Frozen meals have become a part of American life. This is especially true in homes where both parents are employed and don’t have ample time to make meals. Frozen food is an option, and a convenient one at that because it saves time and effort. Grocery stores now have a special aisle only for these frozen meals. The prices range from economical to high-end special meal choices. Frozen foods started with simple combinations of meat and veggies, a balanced diet. Many have evolved into cuisine-quality meals and others into weight watcher combos.
What inspired the invention of these frozen TV dinners? The answer is turkey and about 520,000 pounds of it. The product started with the Swanson Brothers, who we can assume invented the TV dinners. In fact, the Swanson Company to this day is still alive and kicking. Anyway, the brothers gave their employees a dilemma: what to do with this huge surplus of turkey leftovers from a Thanksgiving that was less than successful. Gerry Thomas came up with an idea, inspired by meals given in airlines and his experience in the military using mess kits. His proposal of packaging the turkey with some side dishes then freezing them in compartmentalized trays was innovative and a sure winner. Thus, frozen meals were born. That was in the 50s, and these meals are about 70 years old now.
Some Interesting Facts About Frozen Meals
To commemorate how the American public embraced the concept of frozen foods, specifically TV dinners, they have made March as the National Frozen Food Month. Cannot blame them, especially when food companies are becoming more innovative in creating or improving their menu. Take a stroll along the Frozen Food aisle of your grocery shop and learn more about these products, from introductory new flavored to meals which already come pre-portioned, from international cuisines to local favorites. Consumers are frequently surprised by the diversity of these foods, and there are much more waiting to be explored.
Frozen foods offer a diverse selection from which consumers can choose. If you want to go Italian, French, Mexican or Chinese, all these would be available. But how much do you know about these technologically-enabled foods? Here are some interesting facts about those TV dinners you love so much but know so little about.
Frozen meals are made with fresh ingredients. Freezing serves a dual purpose, to preserve the freshly-packed meals and to ensure its great taste. Vegetables used in preparing the meals are gathered and frozen on the same day. Then they are packed tight, sealed and shipped.
Measures are also taken that they don’t get exposed to sunlight, air, and light as these can destroy the food’s nutrients. For pasta meals, they’re prepared on site. Pasta ingredients are combined and prepared within a few hours.
These processes aren’t limited to TV dinners. For instance, apple pie, which is America’s favorite dessert, is also baked with the freshest ingredients.
Not all types of frozen meals contain a lot of sodium. It’s a misconception that frozen foods contain more than the prescribed RDI for sodium. To make sure that you’re within the limits of prescribed RDI, just look at the package’s content list.
Consuming frozen meals which are already pre-proportioned is a good way to control sodium intake. An average serving contains about 500 milligrams of sodium, that’s less than half of the amount of a regular dinner.
You can find frozen meals in the frozen foods aisle of the supermarket. There are other advantages of frozen packed meals. They can avoid the piling of leftovers in your fridge. The meals are balanced perfectly with an entree, a side dish, and a small dessert. Also, there a wide selection to choose from in the frozen foods section which could satisfy everyone’s preference.
Frozen meals may contain a lot of protein. Daily Protein requirements are provided for by frozen packs. Men should at least consume about 50-60 grams per meal and 40-50 grams for women. Choose those meals with the natural requirements and be sure they contain no preservatives.
There are also some frozen meals which are gluten-free. For those who abstain from gluten, search for frozen meals that are gluten-free in the local grocer’s freezer’s aisles. Just read the labels or the labels on the packaging.
Manufacturers also cater to people who prefer gluten-free meals and can even add a touch of sophistication to their products. Take, for instance, this frozen meal: tender beef cuts, roasted potatoes, and vegetables tossed perfectly in a Merlot wine sauce to come up with a gluten-free Merlot meal. Sounds so French but the meal exists. Such modern meal choices are so chic, so delicious, and so healthy.
The Ups and Downs of Frozen Meals
Working parents hardly have enough time to prepare meals for the family. Coming from work, they would already feel spent. Frozen meals are convenient alternatives. But that’s not the sole reason why they rely on frozen meals. First, the family members truly enjoy the meals. Second, the kids, when old enough can prepare the meals themselves. Third, they earn a lot of savings as compared to preparing the conventional way. These are advantages, and as these do exist, there are also downsides on relying on frozen foods. Let’s discuss the good and the bad.
This is advantageous to lower-income families because these are not expensive and through such meals, they can get the same types of food that wealthy people dine on. Many exotic and international foods become available to everyone at reasonable costs. Some producers advertised their food as the healthiest but do not consider those consumers who cannot afford their products. Aside from the low costs, also consider the time that can be saved. This makes frozen meals more appealing to the ordinary consumer.
They’re Beneficial for the Elderly
For those of us who live apart from our elders, there is always the feeling of apprehension on how they are doing. Do they have food, can they cook, are they eating the right foods? These are some queries that can dog us when our elders live alone. This is another convenience for frozen foods. Loading their fridge with a variety of meals that they can choose from will ensure they are always replenished. Furthermore, and health-wise, one can purchase the meals that will offer the most nutrition. Just check the number of calories, protein, fats, carbohydrates, and sodium content.
