Easy Ways to Make Frozen and Packaged Food Healthier
Frozen pizza night, anyone?
Recently, you may have found yourself reaching for your favorite packaged foods like boxed macaroni and cheese, noodle cups and frozen pizza more often. You may be worried that while these foods are comforting you emotionally, they're a problem for your health — but we're here to tell you there's no reason to feel guilty when eating them. These foods can help nourish you when complemented with add-ins like fruits, vegetables or whole grains. Here are some favorite of our packaged comfort foods and ideas on how to make them part of a healthy meal.
Add Veggies to Frozen Pizza
Complement a frozen pizza like DiGiorno’s Traditional Crust Four Cheese Pizza or Newman’s Own Margherita Thin & Crispy Pizza with lots of vegetables. Add leftover vegetables to top of the pizza before baking. Then, add a fresh green salad with a vinaigrette dressing on the side. This will help increase the vitamins, minerals and fiber in your meal.
Bulk Noodle Cups with Protein and Veggies
If you’re stocking up on noodle cups you can cook them up on a stovetop in a sauté pan and add frozen mixed vegetables or wilt in baby spinach and pieces of leftover chicken or canned chickpeas, depending on the flavor.
Make the Boxed Mac and Cheese Sauce Healthier
If you want the good old boxed macaroni and cheese, there are several ways to make this favorite healthier. Add roasted cauliflower or butternut squash into the cooked pasta and mix with the cheesy topping. You can also serve the mac and cheese as a side dish to grilled chicken or fish and steamed cauliflower and broccoli.
Turn Flavored Rice Into a Meal
Who doesn’t love spice packets added to boxed rice or couscous. A quick addition can turn the box into a whole meal. First, sauté 8 ounces of chopped cremini or Portobello mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and then follow the package directions. The mushrooms add an umami flavor and provide more depth to the dish – plus you’ll get more veggies and a bigger portion of the side. Pair with a lean protein like grilled salmon, beef tenderloin steak, or chicken breast and steamed, sautéed, grilled, or roasted vegetables like broccoli, spinach, or asparagus for a well-balanced meal.
Opt for Healthier Frozen Chicken Nuggets
With more options than ever available, you can find organic chicken nuggets, cauliflower-breaded tenders or even veggie-based nuggets. Pair with baked sweet potatoes fries (with the skin for more fiber) and a nice toss salad with a vinaigrette dressing for a well-balanced meal that provides both comfort and nutrition.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.