It took a few months for me, but the novelty of preparing dinner (and lunch and breakfast) on a daily basis has worn off, and I am apparently not alone on this issue. According to a 2020 survey conducted for the Food Industry Association, while the desire to eat interesting meals has increased in the last several months, the need for cutting back on the amount of time preparing these tasty meals has also increased.
Take note: It’s not for a lack of meal inspiration. The public has been bombarded with a plethora of recipes coming in their email inboxes and on social media, but the motivation to plan and prepare meals, not to mention, cleaning up the kitchen afterwards, has waned. Like pandemic fatigue, a sense of “cooking fatigue” has also begun to increase. As a result, people are looking for tasty meal options that don’t necessarily involve a lot of slicing and dicing.
Combating Cooking Fatigue
“Cooking fatigue is an understatement,” says Heather Mangieri, a Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian nutritionist, a sports dietitian and author of “Fueling Young Athletes.” “I thought that I cooked a lot before the pandemic but that was nothing compared to feeding five people every meal, every day. I can’t believe how much food we have gone through and how many meals I have prepared. I have days when I don’t even want to walk into the kitchen.”
According to the American Frozen Food Institute, which represents America’s frozen food and beverage makers, the consumer has recently found relief from cooking fatigue by strolling down the frozen food aisle of the supermarket. The sales of frozen meals have increased over 15% from last year, according to an AFFI survey.
If you haven’t tried frozen meals recently, trust me, these aren’t the TV dinners (I’m dating myself) that you may have remembered decades ago.
Frozen Meals Can Be Healthy
“Many people don’t realize that frozen meals are prepared by experienced chefs and then are frozen and shipped to supermarkets,” says Mangieri. “Many of the chefs that prepare these meals are very health conscious, are adding more veggies and whole grains to the meals and are also using a variety of herbs and spices to season the food. That’s why these newer frozen meals offer so much more nutrition and taste so good.”
Mangieri is correct, as a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that frozen meals actually had more fiber, calcium, potassium, protein and vitamins D, A and C — and less unhealthy saturated fat and added sugars — than meals that were obtained at fast food or pizza outlets.
So if you’re experiencing cooking fatigue, consider looking to frozen meals as a way to get dinner on the table with a lot less preparation. To go even further to enhance the nutritional quality of these frozen dinners, add some fruit, veggies, whole grains and dairy sides to the meal.
Ideas to Boost the Nutrition of Frozen Meals
Here are some specific, healthy meal addition suggestions with little or no preparation involved:
|Frozen Meal||Healthy Addition|
|Breakfast burrito||A piece of fruit.
|Egg white omelet||Frozen broccoli, cooked, and low-fat cheese added to omelet.
Yogurt smoothie with frozen berries.
|Pizza||Top with leftover veggies or frozen cooked pepper slices.
Tossed salad side.
|Meatballs||Whole grain spaghetti.
Carrot zoodles, frozen, cooked, as a side dish.
|Chicken or Beef Stir-Fry||Frozen mixed vegetables, cooked, added to the meal.
Brown rice, instant or microwavable in pouch, as a side dish.
|Chili||Frozen or canned corn, cooked, and added to the meal.
Diced tomatoes, canned, and added to the meal.
|Lasagna||Spinach salad, bagged, as a side dish with dressing.
Frozen green beans, cooked as a side dish.
|Mac & Cheese||Drained, canned black beans added to the meal.
Salsa, added to the meal.
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