Microwavable Ready Made Meals: the antithesis of healthy eating. In an ideal world we’d spend the morning tending our vegetable patch/chickens in the back yard, then the afternoon pootling about in the kitchen performing alchemy with our produce.
Historically, ready meals have been relegated by chefs and dietitians to the bottom of the culinary and nutrition pile. Little boxes of mush, hidden from view in cardboard boxes, often providing your full daily requirement for unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar.
I took a detour down the ready made food aisle at my local Sainsbury’s the other day (that loon taking photos of the food was me). Things have changed. We appear to have had a quiet food revolution.
Aware of the growing market for health foods, supermarkets have used dieticians, nutritionists and chefs to develop a new generation of microwavable ready meals. Can you now ping yourself to health (on full power) in 3 minutes? Is a healthy microwavable meal a contradiction in terms? I’m prepared to eat my words and cautiously say, yes, maybe……
What to look for in a healthy ready meal:
- you want to see what you are going to eat, so a clear container
- an ingredients list that only has the names of actual food, like carrots, beans, chicken and rice. Not modified maize starch, stabilisers, di-, tri- and polyphosphates, citric acid, firming agents and maltodextrin
- aim for 300-400kcal
- how much veg can you see? Look for meals with about 1/3-1/2 colourful veggies
- a good protein portion: 20-30g: the label on the back will tell you this, make sure you look per portion
- Not too much carbohydrate – about 1/4 of the meal. Extra points for wholegrain rice, baby potatoes, quinoa, beans, lentils
- Below about 1g salt per portion: Colour-coded nutritional information on the front tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low (red means high, amber means medium, green means low)
Here are some of the best of the supermarkets’ own ranges:
Sainsbury’s My Goodness range: (£3.25, currently on offer £2.50) typically 300-400kcal per pack, plenty of lean protein, a lovely mix of colourful veg, with a controlled portion of carbs. Look for the ones with a green circle stating ‘high protein’.
M&S Balanced For You range: high protein, moderate carbohydrate meals. All meals provide slow release carbohydrate from various sources such as beans, pulses and vegetables.
Miso Chicken Noodles; Aromatic CHicken Skewers; Spiced Cauliflower Rice and Chargrilled Tikka Chicken
Tesco Healthy Living: £2.00 Some of the Healthy Living range meals can be high in salt, lacking veg or a bit low on protein. Here are two of the better ones: Chicken Noodle Laksa, South Individual Indian Curry With Pilaf.