Balancing life’s demands and trying to eat a nutritious diet is challenging. As they say, “The struggle is real!” Juggling busy careers, keeping up with the laundry, grocery shopping, or simply figuring out what to eat can be daunting. Sometimes it feels like there are not enough hours in the day to focus on preparing a nutrient-dense, heart-healthy meal every night. In fact, according to Chicago-based food data company Food Genius, up to 80 percent of Americans do not know by 4:00 p.m. what they will be having for dinner that very same evening! Now throw in the considerations for managing health issues like obesity, hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes – figuring out what to eat can feel impossible! No wonder “pizza night” becomes “pizza nights,” and those frozen chicken nuggets graduate from “back-up plan” to “main staple.”
Pre-Packaged Meals Provide Portion Control
One solution is ensuring you always have a selection of nutritious, portion-controlled meals stored in your freezer. Incorporating a few of these healthy, pre-portioned meals into your weekly routine can provide structure and convenience.
In fact, research supports the effectiveness of intentionally using portion-controlled meals for losing weight and maintaining that weight loss, along with managing type 2 diabetes. One study compared the outcomes of patients who adhered to a diet including portion-controlled meals to patients who consumed a standard diet (meals made from scratch). The researchers found that the patients who included portion-controlled meals lost significantly more weight and were able to maintain the weight-loss long-term. An evaluation of six randomized controlled trials utilizing portion-controlled meals for weight management, compared to a standard reduced-calorie diet, concluded that pre-made meals designed with portion control in mind can safely and effectively produce significant, sustainable weight loss and improve weight-related risk factors of disease.
There is an expansive selection of portion-controlled meals available in grocery store freezer aisles, but many are far from meeting the criteria of “safely and effectively” improving weight-related disease risk factors. For example, someone struggling to manage hypertension would find it extremely difficult to find a portion-controlled meal that fits within a low-sodium diet. In fact, according to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, more than half of the products sold across 11 of 20 food categories examined in the research exceeded the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) sodium limits for the “healthy” label claim per serving. However, having a variety of legitimately healthy, convenient meals and snacks on hand, is a tasty way to follow a low-sodium diet and manage your hypertension health goals.
At the end of the day, eating a nutritious diet while juggling life’s demands is possible with proper planning and the inclusion of health management tools.