Eating Well With Kim: Trends in the Single Serving Meals Aisle

By: Kim Beavers
By: Kim Beavers

Friday, March 7, 2014

Have you noticed all the fancy new meals in the frozen section of grocery store?

Well I have, and actually some of them look pretty tasty. There are a few consumer trends that push the demand for frozen foods. The first trend is that the baby boomer generation is demanding more healthful foods, while the millennial generation is demanding more ethnic varieties.

However I think the most influential trend is that 42 percent of meals are eaten alone which increases the demand for single serving meals.

Generally speaking, I am a fan of home cooked meals and don’t peruse the frozen food aisle that much, however as a dietitian in the media world I do try to investigate all components of the supermarket and clearly there is a large group of people who use frozen meals regularly. The reason I wanted to address this topic is because I have an appreciation for companies that do try to make efforts to improve their products.

You have to admit that the frozen meals of today are much better than the frozen “TV dinners” of our youth (no more square carrots—whew).

Here are a couple of the changes that have lead to the improved quality of frozen meals. In many of the frozen meals vegetables are harvested and frozen on the same day and then added to freezer meals, thus preserving the highest level of quality possible. In addition there is a “steam technology” that seems to be a fancy buzz word. I am not certain exactly what “steam technology is, but I suspect it is a good thing as in general steaming is a nice way to cook foods while preserving moisture and nutrients.

Another fact to note is the continued decline of sodium in frozen meals. Some of the frozen meals available of course can still have over 1,000mg sodium per meal, but there are more available than ever with much less sodium. The “healthy” frozen meal section of the freezer case continues to grow with meals purposefully lower in sodium and averages of about 500mg sodium per meal. That is actually pretty good when compared with the sodium in an average American meal (~1,000mg).

Examples of sodium free seasonings in this new age of freezer meals are wine, herbs, citrus juice and other spices. The main method of “preservation” is the freezer so preservatives are typically minimal.

The bottom line: Frozen meals have made a name for themselves in the grocery market, and are making continued strides toward quality and consumer driven food trends.

Hopefully this will help you: Shop well, and live well.

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