With the holidays now officially over and the new year underway, many of us have resolved, once again, to focus on our health. With that in mind, we set goals for weight loss. And to accomplish that, a lot of my patients opt for bringing lunch to work and eating more dinners at home.

But for many, the idea of preparing and cooking meals from scratch is daunting, especially if you’re cooking for one. Something quick and easy seems like the best way to go—otherwise, you may end up making poor choices while ordering in or going out. My patients all ask the same question: “Is it OK to eat a frozen meal?” My response: “Yes, but choose them wisely.”

Here are the guidelines that help them—and hopefully you—in deciding which entrees to grab from your grocery freezer section.

  1. First and foremost: read the Nutrition Facts Panel on whatever product you are considering.  Don’t be fooled by front-of-the-box catch-phrases like ‘organic’ and ‘natural.’ They don’t necessarily mean better nutritional choices.
  2. Check the calories. Believe it or not, lower in this case is not always better. Too few calories can leave you hungry and set you up to overeat later in the day. I suggest between 300-400 calories for a meal.
  3. Make sure the portion you’re eating is for one serving and not more.
  4. Unfortunately, almost all processed foods add too much salt. Look for low-sodium versions if possible, and try to stick to a maximum sodium count of 800mg.
  5. Fat is okay, as it will help give you a feeling of satiety from the meal. But watch out for too much saturated fat. Ideally you want less than 4g of saturated fat per serving.
  6. The more fiber, the better. Try to find a product with a minimum of 3-5g per serving.

Some patients complain that they are still hungry after a frozen entree. I recommend adding a side salad (easy on the dressing) and/or throwing in a microwavable bag of plain steamed veggies to have along with it, and a piece of fruit for dessert—problem solved. Also, you’ll want to be prepared for the possibility of getting bored with your frozen entrees by stocking a good variety of nutritionally sound options.

Better yet, try your hand at a home-cooked meal. It might not be as daunting as you think.

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  • drpatallen January 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Wait till you try my diet. You will think those cardboard frozen entrees are marvelous! Sometimes it is a good idea to forego the tastebuds for awhile until you understand when you are hungry and why you are eating. If there were a perfect weight loss system then the person who developed it would be given a Nobel prize and the MacArthur fellowship for creating a genius method of weight loss.


    Dr. Pat

    Dr. Pat

  • Elizabeth W January 12, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I had actually always wondered about these entrees. Thanks for breaking down the choices with such clear guidelines.

    Now, if I can find a frozen entree that doesn’t taste like wet cardboard…