How to make frozen entrees part of a healthy balanced meal

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Spice up those TV dinners

Spice up those TV dinners - "TV dinners" are convenient, but they don't always taste the best. azfamily.coms' Tara Hitchcock gets some advice on spicing up those frozen meals and making them more healthful.

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How to chose frozen entrees from the supermarket and key steps on making them a part of a balanced dinner.

Many frozen meals are affordable, healthy, and simple to prepare as part of a balanced dinner.

Grocery freezers are loaded with a variety of these entrees. So, how do we navigate through these choices and choose the most nutrient-rich entre?

Serving size and servings per container: In some frozen entrees, there can be 2-3 servings per container. The label says 400 calories per serving. This equates to 800-1200 calories per container!

Calories: 200-400 calories. When looking at calories, keep in mind about the other foods you will be having at this dinner meal, as we all know that calories can quickly add up.

Sodium: no more than 650 mg of the recommended 2400 mg per day for the average adult. Do you know that 1 teaspoon of salt is equal to 2400 mg sodium?

Protein: At least 14 grams. Protein supplies our bodies with long-lasting energy when eaten as part of a balanced meal.

Saturated and trans-fats: The goal is to stay below 3-5 grams of saturated fat (that's about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of butter) and as close to 0 grams of trans-fats as possible.

Added bonus: Fiber-rich!

Some options that meet the above criteria include:

*Kashi All Natural Entrees Five Cheese Tomato Pizza: 1/3 of the pizza contains 290 calories, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans-fats, 570 mg sodium, 4 grams fiber, and 14 grams protein. To make the meal more nutrient-rich, add your own veggie toppings to the pizza such as sauted (in an olive oil spray) onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers. Have a side green salad with lite vinaigrette dressing to help you meet your recommended 5 servings of veggies a day OR pre-cut sliced veggies served with salsa, hummus, or lite Ranch dressing.

*Lean Cuisine Spa Salmon with Basil: 220 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans-fats, 660 mg sodium, 4 grams fiber, and 19 grams protein. Add a side green salad to the meal or steam a serving of frozen veggies.

*Organic Bistro Whole Life Meals Ginger Chicken: 360 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans-fats, 430 mg sodium, 7 grams fiber, and 24 grams protein. Add a side green salad and a serving of fruit.

Lastly, check the ingredients list. Some red flags include the following: A laundry list of ingredients Difficult words to pronounce Partially hydrogenated oils (i.e. trans-fats) BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene). Even I'm having a hard time pronouncing that one! Basically, BHT is food preservative and antioxidant food additive, which means that it prevents changes in food color, odor, and taste. BHT can be added to some breakfast cereals, shortening, and potato chips. Beware!