It seems that the coldest section of the grocery store now has the hottest products to help college students prepare a full meal on those days or weeks when cooking is just out of the question. However, navigating the frozen food aisle can be tricky when looking for healthy options. Oftentimes, foods you assume to be healthy end up having sugar and sodium counts that are through the roof. Even the organic frozen meals can be high in sodium. It’s important as a college student to have a nutritious meal, while having the ability to spend less time in the kitchen and more time in the books, so here are a few suggestions to keep your meals healthy yet manageable with the help of frozen food.
Breakfast. As the most important meal of the day, breakfast plays a large role in supporting your metabolism, and thanks to some frozen food products, it doesn’t have to be skipped if you’re late for class. Big-name breakfast companies likeJimmy Dean are making efforts to introduce healthier products, like the new Jimmy Dean Delights Breakfast Bowls and Breakfast Sandwiches, which have very reasonable calorie and fat contents while not overcompensating with high sodium levels. And if you’re looking for something organic, Amy’s offers a variety of different breakfast bowls and burritos though be sure to choose the lower sodium options. In addition, Dole makes it easy to spice up oatmeal and cereal with their frozen fruits. Just a few minutes in the microwave, and they taste just as wonderful and are just as full of vitamins and minerals as fresh produce.
Lunch. For lunch, challenge yourself to stay away from the typical brands that stamp their products with a healthy name yet often raise sugar and sodium content to keep their products tasting good. Try new products from companies like Evol, which recently introduced a Lean and Fit line of convenience meals that are full of taste yet low in sodium. In addition, they are packed with protein to carry you through the busiest portion of your day. Pair Evol Lean and Fit with some Greek yogurt or hummus and pita to give your day a quick and easy boost.
Dinner. It’s the time of the day college students often want a warm, home-cooked meal to get them through a night packed with studying, and such a meal can also come straight from the frozen food aisle without compromising a healthy lifestyle. Dare yourself to enter the vegetarian section of the frozen food aisle. Vegetarian companies such as Gardein have introduced products such as their 7-Grain Crispy Tenders. Their
version of the chicken tender has sliced the fat and calorie content by more than half, and still has the ability to maintain the taste and crunch of a quality chicken tender. Pair these chicken tenders with some steam-in-the-bag frozen vegetables, and you have a healthy, “home-cooked” meal to finish out your day. But don’t forget dessert. Fruttare carries a line of fruit and milk popsicles with the same texture and flavors as some of the best-known ice cream brands but with half the sugar.
As college life gets busier, don’t let it deter you from eating full, nutritious meals. If you only have time to get by on frozen meals, take advantage of the smart options popping up in the frozen food aisle. While you don’t want to eat frozen foods for all of your meals every day, it is possible to plan a full day of healthy meals by simply opening your freezer door.
Katie Nahay is a junior at Auburn University majoring in nutrition dietetics. She plans to become a registered dietician and then continue on to physician assistant’s school or continue writing in the nutrition field.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Goodman