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Diet Detours: Frozen foods

Monday, February 17, 2014

Microwave meals may be quick, easy, and tasty but sometimes convenience equals calories.

So-called 'TV dinners' aren't known for their nutritional value, but they're quick and convenient. Because we know people eat them, we're comparing some of the most popular brands.

Nutritionist Katie Cavuto says you can make better choices with the items you grab on the go. You just need to know what to look for.

"Check for calories, fat and, of course, sodium," Cavuto says.

For our first match up, we compare gooey mac-n-cheese dinners. Banquet against Amy's Organic Country Cheddar Bowl and Weight Watchers Smart Ones. The Banquet and Weight Watchers weigh in nearly the same with roughly 300 calories and 6 grams of fat So, in this case the "smartest" choice doesn't necessarily save you calories.

"Don't just look at the packaging make sure to read the label."

Katie says that's especially true with the organic Cheddar Bowl: With 430 calories and 20 grams of fat, it is today's first diet detour.

"Organic doesn't mean low in fat, low in sodium or low in calories," Cavuto warns

Next up, TV dinners.

How will the Boston Market Chicken Pot Pie stack up against a Hungry Man Country Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and apple pie?

The Hungry Man has 520 calories and 29 grams of fat. But the pot pie, if you eat the whole thing, is over 1100 calories and 80 grams of fat. Which crashes the Pot Pie directly into the detour zone. Unfortunately, most people would not cut the pot pie in half.

Frozen pizzas are quick and convenient meals on the go, so how do two brand favorites - DiGiorno and Celeste - compare in the pepperoni pizza category?

Katie says if you are looking to cut calories, choose the Celeste. With 350 and 17 grams it gets her green light... but DiGiorno traditional crust tips the scale at 750 calories and 34 grams of fat, making it the diet detour.

Next up, breakfast dishes. We size up Newman's Own and the P.F. Changs Beef and Broccoli dinners.

"For whatever reason these meals in a bag seem healthier than a tradition frozen dinner," but Cavuto warns, "they aren't."

Katie says from a calorie and fat stand point watch out -- a serving of the PF Changs meal packs 390 calories and 20 grams of fat. Newman's Own saves you 140 calories and 10 grams of fat a serving.

But always remember, many of these processed meals are also loaded with sodium, so you want to check for that. In general, you want less than 2,300 milligrams per day, but the optimal number is under 1,500 milligrams per day.

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