Niners Nutrition: How to Choose Healthy Frozen Meals at the Grocery Store

Jordan Mazur is the Coordinator of Nutrition and 49ers team dietitian. In his fourth season with the 49ers, he oversees all nutrition related to players, sports medicine and football operations and works individually with players to help ensure they are fueled and recovered throughout the grind of the season.

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Here's the great thing about microwavable meals in 2020: Companies have pivoted away from packing mystery meat with sodium to mimic a flavorful, nutrient-dense entrée and created frozen meals in a variety of international cuisines that are actually good for you—including vegetarian and vegan varieties, low-calorie options and organic dishes.

You get the convenience, ease and affordability without taking a health hit. After all, once you've done your 9-to-5, finished a workout, and completed the day's chores, it's nice to sit down to something quick and effortless that doesn't come out of a drive-through window.

In fact, those who opt for a frozen meal from a grocery store consume an average of 253 fewer calories and 2.6 grams of saturated fat per day than those who feast at fast-food joints, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Those who reported eating frozen meals had higher amounts of key nutrients in their diet, too, including fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium.

That doesn't mean everything in the frozen food aisle is healthy—far from it. The challenge is finding meals you'll enjoy and satisfy your hunger that don't pack on the fat.

For starters, you have to check the nutrition label —starting with portion size. Many companies try to trick you by labeling the portion as something less than the entire box of food. In general, aim for entrées that have lots of vegetables, whole grains, and a lean source of protein. You should also look at the ingredient list and nix those that have a bunch of added chemicals or preservatives you can't pronounce. Keep it clean.

Here's what to look for when shopping for a healthy frozen meal:

+ Fewer than 600mg of sodium

+ Fewer than 5g of saturated fat

+ Greater than 3g of fiber

+ Greater than 10g of protein

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