We often find coupons and deals for packaged foods like boxed and frozen dinners. These foods are cheap, quick, and easy to prepare, so it's tempting to make them a regular part of your diet, but they're also high in fat and sodium, low in fiber, and full of preservatives. Here's a few tips how to incorporate them into your meal plan so you can take advantage of the savings without sacrificing your health.
You'll often have a choice of flavor or variety when purchasing these items. Read the labels before your purchase, and choose the flavor or variety that has the best nutritional bang for your buck. I usually choose the one with the lowest fat and highest protein possible.
Use a Lean Protein
When putting together a boxed dinner like Hamburger Helper or Velveeta Cheesy Skillets, use lean protein like tuna, chicken, turkey, or even tofu. When the box calls for ground beef, substitute ground turkey.
Add Extra Vegetables
Find a quick way to add the benefits of vegetables to your packaged dinner. Add frozen corn to a mexican-style boxed dinner, or frozen peas to a bagged alfredo pasta. Have some baby carrots on the side with your pizza.
Watch the Sodium
Many processed foods are extremely high in sodium. Avoid adding additional sodium to these foods by skipping any additional salt or cheese.
Eat Smaller Portions
Moderation is key. Pay attention to the serving size on the package, and eat a smaller amount than you would if you were eating a meal made from fresh ingredients.
Plan for Fresh Foods
Be sure to eat plenty of fresh foods overall. If you know you'll be throwing together a boxed dinner that evening, plan to eat a healthy lunch.
I found a deal on some Velveeta Cheesy Skillet boxed dinners, and while they look delicious, I wanted to make them a little more nutritious. I bumped up the protein and fiber by using plenty of chicken, adding fresh chopped carrots and frozen broccoli, and kept the fat and sodium in check by keeping my portion size small.
While processed foods still aren't the most nutritious thing you can eat, by using these tips you can reap the benefits of a cheap and quick meal without sacrificing as much of the nutritional value. Add your own tips in the comments!