While it would be ideal to make all of our own snacks and meals from scratch everyday, plain and simple truth is that most of us simply don’t have that kind of time. This is where we turn to convenience foods to meet our dietary and weight loss needs. However, right convenience foods in right amounts can easily be integrated into almost any diet.
Shop Smart - Never shop on an empty stomach. This will only make it harder for you to make choices that are in your best interests. Always be prepared with a thorough shopping list and do not divert from it. If an aisle is full of tempting goodies but has nothing on your list, simply walk right by it, instead of down it. If you see something healthy that you would like, but it’s not on your list, jot it down and add it to list next time. This will provide you with something to look forward to. Reach for smaller bags and boxes of what you need when possible. The less food you have leftover in your kitchen translates into less temptation.
Read Labels - All convenience foods are not same. Depending on your chosen diet, some will fit much better into your routine than others. This is why it’s important to become an informed consumer and never place anything in your grocery basket unless you’ve read label and determined it’s in your best interests to buy it. Many snack foods come in different versions—low fat, reduced fat, low calorie, low carbohydrate, low salt, etc. Choose variety that best fits your dieting needs.
Remember that different labels can mean entirely different things. The following list may help you discern between them:
No calorie: Less than 5 calories per serving Low calorie: Less than 40 calories per serving (or less than 120 calories per meal) Reduced calorie: 25% less calories than same amount of a similar food
No fat: Less than 0.5g fat per serving Low fat: Less than 3g fat per serving (less than 30% of calories from fat per meal) Low saturated fat: Less than 1g fat per serving Reduced fat: 25% less fat than same amount of a similar food
No cholesterol: Less than 2mg cholesterol per serving Low cholesterol: Less than 20mg cholesterol per serving Reduced cholesterol: 25% less cholesterol than same amount of a similar food
No salt: Less than 5mg sodium per serving Low salt: Less than 140mg sodium per serving Reduced salt: 25% less sodium than same amount of a similar food
No sugar: Less than 0.5g sugar per serving Low sugar: No requirements—make sure to read label Reduced sugar: 25% less sugar than same amount of a similar food
As you can see, eating six servings of a no-fat food can actually total as much as 3g of fat. For someone who is severely restricting their fat intake, this can greatly hinder their progress. It’s best to be informed and make wise shopping decisions. Take charge and be responsible.
Trim Fat - Just because a macaroni and cheese frozen dinner is oozing extra cheese doesn’t mean you have to eat it. A common sense approach to preparing and consuming convenience foods can go a long way to making them healthier. When you take a frozen meal out halfway to stir it, remove or blot away any excess oils and fats. Transfer to a real plate when finished, so you can discard excess sauces.