The consumption of frozen ready meals has long been on the rise, with companies like McCain and their Healthy Choice range plus the Weight Watchers Range growing year on year for the past five years.
And as we are busy mums it can be tempting to turn to the freezer for convenience at times.
Consumers are now seeking pre-packaged foods that are quick to cook – in either a microwave or in the oven, but that are still healthy, low in fat and full of flavour.
Most supermarkets today have a healthy range of refrigerated or frozen healthy ready meals – but you might have to hunt them out. Just because the packaging of the product says “healthy”, “low fat” or “diet”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy or good for you.
Often, frozen ready meals that are labelled as healthy contain other nasties such as salt and sugar to increase the taste of the product and to make up for the lack of fat/calories, so you should always look at food labels and nutritional information on the packaging such as calorie content, fat content and salt/sugar content before determining whether the item is “healthy” or not. You could actually find that a ready meal from a regular range of food is healthier than a ready meal from a healthy range.
One of the problems with frozen ready meals is that they often don’t contain much in the way of vegetables or fruit, meaning that if you eat lots of ready meals as a convenient meal after work, you could seriously be missing out on nutrients and vitamins from fresh fruit and vegetables.
Up the vitamin content of your ready meal by cooking a portion of veggies alongside your meal – fresh veggies take less than ten minutes to cook in most cases, whether it be boiling them, steaming them or cooking them in a frying pan – and taking the time to cook these veggies will not only improve the vitamin content of your meal, it will also help to make the meal more filling as veggies contain plenty of protein. If you don’t fancy vegetables with your meal, eat an apple and a satsuma after your meal or whichever fruit you fancy to improve the health benefits of the meal.
McCain’s Healthy Choice range is pretty varied – they have a Healthy Choice “Plus” range that contains more veggies and nutrients than their regular Healthy Choice range. You can pick and choose from the range and you could easily create a meal for between 250-500 calories and 10g of fat, which is pretty good in terms of calorie and fat content, and the meals are generally healthy in terms of salt and sugar content too.
Weight Watchers meals are always a good choice in terms of fat and calorie content as they are already optimised for weight loss – the only trouble with these meals is that they can be fairly small, so if you are looking for a meal that will keep you full, you may have to add a grilled chicken breast or another piece of protein to make the meal more filling. One of the bonuses about Weight Watchers foods, however, is that they are very similar to “ordinary” foods – you can buy WW pizza and quiches, for example, that look exactly like regular pizza or quiches and so these are perfect for if you don’t want to feel like you always eat “different” foods to everyone else.
If you like frozen ready meals for their convenience, you may want to try batch cooking. The bonus with cooking in this way is that you can choose the ingredients and you can determine the fat and calorie content, depending on what you cook and how you cook it.
Homemade ready meals have the potential to be the healthiest frozen ready meals that you can make. On a Sunday afternoon, for example, you could cook up a big batch of bolognese sauce or beef casserole, divide it up into portions in individual containers and then pop the portions into the freezer. All you need to do then is take out the meal in the morning ready to defrost for your dinner, then microwave until piping hot before serving – viola, homemade healthy ready meals. And we have over 500 recipes for you to follow to give you ideas of ones to cook at home and freeze.
And don’t forget to check out our current promotions and discounts page to see what specials we have on this week on our Healthy Mummy product range