labels, are actually quite low in protein, low in fiber and have little to no real food ingredients. What about our veggies? What about healthy fats? We can do better! 

Thinking about meal delivery services and how they could fit into meal time success?

While meal deliveries are convenient, they can also be quite a slippery slope. Many meal delivery services are high in carbohydrates and tend to lack adequate protein and fiber. Meal deliveries that are geared towards specific dietary habits such as plant-based or low-carb, tend to lean on some other ingredient to supplement in flavor and overall appeal. Ideally, we want to see less than 600 mg of sodium, a minimum 20g of protein, and, in turn, a higher protein to carb ratio. 

The Best Prepared Meals

My top recommendation as a Registered Dietitian for a meal delivery service that checks these boxes and helps to achieve meal time success is Eat The 80. Unlike many meal delivery services that are low protein and high carb, Eat The 80 creates meals with the perfect blend of protein, carbohydrates and fat. All of their meals are reviewed by a dietitian before production (it’s me!). The Eat The 80 meals are meant to ensure optimal nutrition.  If you’ve heard me talk about my love for their meatloaf it’s because I know it’s made with high quality ingredients. The meatloaf also doesn’t include any added sugars, inflammatory oils or excess sodium. Take a look at this comparison, and tell me if you had to pick between the Whole30 Approved, gluten-free and dairy-free meatloaf from Eat The 80 or the Stouffer’s Classic Meatloaf, which would you pick?

prepared meal

Eat The 80 was created as a resource for all the people who feel like there just isn’t enough time, which frankly, could be all of us! Don’t plop down to an unappealing frozen meal down in calories and carbs. Sit down to an already cooked, fresh meal that only requires you to heat it up. No need to prepare, no need to cook, just the time to sit down and enjoy a nutrient dense meal. What I also enjoy is the versatility of Eat The 80 meals in that they can be stored fresh or frozen, no need to choose. As all of their meals are freshly made and shipped directly to your house, you can utilize your Eat The 80 meals as needed. prepared meal

Achieve meal time success by signing up for Eat The 80 meal delivery services today. Use code WHITNESS for $125 off at checkout or order directly through this link for savings. Looking for guidance for shopping in the freezer aisle? Or perhaps the idea of meal time success seems a long way away? Schedule a call or book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian today! 

This blog post was sponsored by Eat the 80 through the creation of a thoughtful partnership with the intention of educating the masses on wholesome health concepts. Whitness Nutrition takes every partnership seriously and Whitney upholds her role of a #honestinfluencer to a high standard. Never hesitate to reach out with comments, questions, or concerns.

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