It seems that there is a designated month for nearly everything these days, so there’s no surprise that there’s a month dedicated to frozen foods. The month of March hosts National Frozen Food Month as well as National Nutrition Month. It may be difficult to think about the typical frozen foods we see in the grocery store as being healthy, since many of them are filled with too much fat, sugar, and preservatives. But with a few extra ingredients and a little creativity, almost any frozen food can be turned into a well-rounded, healthy meal.
The idea when creating a healthy meal is to include fruits and/or vegetables, protein, whole grains, and sometimes dairy. The USDA’s MyPlate diagram is a great tool for creating a healthy plate at each meal. It not only helps show what types of food we should be eating, but the proper portion sizes as well. With this useful tool as a guide, it is easier to see how we can create better meals out of frozen foods.
Breakfast—Do you or your kids love frozen waffles? Instead of syrup, try these toppings to give yourself a power boost:
- Peanut butter and banana slices
- Peanut butter and apple slices
- Plain yogurt, fresh or frozen (thawed) fruit, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup
- Make a waffle “taco” by placing scrambled eggs and turkey sausage on the waffle and fold it up
- Top the waffle with some fruit and have it with a quick scrambled egg on the side
Lunch—there are so many different frozen lunch options, particularly the microwave meals. If you’re like me, one meal isn’t always enough to fill me up at lunch time, and sometimes there’s too much sauce and not enough actual meat and veggies. Here are a few tricks to help a boxed meal go further:
- Add more veggies. Whether frozen or fresh, adding extra veggies right into the main entrée will help use up the extra sauce and give you more bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking.
- Add a side of fruit, low-fat yogurt with fruit, or a fruit smoothie.
- If the meal is comprised of only veggies and protein, add a grain such as whole grain pasta or brown rice. Carbohydrates are very important for our bodies to maintain a steady energy level.
- If the meal is lacking in vegetables, such as mac and cheese or lasagna, add a vegetable to the side such as carrots and sliced peppers with dip or any fresh/frozen vegetable you like, lightly steamed.
Dinner—Microwave meals can also be used for dinner, but there are a variety of additional options that may be better suited for feeding a family at dinner time. Here are a few options to help you create a well-balanced meal for the family:
- Create a healthy plate with frozen, breaded chicken or chicken breasts cooked to package directions, steamed frozen vegetables, and a healthy grain such as brown rice (available in the freezer section) or sweet potato fries.
- Add extra vegetables and chicken/steak/pork to the frozen stir-fry kits. This will help extend the high-sodium sauce so that you are getting more valuable nutrients and less sodium.
- Try frozen fish, along with steamed vegetables and wild rice for a healthy spin on protein.
- Add extra vegetables and/or grilled chicken to a frozen pizza to up the nutrient value.
- Make one of my favorites, chicken pot pie, with frozen mixed vegetables, chopped chicken, a can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup (or make your own), and pie crust. You get all of the food groups in one delicious piece of pie!
Snacks—I am big on snacking, and sometimes it’s hard to find something healthy to keep me going. Here are some great snack ideas from the freezer:
- Steamed edamame
- Frozen fruit smoothie
- Frozen fruit mixed with plain/vanilla Greek yogurt and granola
- Fruit popsicles
- Frozen blueberries (they take a while to eat helping you eat more slowly)
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t utilize the convenience of freezer foods. With a few extra ingredients and some creativity, you can create delicious and healthy meals for your family while saving time and money.