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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Healthy Convenience Foods for People Who Hate to Cook

For those who love to cook, there’s never a shortage of great, cheap, healthy recipe ideas.

Personally, I hate to cook.

I get home at night and want my yummy, healthy dinner *now*, not 45 minutes of cooking from now. I hate the “easy” recipes that involve 20 different ingredients. I hate scrubbing out the slow cooker. Even the George Foreman grill, with its runnels of grease, is a nightmare to me.

Sometimes, my wonderful boyfriend cooks for us both. Sometimes (VERY rarely), I suck it up and cook something. The rest of the time, I count on a variety of healthy pre-made foods marketed to the uber-busy or lazy health conscious person. Here are some staples I count on in my kitchen:

1. Jimmy Dean “D’lights” breakfast sandwiches. These are under 300 calories, use egg whites, turkey bacon and whole grain English muffins, and taste really good. They’re ready in 2 minutes in the microwave, and are cooked wrapped in paper towel instead of the plastic wrapper, for those concerned about possible carcinogens.

2. Amy’s frozen meals. These tend to be more expensive than regular frozen meals, but if you find a sale, stock up. They have a great selection of organic, nutritious, delicious entrees. My favorites are the Stuffed Shell Pasta Bowl, the Teriyaki Bowl, and the Mushroom and Olive Pizza (the single serve version has 450 calories, which is great for a satisfying and not diet-busting lunch or dinner). I also have to mention the Toaster Pops, which taste like mini pies and have twice the protein, 50 fewer calories and 6 fewer grams of sugar than unfrosted Pop Tarts!

3. No-Pudge! Fat Free Brownies. Okay, this is a delicious dessert that is fat free and only 120 calories per serving (vs. 190 in Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies from mix, prepared). Plus, you only have to mix in one item – fat-free vanilla yogurt. And this is the best part: for a single serving, all you have to do is stir two tablespoons of the mix and one tablespoon of yogurt into a small bowl and microwave it for a minute. Easy!

4. Kroger Meals Made Simple Fully Cooked Turkey Bacon. You can microwave the strips or serve them cold, by themselves or on simple sandwiches. They provide 40 calories and 3 grams of fat per 2 strips, vs. 104 calories and 9 grams of fat in regular bacon. They taste good, too.

5. Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers. I like veggie burgers that don’t actually try to taste like meat – there’s something creepy about that. These veggie burgers know they’re veggie burgers and taste good as veggie burgers. At 100 calories per patty and a couple minutes in the microwave to prep, they win for me.

6. Birdseye Steamfresh Veggies. They’re veggies you stick in the microwave and they steam right in the bag. There’s some concern over cooking in plastic and the nutritional content of frozen vs. fresh veggies (though several respected sources do state that frozen is fine). For now, I think any veggies are better than none, and these are very convenient in helping the lazy or busy cook include them in their diet.

7. Trader Joes Organic Jasmine Rice and Organic Brown Rice. This rice is really, really good and microwaves in 3 minutes. For anyone who’s cooked rice, especially brown rice, you know how much of a time saver that is. Jasmine rice, by the way, is one of the healthier white rices, with a lower glycemic index than regular white rice.

8. Trader Joes Turkey Meatballs. Trader Joes is full of awesome and nutritious easy frozen stuff. These frozen meatballs are low in fat and calories and high in protein, and they taste great. I toss them on top of the microwaveable rice and toss some veggies and a little teriyaki sauce on top. Good stuff.

Know some other great healthy convenience foods? I’m always on the lookout, so let me know!

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