Frozen meals can offer many benefits, including cost, convenience, range and accessibility. While some frozen meals may not have the nutritional profile that makes them suitable for daily consumption, others offer a great source of convenient nutrients in a simple package.
It’s unfortunate, then, that all frozen meals often receive the same blanket approach in terms of being deemed ‘unhealthy’. As with anything related to our health and wellbeing, it’s not uncommon for different marketing messages to create confusion about whether or not frozen meals are a reliable staple in our diets.
To assist in your decision-making, we’re taking a look at what’s important to consider when evaluating the health and convenience benefits of frozen meals. Please also use the information on this website to make an informed decision.
Why frozen meals are popular
One of the most obvious benefits of frozen meals is their convenience. Providing a quick and easy solution to a full meal, frozen meals are often used by busy individuals or families who don’t have time to cook dinner at the end of the day. They can also be of great use to people who may have accessibility challenges when it comes to cooking, offering a wide range of food choices that don’t require cooking from scratch.
Many people find that frozen meals can be a cost-effective solution to balancing their grocery budget. Particularly as we experience rises in the cost of living, with many staple ingredients fluctuating in their pricing, frozen meals offer certainty about the cost of a single meal. This can be a huge benefit for those keeping a close eye on their grocery expenditure. Frozen meals are also regularly discounted – when you shop the specials and keep them in your freezer, where they can be stored for longer periods than fresh ingredients or leftovers, you can stretch your budget even further. This freezer lifespan is particularly useful for people who grocery shop on a less frequent basis, or for those looking to make sure there’s easy access to a full meal in the freezer at all times.
One of the more obvious benefits of frozen meals is also the wide range of options available! Curries, pastas, pies, burritos, stews, chillis, dumplings, burgers and more are all available in a frozen meal format. For those who are less inclined to spend their time in the kitchen, this can be a cost-effective way to eat a wide variety of meals from week to week.
It’s no wonder that we’re interested in the nutritional benefits of frozen meals. With affordability, accessibility, convenience and variety at our fingertips, they can play a key role in the eating patterns of many individuals and families.
The potential cons of frozen meals
It’s far too easy to generalise when it comes to the potential downsides of frozen meals. As each meal and each company is different in its ingredients, production process and nutritional profile, paying close attention to each product is the best way to understand whether it’s a fit for your dietary goals and needs.
Some of the cons of frozen meals include the potential to have high levels of sodium and saturated fat. It’s common for many frozen meals to be high in sodium¹, which can be a risk factor that contributes to heart disease and high blood pressure. Saturated fat can also lead to weight gain and a range of other negative health impacts².
While some frozen meals can be very cost-effective, others may be more expensive than cooking the same meal from scratch. If you’re cooking a meal for multiple people, you may find it’s cheaper to buy the ingredients separately than to purchase enough frozen meals for everyone.
Serving portions can also be a challenge to manage across some frozen meals. As a number of them are packaged in larger portions than the standard recommended serving size, this can lead to overeating.
What to look for when choosing a frozen meal
Once you’re aware of the potential challenges that arise from consuming frozen meals, you can make informed decisions about whether they have a useful role in your weekly eating habits. By considering the nutritional value of each option, you can identify which frozen meals fit your daily dietary needs.
Each frozen meal has key information about its nutritional value and ingredients that you can use to compare options between brands (or against home-cooked or fresh meals). This information includes:
- The amount of fruit and vegetable content in the ingredients. Does the ingredients label list fruit and vegetables? If whole fruits and vegetables are missing, the meal is more likely to be reliant on preservatives.
- Sodium levels. By understanding your daily recommended sodium intake, you can look for frozen meals that fit within your daily limitations. The Australian government recommends adults eat no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day³, but your doctor can provide advice that’s specific to your individual health profile.
- The meal’s caloric content. An ideal daily intake of calories varies depending on age, metabolism and levels of physical activity, among other things. By working with your individual healthcare providers to understand your recommended daily caloric intake levels, you can assess the calories in a frozen meal against the protein, fibre and carbs it offers, identifying whether or not it fits within your daily needs. You can find more tips for building a healthy diet when you’re living with disability here.
Support for independence around meals
With this information on hand, you can evaluate frozen meals to see how they fit into your dietary needs, lifestyle, taste preferences and routines. You may find a meal you can incorporate into your weekly rotation that’s delicious, easy and in alignment with your nutritional considerations.
Of course, frozen meals aren’t the only option when it comes to accessible meals. If you’re looking to increase the amount of home-cooked meals you eat, whether through cooking them yourself or with the assistance of a formal carer, our Lifestyle Attendants can provide this help. We work with many of our customers to meal prep, grocery shop and cook meals together (just the way they like them), shaping individual services that are suited to specific needs and preferences.
Find the support you need to take full control of your meals and broaden your home cooking options with the support of Enhanced Lifestyles. Get in touch with us today.
¹Cleveland Clinic. (2017). What Are the Best Frozen Meals? [online] Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/8-ways-to-find-the-best-and-avoid-the-worst-frozen-meals/.
²Wax, E. (2019). Facts about saturated fats: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. [online] Medlineplus.gov. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000838.htm.
³Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. (n.d.). Sodium and salt. [online] Available at: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/nutrition/salt/Pages/default.aspx.