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Frozen food gets panned by natural health enthusiasts and gourmet chefs alike, but it actually has a lot going for it. Frozen food is incredibly easy to prepare. Just zap it in the microwave and serve. The ingredients used to make frozen meals were at their peak of freshness when they were frozen, and the nutritional chemists that specialize in taste, color, and aroma additives certainly know how to tickle our tastebuds.
No honest person is going to tell you that frozen, mass-produced food is healthier for you than home-cooked fresh, organic food, but if you are going to eat it anyway, why not eat the best? Here are 10 tasty selections it is best to avoid, along with 10 alternatives.
The Worst Microwaveable Frozen Snack
Cheese is yummy. So is anything fried. T.G.I. Friday's frozen mozzarella sticks offer gooey, salty cheese with an appealingly greasy layer of bread crumbs, deep fried to a golden brown. Even the recommended serving size of three cheese sticks contains 300 calories and 840 milligrams of sodium, however, and it's not hard to eat the whole box for 800 calories and more than a day's sodium.
The Worst Microwaveable Breakfast Meal
Almost all of us get in a hurry at breakfast time, and Pop Tarts and instant coffee just won't hold you over until lunch. A Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl with sausage, eggs, cheese, and gravy will, however, at a cost of 620 calories, nearly 1500 mg of sodium, and 33 grams of fat. And it's easy just to microwave two at a time. Or three.
The Worst Microwaveable Meatless Entree
Ethical vegetarians don't eat meat because they care about animals. A lot of the rest of us, however, don't eat meat because we want to cut down on fat. Celentano's frozen eggplant parmagiana, however, contains 660 calories and 44 grams of fat, a day's worth of fat in a single serving.
The Worst Microwaveable Beef Entree
Americans eat lots of beef, and sometimes they want it fast, 5 minutes after taking the beef entree out of the freezer. Stoufer's bourbon beef tips are a dietitian's worst nightmare. Containing 550 calories in a relatively small serving, they really do not, despite what other reviewers may tell you, contain an unusually high amount of trans- fat. They do, however, contain lots of fat, 24 grams for every serving. And the reality is, many people don't eat just one serving.
The Worst Microwaveable Frozen Pizza
Personally, I draw the line at frozen pizza. I'm just not going to eat it. But if you are snowed under, literally or figuratively, it's at least an easy to fix snack. The least healthy brand of frozen pizza? That dishonor probably goes to DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza for one, which contains 770 calories per "slice," along with 1,430 mg of sodium and 35 grams of fat.
The truth is, you won't kill yourself by eating even these dishes once in a great while (like two or three times a year). But if you make a habit of eating high-fat, high-calorie, high-sodium frozen foods, you almost certainly are not going to be able to take charge of your weight and cardiovascular health. Fortunately, for every awful frozen food there is a healthful frozen food, sometimes by the same manufacturer.