Busy moms and dads may find themselves reaching for that frozen dinner for a quick meal, but Registered Dietitian and Fitness Expert, Karen Kawolics warns: “all frozen food is not created equal.”

Kawolics is a big fan of frozen fruits and vegetables, which she says are usually picked at their peak.

“I love frozen fruits. I love frozen vegetables, but you have to flip them over and look at the ingredients list. Most frozen fruits and frozen vegetables have nothing added,” said Kawolics.

Also, chose frozen fruits and vegetables that don’t have any sauces added to them. You can add some cheese to your child’s favorite vegetable on your own, if you need some added flavor.

Frozen dinners, Kawolics says, you need to be a little more careful with because they can contain so many added ingredients that can be bad for you.

“Frozen dinners are generally a different story. You really have to as a parent learn how to read nutrition facts labels and look at ingredients lists. When you are taking about kids – it’s the same for adults,” added Kawolics.

Keep a close eye on the fat content of that frozen dinner – especially the saturated fat.

“A quick rule of thumb is when you are looking at a nutrition facts label, look at the percent DV column. That means percent daily value. If that number is under 5 percent for something such as saturated fat or sodium, that’s a good number. You want to keep it below 5 percent, but if it’s way up like 19 or 20, you might want to stay away from that product,” said Kawolics.

Look for an ingredients list that is short and simple, and when you serve that frozen dinner, it’s always a good idea to serve it with your kids’ favorite vegetables.

“What I do with my kids is I’ll put the lasagna in the oven – you know it takes about an hour or so to cook – the Stouffer’s family sized lasagna. I give my kids a salad first. I’m like, ‘the lasagna is not ready yet.’ I make sure they eat a big salad with it. I will also serve their favorite vegetables on the side,” said Kawolics.

Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with frozen dinners, as long as you serve them in moderation and try to keep your serving size low.

“The one thing that we are looking at with frozen food is that the sodium is high. So, if you are eating it every day of the week, you are putting yourself at risk of high blood pressure in the future. In addition, generally, the fat is higher, calories are higher, and obesity rates among kids are high,” added Kawolics.

A useful tip is to make extra portions the next time you are cooking so that you eat some and freeze the rest.

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