Senior Beat

Frozen meals convenient, tasty and now healthy too

By Carol Higgins Taylor

Special to The Weekly

Frozen meals have been around since the late 1940s with some pretty impressive regional success. But it wasn’t until 1954 that they really took off when Swanson’s got into the act. They took the frozen food industry by storm, launching a huge advertising campaign and coining the phrase: TV Dinner, “which helped to transform their frozen meals into a cultural icon,” according to the Library of Congress website.

If you are curious, as I was, about the origin of frozen dinners, visit loc.gov and type “frozen dinner” in the search bar. The “Everyday Mysteries” page is a fascinating trip back in time.

I remember loving frozen dinners as a kid. Truth be told, I still do. But the ingredients, specifically the sodium content and the lengthy list of mystery items, can give you pause.

Well, Eastern Area Agency on Aging (EAAA) has the perfect solution for people who love the convenience of frozen meals but also want healthy ingredients and great taste. Plus, there are eight specialty varieties to choose from if you have a medical condition.

As we age, salt becomes a foe. If you are concerned about your salt intake, try the Low- Sodium meals which have 140mg or less of sodium per 100g serving. There are a variety of options that are delicious and can be enjoyed without guilt. In fact, many of the low-sodium meals are heart-friendly, diabetic-friendly and renal-friendly.

On to the Heart-Friendly option. These meals are carefully designed to meet the needs of someone who is not just watching sodium, but also fat intake in order to keep their heart healthy. The heart-friendly meals meet American Heart Association guidelines, and contain 700mg or less of sodium, less than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10g of saturated fat.

For those watching carbs, the Diabetic-Friendly option is just the ticket. These meals have 70g or less of carbohydrates, and are based on the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association.

For people with kidney disease, EAAA offers Renal-Friendly meals that have 700mg or less of sodium and 650mg or less of potassium. They are specially designed for people on hemodialysis, home dialysis or peritoneal dialysis.

Are you gluten free? No problem. There is a Gluten-Free option. These meals are tested to meet FDA requirements of less than 20ppm of gluten per meal. Without sacrificing taste, you can enjoy shepherd’s pie, creamy chicken and wild rice casserole among others.

If you have been put on a pureed diet, your options for meals are probably fairly limited. Until now. EAAA offers pureed meals that are actually molded to resemble the non-pureed versions. After all, you eat with your eyes first. These tasty entrees are designed for people who have difficulty chewing or swallowing. There are about a dozen pureed meals so you will never get bored.

Not a big meat eater? Try the vegetarian meals, all of which are also heart-friendly, diabetic-friendly, renal-friendly and have low cholesterol. From pasta primavera to Moroccan vegetable stew, the vegetarian meals will satisfy your taste buds while providing a healthy, meat-free option. Please note, some of the vegetarian meals may contain eggs or dairy.

And finally, who doesn’t love comfort food? These hearty meals will leave you feeling cozy and nostalgic. Think sweet and sour meatballs, baked beans and hot dogs, and mac and cheese. These meals are delicious, satisfying, and best of all, a healthy choice.

All told, there are dozens of entrees, each convenient, well-balanced and delicious. The 3D Catering meals range between $5 and $6.50 each. A 5-pack of meals must be purchased at a time and each pack comes with a loaf of bread and five desserts. You may pick them up at a variety of locations or EAAA might be able to deliver to you. The only requirement is that you be 50 or older or 18 or older living with a disability.

So, if the thought of microwaving (or baking in the oven) a delicious, well-balanced meal is tantalizing to you, call Eastern Area Agency on Aging at 942-2865 and ask about 3D Catering. Visit eaaa.org and click on the 3D Catering icon to learn more.

Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns Bryant Street Public Relations in Bangor. Email her at seniorbeat@gmail.com.

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