One also need not worry about how elders respond to such meal choices. The elderly has fewer food cravings as compared to younger adults, and frozen meals are a blessing for people who require the right nutrition without being picky.
They Last Longer
Many pre-packaged meals these days contain huge amounts of preservatives to make them last longer. But we are all aware of the effects of preservatives on the body. This is one advantage of frozen foods as they don’t require such additives to maintain the freshness. Freezing is a great way of storing and preserving food. If sealed and stored properly, frozen food can last longer, even for months without concerns about safety. So long as they stay in the freezer, they will last, and the buyers will readily have a source of healthy food.
The quality of frozen food is not diminished by the process. Sometimes, frozen dinners can even be better than fresh foods. There are no negative effects when foods are frozen and essential nutrients including minerals and vitamins are not lost.
They’re Helpful for Dieters
The good thing about frozen meals is that the calorie count of each meal and the nutrients they offer are already enumerated in their labels. Furthermore, the meals are already portioned, so the danger of over-eating is eliminated. There are no second servings.
A drawback with dieters when their preferred frozen meals aren’t available is going back to their eating habits in the past. This happens because they have not learned to make or resort to other options that could fit their eating routines. It’s also possible for dieters to have too little calories in their meals because they chose products that are so. Less nutrition in their foods will lead to low metabolic rate.
One can rely on frozen foods because it’s the easiest way to monitor the fat and calorie intake and frozen foods can be a healthy alternative. Read the labels; they will do the monitoring for you. They can help in many ways but depending totally on frozen foods is not a long-term solution.
There Are a Lot of Options Available
Compared to some years back, the selection of frozen foods has increased by leaps and bounds. This type of food business must be profitable because many companies have engaged in producing it. The variety increases every day and can cater to different nationalities, dietary requirements, and social occasions. There seem to be no limits to the possibilities of what new food can be created.
Aside from ordinary food, the industry also caters to special groups like vegetarians, gluten-free, and organic advocates, non-GMO consumers, and more. Because frozen foods are consumer-driven, producers always find a way to keep up with the trends. That way, no matter what the dietary requirements are, there will always be something for everyone at any time.
Now for the Bad News…
As we have mentioned, frozen meals are not that bad. We have gone through their benefits, but there is always the downside. For one, one would lose control of what goes inside his body. The nutrients are defined and that gives no option to control fat, sugar intake, and sodium. As the saying goes, “what you see is what you get.” It should also be noted that producers tend to produce frozen meals that many consider as comfort foods. They make pizzas, meat, potatoes and heavy-sauced dishes. Unfortunately, these foods are not very friendly with the waistline, hips, and thighs.
Another disadvantage of frozen meals is that they may contain trans fats. A ban on these fats will take effect 2018, but despite this, there are still uncomfortable amounts found in packaged foods. At times, advertisements can be deceiving. For instance, the product is labeled “trans fat-free” although they still contain this harmful ingredient. This is startling and worse, illegal.
But producers could always find a loophole to sell their goods. For instance, their meal has 0.5 grams of trans fat for each serving. They can still state that the product trans are fat-free because the amount is still below the legal requirement.
So… Are Frozen Meals Healthy?
We understand why people are reluctant to prepare dinner after a long day in the office. They’re usually exhausted. They may order take-out and indulge themselves with the greasiest foods their body shouldn’t be allowed to absorb. Or one can try frozen foods.
It’s true that in its early stages, frozen meals did contain preservatives and sodium but because of health awakenings, producers have started to make healthier foods by incorporating beans, kale, lentils, and more in their menus.
If you find time to read the package, one may find out that many frozen foods could even be healthier than those from fast food joints or those cooked at home. Producers can boast about their meals having just the right calories, but of course, they won’t tell the consumers the small-size portions of their meal. How one can get healthy eating frozen meals will depend on his own choices. There are also brand meals that could help a person in making the right choice.
Now get yourself in line in the frozen foods section of the local grocer. Read the nutritional facts on the label. Give notice to sodium contents and the grams of saturated fats in the preferred meal. A package with 600-700 milligrams of sodium is appropriate. As for saturated fats, search for a package with just a very few grams of fat. The lesser still, the better. If zero, then that is the best.
After going through the nutrient content, select a meal with the least number of artificial additives. There’s a specific order by which ingredients in nutrition labels are usually listed. This is from the greatest amounts to the least. The first ones should include vegetables, lean proteins or grains. The one item that shouldn’t be listed is food starches. These are used to substitute fats and will provide the texture in frozen meals. Going back on the list, if the makers remain true to their ads, food starches should be at least the last one of the ingredients. It’s not a harmful additive, but it is devoid of any calories.
We have mentioned earlier that frozen foods can last longer and that is without the use of preservatives. These trays are a sure delight for someone who comes home late from work when most deli shops are already closed. Some of these meals, however, can contain compounds that prevent certain ingredients in them from going bad. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is one example. People should avoid eating foods with such compounds even if the FDA has given their approval for safety. Avoid food starches, artificial sweeteners, and BHT.
If possible, just choose simple, clean, and whole food groups. Choose the frozen meal supply carefully and healthily. It would give one great pleasure to open his refrigerator and find only the healthiest foods that his money has bought.