Grocery Shopping 101: Your Guide to the Frozen Foods Aisle

Article posted in: Lean 13
frozen foods

Frozen foods are a real convenience when you’re trying to lose weight. A tasty, well-balanced meal that’s hot and ready to eat in minutes at home is so satisfying and saves you the time, money, and the temptation of eating out or bringing in unhealthy food when you’re in a rush. Your Nutrisystem weight-loss plan offers you many delicious frozen meals, including options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner–and even a few indulgences when you need a treat.

When you’re shopping on your own, you can find lots of nutritious choices in the frozen food aisle. But, like nearly every other aisle in the supermarket, the freezer cases also present foods that come with ingredients and calories you want to avoid. These hints will guide you to the healthiest selections for you.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Look for: Frozen fruits and vegetables are always in season, so you can enjoy your favorites any time of year. There’s no prep work or waste with bagged produce—the stems and leaves are removed, and the food is cut into bite-size pieces. Try tropical fruits like pineapple and mango in a healthy smoothie. Get an extra serving of super-nutritious, non-starchy vegetables by microwaving frozen veggies like broccoli or carrots for a side dish at lunch.

Beware of: Frozen vegetables in mixes sometimes come with sauces or other flavorings, which typically are loaded with fat, salt, or both. Frozen fruits are often sprinkled with sugar to increase their sweetness. Check the label to be sure you get just the plain vegetable with no additives included.

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ENTREES

Look for: The frozen meals you get from Nutrisystem are reviewed by dietitians who are experts in the science of weight loss, so you can trust that the entrees are as nourishing as they are delicious and filling. When you are looking for meals in the frozen food aisle, you need to read the nutrition and ingredient labels to find choices that are high in protein and fiber, and low in calories and salt.

Beware of: Finding truly healthy, pre-made entrees might be the biggest challenge in the frozen food aisle. The word “diet” on packaged food labels is not regulated by the FDA, so it is not a reliable guide. Foods claiming to be “healthy” or “light” must meet minimum standards, but they still may not be well-balanced, made with lean protein, or contain significant amounts of fiber.

SEAFOOD

Look for: Fish and other seafood are a great source of lean protein, so keeping frozen portions on hand gives you a chance to enjoy them when you can’t pick them up fresh. Choose plain fillets or shellfish with no other ingredients. You can add your own seasonings at home.

Beware of: Breaded seafood is loaded with unhealthy carbohydrates and the coating often outweighs the fish itself. Also steer clear of any seafood packed with sauce or flavorings, which tend to be high in fats and sodium.

SIDE DISHES

Look for: Some healthy ingredients, such as whole grains, can take a long time to cook, which might discourage you from including them in your diet on busy days. In the frozen food aisle, you can find pre-cooked brown rice, quinoa, and other SmartCarbs, so you can enjoy them anytime.

Beware of: Even when baked in the oven (rather than fried), frozen French fries and other potatoes come with too many calories and not enough fiber to be a healthy option. Try slicing up a fresh sweet potato and baking your own fries.

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BREAKFAST

Look for: You can pick from a variety of favorite breakfasts from the Nutrisystem menu, including waffles, French toast, and egg-and-sausage muffins. But like with dinner entrees, finding healthy frozen breakfasts in the supermarket requires careful reading of nutrition and ingredient labels. Go for items that are made with whole grains (they should be first or second on the ingredient list) and try to pick those with the least amount of sugar.

Beware of: Added flavorings, even those that mention fruit, tend to be high in sugar. Stick with plain types of foods such as whole-grain waffles and pancakes—you can add your own fruit or seasonings at home.

TREATS

Look for:  Nutrisystem offers you deliciously sweet fudge bars and ice cream sandwiches that won’t slow your progress toward your weight loss goal (check out our top frozen treats here!), but when shopping for yourself, you’re better off sticking to frozen fruit bars with no sugar added. If you like a creamier treat, you can find rice, almond or soy milk based treats that are low in sugar.

Beware of: Frozen yogurt is typically lower in fat than ice cream, but it can have as much or even more sugar. Even non-fat varieties can come with excess calories from sweeteners.