Frozen food: What you see isn't always what you get


by Mia Gradney / KHOU 11 News

Posted on September 24, 2012 at 12:32 PM

HOUSTON—We all like a good home cooked meal, but we don’t always have the time. That’s where a frozen dinner comes in handy.

Busy journalist, mother and wife Mia Gradney has a lot of experience in this area. Monday through Friday, she reaches for lunch in her freezer. A few minutes in the microwave and bon appétit! The only problem is her microwave dinners don’t always look so appetizing. As a matter fact; they don’t always look like what’s pictured on the box.

The sometimes not-so-good end results prompted Mia to conduct a frozen food face-off. While not a part of her regular diet, Mia admits she’s nuked a pizza pocket before. She’s quickly reminded why she doesn’t anymore.

“It looks a little different from the box,” she said.

Another box featuring an enchilada dinner that looks like it could be a fiesta in your mouth is just as enticing. It has two enchiladas, beans and rice. But after it is microwaved, Gradney finds “es no bueno,” or it’s no good.

“Look at these enchiladas. They’re flat. The filling’s run all out. The tortilla looks dry, and how about those refried beans,” Gradney said while scooting the food around the plastic tray.

A taste of Italy is what Mia needs.

“My nickname is “Mama Mia” after all,” she said. “Tortellini is terrific.”

It tastes terrific, cooks up well and doesn’t look that different than what’s pictured on the box. It’s a popular pick for Mia and apparently a not so bad one.

“Frozen foods are a great way for you to portion control,” says registered dietician and author Monica Bearden. “We use them all the time when we’re helping people to lose weight and control their calories.”

The frozen meals that cooked up the best happened to be the healthiest, with 400 to 500 calories, no more than 600 milligrams of sodium and lots of veggies.

But healthy or not, it just all tastes better if it looks good.

“The appeal of food is not just what you taste, but the aroma and the visual appeal of it,” Bearden said. “That stimulates appetite and makes you excited to eat. Eating really has to do with enjoyment. You want to make sure you’re able to enjoy your meal.”

With a freezer full of the right frozen foods you should be guaranteed satisfaction.

The dietitian’s frozen favorites include Healthy Choice meals and Weight Watchers meals. To up the nutrition value, you can always do like Gradney and add fresh veggies—like pico de gallo and avocado -- as a garnish and or side dish.