When You Just Hafta Grab Something

We all do it. You worked late, you’re tired, you haven’t gone grocery shopping since the weekend, nothing looks good or barely edible in your fridge—whatever the reason, you find yourself poised for “the grab.” Unfortunately, far too often, that means a fast-food stop or microwaveable mac and cheese, or—God forbid!—the 7-11 Big Bite, loaded. Hello fat and salt, and lotsa calories…

So, I’m here to offer some alternatives.  A couple are based on actual research conducted by my husband and me in the frozen entree section of our local supermarket, but more on that later.

First, for that quickie, “I’m-hungry-and-can’t-wait” food grab, here are some alternatives to fast or processed or simply “not worth it”  options:

  1. Grab a banana to tide yourself over until you can eat rationally.
  2. Have breakfast: an egg, a piece of toast, fruit, or some cereal with milk—breakfast for dinner is fun every once in a while, and best of all, it’s quick and healthier than traditional fast food.
  3. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but listen up.  Use a brand like Crazy Richard’s, made with just peanuts, ‘smuch better than any of the peanut-flavored Crisco’s out there. For jelly, try Polaner All Fruit (all natural, no cane sugar or corn syrup). Use a wholegrain bread or English muffin. Add a piece of fruit or any fresh veggies lying around (who doesn’t have a 10-lb bag of baby carrots huddled in the fridge—Costco much?).
  4. Slice off a couple thin pieces of cheese (less than an ounce, total) and have them on a Fiber One English muffin with some mustard.  Take time to toast it open-faced (so worth the extra 2 ½ minutes.)

Anyway, you get the drift. Now, what if you want to actually PLAN for such times, when you know you won’t have the time, energy, or willpower, to cook? What if you were to buy some, gulp, TV dinners for such an occasion? Well suh, that’s where our research comes in, and the news ain’t all bad.

The following is a comparison of chicken and beef entrees, found in the frozen section of Giant. For each, I’ve provided the nutrition data from the box, along with our reviews of taste and healthiness.

Max 5   for taste value and 5  for healthy value. WW is “Weight Watchers.”

Here are the beef entries:

Lean Cuisine – Ranchero braised beef  w/ chipotle mashed potatoes

Serving Size

Cals

Fat cals

Carbs (g)

Dietary fiber (g)

Sugars (g)

Protein (g)

Sodium (mg)

% cals fat

233 g

240

40

34

3

23

17

540

16.7%

Review:    
In a word: “mushy.” The calories are on the low side, but the portion size is rather meager, as is the dietary fiber. Also a huge sugar hit (23 g’s!). Props for high protein grams.
Healthy Choice – Salisbury steak, redskin potatoes, green beans, caramelized apples

Serving Size

Cals

Fat cals

Carbs (g)

Dietary fiber (g)

Sugars (g)

Protein (g)

Sodium (mg)

% cals fat

354 g

320

70

45

8

18

18

590

21.9%

Review:   
Steak was nice and chewy, green beans not too soft, unlike the redskin potatoes, which were. Caramelized apples were surprisingly good. The 18 sugar grams not stellar, however.
WW Smart Ones – Homestyle pot roast w/onion, green beans, gravy

Serving Size

Cals

Fat cals

Carbs (g)

Dietary fiber (g)

Sugars (g)

Protein (g)

Sodium (mg)

% cals fat

255

190

60

18

3

3

16

590

31.6%

Review :   
Good taste, if you like pressed meat in cube formation, which it turns out I do; the side dishes quite palatable as well. Total calories not bad, though again portion size rather smallish. Except for the sodium at 590 mg, all other “stats” look good.

And here are the chicken entries:

WW Smart Ones – Chicken parmesan w/spaghetti

Serving Size

Cals

Fat cals

Carbs (g)

Dietary fiber (g)

Sugars (g)

Protein (g)

Sodium (mg)

% cals fat

283

290

60

35

4

5

23

630

20.7%

Review:   
Pretty good flavor, spaghetti kinda sticky (probably because it’s microwave only), but still tasty. Chicken a good chew and flavorful. Good stats except for the sodium, which is why I dinged it one health point.
Healthy Choice – Chicken parmigiana breaded chicken cutlet w/ rotini pasta in marinara sauce,  broccoli, and caramelized apples

Serving Size

Cals

Fat cals

Carbs (g)

Dietary fiber (g)

Sugars (g)

Protein (g)

Sodium (mg)

% cals fat

329

340

90

49

7

17

16

580

26.5%

Review:   
Broccoli is overcooked and bleh and the rotini bland, but the chicken flavorful. Sugar alert!-17 g’s for this one. It’s the apples again. Hardly worth it.
WW Smart Ones – Chicken mesquite w/mashed redskin potatoes

Serving Size

Cals

Fat cals

Carbs (g)

Dietary fiber (g)

Sugars (g)

Protein (g)

Sodium (mg)

% cals fat

255

250

45

34

2

8

17

640

18.0%

Review:    
Like its beef cousin, the chicken tasted like pressed meat, not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, at 640 mg. of salt, not sure I could recommend this one. The mashed redskin potatoes were better than they had to be, I will say that.

So there’s my review.  Major points here:

  1. Err on the side of “pure” food (see first list at top of this blog).
  2. If you do a frozen dinner or entree, go ahead and microwave a bag of broccoli florets while you’re waiting for it to cook—open the bag, place in microwave for 2 minutes. Have those with whatever quickie dinner you make. OR
  3. Add a big salad! So you don’t lose the benefit of a controlled meal by snacking later out of hunger.

“Grab” healthy and keep moving, Jen Katt


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