Pre-packaged microwave meals are quick and convenient, and although many are loaded with fat and empty calories, some can be a healthy way to fuel up. Just read the nutrition label before zapping any meal to make sure you’re getting performance-boosting nutrients and avoiding unwanted ingredients. Key in on these tips from Olympic sport dietitian Bob Seebohar.
Calories: Look for a meal with 350 to 450 calories, but pay attention to the serving size. Some meals list low calories but have two or three servings per package.
Balance: Look for meals that contain a good source of lean protein [e.g., chicken, fish or beef], some color [e.g., broccoli or green beans] and grains or starches [e.g., potatoes or rice]. Some meals don’t have all three, so you might have to add a side of whole-grain bread or a piece of fruit to balance the meal.
Fat: The total fat content should be 15 grams or less, with lowest possible amounts of saturated fat and trans fats. Go easy on white, creamy sauces, which are high in fat and hurt your performance and recovery.
Protein: Aim to get at least 10 grams of protein. This will help satisfy your hunger and provide the necessary nutrients for rebuilding lean mass.
Sugar: Keep intake to 20 grams or less per meal.
Sodium: Frozen meals typically contain a high amount of sodium for taste and preservation, but try to find ones with 600 milligrams or less.
Vitamins and minerals: Vitamins and minerals are natural performance boosters. They are most abundant in whole-grain foods and vibrant-colored fruits and vegetables.
Top brand picks: Healthy Choice, Amy’s and Lean Cuisine