Do you struggle with no time to cook, or even what to cook for your diabetes?

Some people are surprised that I might suggest the diet frozen meals as an option. Dietitians are all about wholesome food, healthy eating, and portion control. Yes, and we are practical, too. If your choice for lunch at the office is the submarine sandwiches that are ordered in, or a quick trip to the closest fast food restaurant, you might find another option is in the freezer.

Benefits of Frozen Meals

1. Convenience: A balanced meal that you didn’t have to cook!
2. Portion Controlled: You eat what you get. Can’t go back for seconds.
3. Calorie and Carbohydrate Controlled: If you are watching your weight and carbohydrate intake for diabetes control, you have the nutritional facts to guide you.

Concerns of Frozen Meals

1. Sodium Content: Look again! Many of the food companies have reduced the sodium content by revising their recipes and using fewer preservatives.
2. Quality: People have their preferences -- Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones, Healthy Choice, and Kashi are the major players with extensive test kitchens. Food technology has advanced since frozen “TV dinners” were first invented. You might also findother brands that suit your dietary prescription.
3. OK for People with Diabetes? If you choose the right ones. Might be the better choice depending on your diet goals.

How to Choose a Frozen Meal

1. Carbohydrates: Do you know your carbohydrate goal per meal? A guideline might be 45 grams for females, 60 grams for males. Check the carbohydrate grams on the label and see how it fits into your plan. If the sugars are 6 grams or less (listed under carbohydrate), it is OK. Remember, one carbohydrate choice is 15 grams, so you could divide the total carbs by 15 to get the number of starch servings in the meal.
2. Sodium: If 2,300 mgs is the recommended daily limit (and if you are not limited more because of a medical condition), about 600mg sodium for the frozen meal is a good guide (less than 1/3 of your daily intake). You can also check the % Daily Value on the far right column.
3. Calories: Most type 2 diabetics are also trying to lose weight. Select the “diet” frozen meals that are 350 calories or less. If it looks like too little food, cook some low carbohydrate vegetables, like green beans or broccoli, and add it to the meal. It looks like lots more if you empty the dinner on top of a plate of broccoli. Adds very little calories and carb, but lots more fiber and nutrition.
4. Fiber: We need 20-35 grams of fiber a day. Select the meal with brown rice, whole grains, beans, and some veggies. The higher the fiber listed, the better (also slows the rise of blood sugar). You can always add more vegetables.
5. Fat: Because you have chosen the “diet” version of a frozen meal, the fat gram total is reasonable. We should consume 30% or less of our diet from fat, and these meals don’t even come close. Take a closer look at the type of fat. You want a minimal amount of saturated fat, and no trans fat. The protein source and the sauces determine the amount of saturated fat, but you will find that most meals are just fine (again, beats the saturated fat in the ribs and fries for lunch!).

The frozen meals don’t work as well for dinner, especially if you are feeding a family, or typically eat a larger meal. You can compliment the frozen meal at dinner with a side salad, whole grain roll or some fruit to be more satisfied. Research shows that frozen meals have a positive role in successful weight loss. If you are a good cook and prefer to make and freeze your own meals for a later time, that’s great! You can also make an educated selection of the grocery store options.