Microwave meals are quick and convenient. They can also be a healthy way to fuel up for game time—as long as you’re aware of some basic guidelines. Here are some tips for choosing a frozen meal.
Calories Look for a meal with 350 to 450 calories and pay attention to the serving size. Some meals list low calories but have two to three servings per package.
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 provides the necessary nutrients for rebuilding lean mass.
Fiber It keeps you full, so aim for 5 grams or more per meal.
Sugar Added sugars are of no use to your body or performance, so keep it at 20 grams or less per meal.
Sodium Frozen meals typically contain a high amount of sodium for taste and preservation, but try to find meals with 600 milligrams or less. Too much sodium in your eating program is unhealthy.
Vitamins and minerals Vitamins and minerals are natural performance boosters. They are most abundant in whole grain foods and vibrant-colored fruits and vegetables.
Balance Look for balanced 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.
Top picks Healthy Choice®, ®Amy’s and Lean Cuisine®
Remember: The microwave, although powerful, typically doesn’t heat foods evenly, so be careful not to over- or undercook your dish. Always use microwavable cookware to prevent burns.
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, owns Fuel4mance, LLC. He is a Board Certified Specialist in sports dietetics, a competitive Ironman and ultrarunner, and a professional endurance coach. For more information, visit www.fuel4mance.com.