For busy dancers, frozen foods might just be the saving grace of a post-performance recovery meal. But from a nutrition perspective, these can be hit or miss with higher-than-recommended sodium counts and questionable ingredients. We can, however, consider a few helpful tips to turn frozen meals into a nourishing option.
TTP Tip 1: Be Savvy With Sodium
With the purpose of sustaining long shelf-lives, frozen meals and snack foods often come packaged with high amounts of sodium. While some sodium is harmless for most active dancers, we want to stay on target with the guidelines set forth by The American Heart Association: 2300 mg sodium per day. A single frozen meal can easily amount to half that allowance.
Find options with less than 600 mg of sodium per serving. If the package contains more than one serving, bulk it up with extra veggies. Adding veggies to the meal will offer fibrous bulk. As a result, you’ll reach a comfortable fullness while allowing for leftovers and thus a second meal to be created. Another bonus? Veggies are high in potassium. This electrolyte works alongside sodium to balance your body’s hydration status.
TTP Tip 2: Identify Whole Ingredients
Check your ingredients lists. Since ingredients are listed in order of abundance (with the most abundant ingredients listed first) look for carbohydrates from sources like whole grains (like brown rice, farro, quinoa, Kamut) and legumes (likes beans), protein from sources like milk, chicken, tofu, turkey, and beef, and fats from sources like nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil, and avocados.
You’re likely to see other unfamiliar ingredients, which are often added to ensure safety and quality of packaged foods. Don’t obsess- these are generally harmless. But for the most part, look for those whole-food options shown higher up on the list.
TTP Tip 3: Mix N’ Match with Bulk
As mentioned earlier, frozen veggies are a great addition to meals to boost your intake of fiber. Stocking bags of frozen broccoli, peas, string beans, spinach, and more make it super easy to meet your day’s worth of colorful veggies. Frozen fruit is another economical option abundant in vitamins and minerals. Add frozen blueberries to your smoothies or oatmeal. The options are endless!
- Amy’s Kitchen
- Sweet Earth
- Green Giant Harvest Bowls
- Healthy Choice
- Lean Cuisine
- Honestly Good.
- Newman’s Own
- American Flatbread
- Cauli’flour Foods*
- Dr. Praeger
- Van’s Whole Grain Waffles
- Kashi Whole Grain Waffles
Bonus? Top them with your favorite nut butter, berries, and hemp seeds!
- Haagen Daas Vanilla
- Turkey Hill All Natural
- Trader Joe’s French Vanilla
- Luna + Larry’s Coconut Bliss (dairy-free option)
- Stony Field Frozen Yogurt (Vanilla)
- Diana’s Bananas Banana Babies
- Chloe’s Fruit Bars
- Outshine Fruit Bars
*A note from Rachel: Cauliflower EVERYTHING is all the rage these days especially when it comes to pizza, rice, and flatbreads. These cauliflower versions continue to pop up as “low-carb alternatives.” While I have nothing against these options, make sure you’re choosing them for reasons that promote a positive relationship with food. Your intentions for choosing these “low carb” options matter. Are you doing it because you think you “should,” or because you genuinely like the tastes and flavors? It’s okay to have a preference for the “healthy” option as long as the “regular” option doesn’t give you anxiety. To learn more about building a positive mindset with food, read this post.
** For ice cream, choose those sweetened with natural sources of sugar and skip those with sugar alternatives, which often cause stomach discomfort. High fructose corn syrup (AKA “corn syrup” or “corn sugar”) is also a common ingredient used in frozen desserts. Promising research shows that corn syrup, especially when consumed in excessive amounts, may negatively impact long-term health. Read this post if you’re interested in learning more about sugar.
Article written with the help from student Caitlin Alfano. Expert reviewed by Rachel Fine.