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A Shopper’s Guide to Frozen Meals for People with IBD
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We all experience busy days when there doesn’t seem to be enough time to prepare or cook food. If you’re in a pinch, nutritionists say prepackaged frozen meals can be a decent option for people with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis (UC).
“A frozen or packaged meal may not be the healthiest choice, but it certainly can be a good quick option,” says Everyday Health nutritionist Kelly Kennedy, RD. “They’re fine in moderation and are pretty portion controlled, which is nice.”
What to Look for When Selecting Frozen Meals
There are certain things you should look out for when selecting frozen meals, including added sugars and added salt. “If you keep those to a minimum, these meals can fit into an overall ,” Kennedy says. Here are some things to consider when choosing frozen foods:
Watch sodium content.Andrea Dunn, RD, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, recommends choosing products that are moderate in sodium — “not more than 600 milligrams per day, unless your doctor tells you that you need more salt than the average person,” she says.
Limit calories.If you eat three meals and one or two per day, Dunn says you should keep the calories from the frozen meal to no more than 1/4 of your calories for the day if it’s your main meal.
Stick to what works.When it comes to keeping ulcerative colitis symptoms at bay, experts say any foods you can normally tolerate are good options for frozen meals.
Watch out for herbs and spices.Keep in mind that various brands of frozen meals have different levels of spices and herbs.
“You may find you tolerate one specific brand of the same food — let’s say, chicken and brown rice with vegetables, for example — over another, because of the spices and herbs that may vary from brand to brand,” Dunn says.
Choose lean meats.Meals that have lean protein choices like chicken or fish, whole grains, and vegetables are generally healthier options.
Read labels.“The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight,” Dunn says. “Those in the largest amounts are listed first. This will give you an idea as to how much protein or vegetables might be in the meal.”
Foods You May Want to Avoid
Certain foods tend to be more gas-producing than others, and can cause some discomfort in people with ulcerative colitis. Kennedy says to avoid foods like:
She also notes that some people with IBD may have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten and therefore should look for gluten-free frozen meals.
A study published in July 2014 in the journalInflammatory Bowel Diseasefound that almost 20 percent of study participants with IBD had tried a gluten-free diet. Sixty-five percent of those found the diet was beneficial to their IBD-related symptoms.
Some people with IBD also have a lactose intolerance or sensitivity, Kennedy says, and may need to avoid dairy in frozen meals.
Prep Your Own Frozen Meals
If you have the time, you can also cook healthy meals in advance and freeze them for later in the week.
“For many people, batch cooking provides an easy answer,” Dunn says. “If you’re going to cook enough for one meal, why not double or triple the amount so you can freeze some for another day?”
She recommends cooking extra chicken, fish, or other lean protein, some vegetables, and a side like brown rice, barley, or whole grain pasta, and then packaging them in freezer-safe containers in meal portions.
“They’re easy to grab and go from the freezer to the microwave,” Dunn says.
Video: Healthy Shopping with Dawn Jackson Blatner: A Healthy Frozen Foods Diet! | Lifetime
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