A better boxed meal

Imagine it’s late afternoon on a typical weekday. Do you know what you’re having for dinner tonight? Most people don’t, according to a recent survey. About 70 percent of adults living in the U.S. don’t decide what to eat that night until 4 p.m. or later.

For a quick meal, many cooks reach for packaged convenience foods. Most of these products are NOT nutrient dense, but rather are low in healthy nutrients and high in sodium, fat and calories. Some of the convenience foods are much more expensive than homemade recipes, too.

Here are some delicious, quick and easy ways to boost the nutrient density of a boxed or frozen packaged convenience food. By following these tips, you will increase the taste of your meals — as well as the vitamins, minerals and overall nutritional value. When your family and work schedules don’t allow much time for cooking, try these tips.

To decrease fat

• Use only half the margarine called for in the instructions of boxed mixes of rice, pasta, stuffing, potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. Omit all of the margarine for even greater calorie savings.

• Reduce the fat in ground beef when making a hamburger casserole boxed mix. Drain the fat from cooked ground beef, place the meat in a colander and rinse with warm water. Drain. Continue with the regular directions.

• Substitute an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce for vegetable oil in boxed brownie mixes. Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg to decrease the fat and calorie content even more.

Decrease Sodium

• Use only half of a seasoning packet for seasoned rice mixes, packaged soup noodles and frozen stir fry meals. Add the remaining half when cooking plain rice or noodles, or use as a seasoning for slow cooked meats, if desired.

Add Nutrients

• Add chopped vegetables to frozen pizza before baking.

• Add frozen chopped spinach to tomato-based pasta sauces.

• Add frozen mixed vegetables to canned soups.

• Add drained chunks of canned fruit to gelatin desserts and puddings.

• If a packaged mix calls for milk, use nonfat dry milk powder and water instead. If you use 2/3 cup dry milk and one cup water for every cup of milk the package calls for, you will get twice as much calcium as you normally would have.

Cindy Williams45 Posts

Cindy Williams is the Meadowlark Extension District agent in the areas of food and nutrition.


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