Healthy eating isn’t black and white. It isn’t the same thing to each person and it certainly isn’t a one size fits all approach. As part of my dietetics degree course we are taught not to make too many changes to a patient’s diet all at once, and to assess their ‘readiness to change’ before making alterations and suggestions. Furthermore, we also adapt the approach that there is a good, better, best scenario for each patient.
For example, it’s good if a patient can cut down their saturated fat intake, it’s better if they can do this and increase their fruit and veg intake, it’s best if they can eat over 5 pieces of different fruit and vegetables a day, eat oily fish twice a week and reduce their total sat fat intake.
We set ourselves up to fail by thinking we have to make ALL THE CHANGES, rather than focusing on one or two. Or making the good decision when faced in a tricky situation.
This is how I feel about ready meals. They’re not an everyday solution, but a great stop gap when you need them.
We have an image in our heads that ready meals are all bad for us, full of hidden fat and sugar, stodgy microwave meals with no nutritional value. That simply isn’t the case anymore (thankfully for those of us that have ever been too tired/bored/hungry to cook and want something comforting in minutes).
**Full disclosure, this post is sponsored by Asda but I’m trying to share some of the advice I’ve learned as part of my dietetics degree to help you make an informed choice no matter which supermarket you choose to shop in/find yourself in when experiencing post workout HANGER**
Firstly, check out the traffic light system on the front of the pack. This is the perfect way to see at a glance the rough nutritional profile of the meal. Ideally you want them to be all green fronted showing that they’re low in fat, saturated fat, salt, and sugar. You can see above the profile of one of the High in Protein ready meals and apart from the salt content (which ideally would be green too, as at 1.4g they’re at the higher level of amber -over 1.5g would take it to red!) all the rest are green. Due to the highish salt levels in most ready meals, it’s a good idea to limit your salt intake for the rest of the day. Ideally a healthy adult should consume less than 6g per day.
Additionally, make sure to look at whether the nutritional information is per 100g or per meal (and how many servings there are in the meal). I often end up eating 2-3 servings of something and so a meal or food item that looked pretty healthy from the packaging, actually isn’t.
Opt for a lean protein such as chicken, salmon, prawns, or tofu. I was recently sent three of the new ready meals from Asda’s High in Protein, all of which were based around a lean meat source; High-in Protein Thai Green Chicken Curry & Rice, High-in Protein Wild Salmon & Mixed Bean Rice · High-in Protein Moroccan Chicken & Butternut Squash Falafels. They were also all under 500 calories. High protein meals help keep you fuller for longer as it takes the body more energy to metabolise protein macronutrients than fat and carbohydrate, plus protein is necessary for muscle building and recovery post workout.
It’s all about the vegetables. Choosing a meal that is packed full of veg is a great way to add in one or two of your five a day, like the High-in Protein Moroccan Chicken & Butternut Squash Falafels. Not only is a meal with plenty of veg a good way to keep calories low but pack in micronutrients, fibre and in some cases, a punch of protein.
Add in some fibre – research shows that fibre could be the key to weight loss. Not only that but it helps keep you regular, and can also help improve heart health, prevent diabetes and reduces risk of colorectal cancer. Look for options that include wholegrain such as brown rice, freekah, quinoa, barley as well as beans, fruit and vegetables.
Ultimately, you’re looking for a well balanced meal, something like the High-in Protein Wild Salmon & Mixed Bean Rice (which has the added benefit of Omega 3s from the salmon) but is a mix of fat, protein and carbs, has a great source of fibre from the beans and contains one of your five a day. You could also serve alongside some wilted spinach or frozen peas to add another serving into your lunch or dinner.
Asda’s new range of High-in Protein ready meals are all under 500 cals, naturally low in fat and pack a huge protein punch. They’ve developed them to be healthy and delicious, packed with fresh flavours without compromising on taste. They make great post-workout meals with plenty of protein (up to 34g) per pack. They’re currently on introductory offer for £3.