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What are healthy options to frozen entrees?

Asked by Alicia Perry, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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My husband, who is 50, learned he had type 2 diabetes in March 2008. He also has hypertension. Are there any healthy alternatives to the processed frozen entrees we find in the grocery stores? I am trying to make him healthy foods but it is difficult.

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi Alicia. This is a very good question as many people who are pressed for time often turn to frozen entrees, and while they may not always be the healthiest options, they have improved considerably in recent years. Many of them are now lower in sodium (which is important for your husband, who has high blood pressure) and some even contain extra vegetables and whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta, which are important components of a diabetes friendly diet. If you opt for frozen meals, I recommend trying to limit sodium to 680 mg or less (optimally less than 480 mg), limiting total fat to 15 grams or less (less than 10 grams is optimal, especially if your husband is overweight), and choosing meals with at least 5 grams of fiber. For better blood sugar control, choose meals that contain lean protein and vegetables and limit meals that contain predominantly starch such as noodle dishes or rice bowls.

Other healthy options include frozen vegetables, which are often just as healthy as their fresh counterparts as long as you don't choose products with breading or added sauces, and frozen seafood or skinless poultry (again avoid breaded products or products with added sauces), which can be quickly and economically prepared. Add spices for flavor instead of high fat or high sodium toppings or try to find low-fat, low-sodium marinades or sauces for both lean protein and vegetables. To save time and money, you can prepare a large batch of brown rice, three bean salad, or whole wheat pasta and re-heat for a healthy side dish.

Entrée salads are another fast and easy option. To save time you can use pre-bagged lettuce and top with cherry tomatoes or pre-cut veggies, pre-cooked chicken strips or a can of water-packed tuna, and low-fat dressing. To make salads extra healthy, top with one-third cup of beans (kidney, garbanzo, pinto or black) and/or 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds. Soups can also be a healthy option, though many are high in salt, so again, try to limit sodium to 480 mg or less per serving, and choose products with vegetables, lean protein or beans, and whole grains such as brown rice or barley.

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