Cooking from scratch is overrated. Actually it’s not but then again some days we’re literally non stop going from school runs to jobs to kids’ clubs to running errands and a saucepan just won’t get a look in. Let this healthy ready meals guide help you pick the best you can when you don’t have time to cook.
By giving you this guide I don’t mean homemade spag bol / fish pie etc. isn’t way better than shop bought, both in taste and nutrition – fresh is always better. Plus you get to control the ingredients, so can add extra veg etc.
But trying to make elaborate meals like this every night, unless you love it and have time, is fighting a losing battle IMO, it’s stressful. Most evenings we have simple stuff like omelettes, baked beans, stir fry or steak, or pull something (spag bol) from the freezer.
And honestly the occasional ready meal won’t kill you. The trick is to choose better ones that aren’t super high in fat and calories – copious amounts of cheese of big portions of pasta can easily shoot the calorie content up.
And not enough protein makes them not filling for those calories too. Which leads me to an important point when it comes to choosing pre-packed meals and snacks. If you’re struggling with hunger you’re probably getting this wrong so read this and take notes, literally in your phone / on your kitchen whiteboard.
It’s commonly advised in the health & fitness world to aim for 20g protein at each main meal and snack, or at least 10g / snack if it’s a small snack. Why?
Because protein preserves muscle which is even more important when losing weight. The fewer calories you eat, and you are eating fewer when losing weight, the higher the % of your diet should be protein.
If you’ve ever used MyFitnessPal or another food tracking app you’ll be familiar with the concept of some foods having more, or less, protein than others. You probably know that protein is from meat, fish, eggs, dairy and alternatives like tofu, or protein powder / bars.
There’s a wrong way to hit your protein target when losing weight, and that’s to look at only the protein. That’s cheating. It’s be easy to get 20g from a huge meaty cheesy lasagne. It’s also likely near 1000 calories for a pub size portion.
No, what you want is more protein, without bumping up the calories. And it’s simpler than you think, just choosing one similar thing over the other thing.
Here’s some examples of healthy ready meals and snacks I’d choose if I was buying food in a hurry. In fact some of these I chose because I have bought them in the past! These were all correct at the time of writing, but I can’t guarantee brands won’t change their ingredients slightly or discontinue options, which is why I’ve given you photos so you can find something similar.
5 FitMum Ready Meals
- M&S Courgetti & broccoli Spaghetti with Chargrilled Chicken: It’s not often you see courgetti in supermarket ready meals. I had this while in hospital with Bella, it was really tasty! I added extra veg though, 370g isn’t quite enough for my hungry belly!
- Kirsty’s Cottage Pie Sweet Potato Mash(from Sainsburys and Waitrose) Add a side of greens and this is a really nutritious, low calorie, high protein meal.
- Waitose LoveLife Beef & Red Wine Casserole. This omits potatoes in favour of root vegetables, making it lower calorie. But it still packs in over 20g protein per pack to keep you full (more on the 20g protein rule next week).
- Lidl Feta & Beetroot Dip; the whole tub with some carrot, cucumber and pepper strips for lunch. At only 210 calories for the whole tub you you could easily add a mini pitta bread or small wrap. Plus it’s only £1.29 and you get 2 other dips in the pack for that price too!
- Quorn vegan five grain fillets: Quorn fillets with a crispy, seedy crumb. Not all Quorn products are vegan so these are a good find if you’re omitting animal products, tasty too, I’ve tried them! Have a small portion of new potatoes and lots of veg alongside.
5 High Protein Meals & Snacks
- M&S high protein chicken & bacon sandwich (one slice of bread with extra filling) has 29 g protein for around 350 calories. Whereas their regular version has only 2g more, for 100 calories more. Granted not every shop makes 1 slice sandwiches like this but it’s definitely something you could make at home.
- Activia strawberry yoghurt has 4g protein and 111 calories for 125g, whereas 170g of Total fat free Greek yoghurt has a whopping 10g per pot, with under 100 calories per pot.
- A lemon drizzle Nakd snack bar has just 2g protein for a 133 calorie (35g) bar, and honestly you would not believe how many Mums have told be they bought a box of these ‘healthy’ bars, only to smash the lot on one sitting, they’re just so easy to overeat! By contrast the new smaller 40g FulFil protein bars (in WHSmith) have 15g protein for around the same calories.
- For a convenient breakfast, a Quaker Oats apple porridge pot has 8g protein, but the Fuel brand version has 13g.
- At supper time, Sainsbury’s Mediterranean pasta bake might only be just over 300 calories but it’s got half the ideal protein at only 10g, so it wouldn’t keep you full for long. A more balanced meal would be their Tomato & Basil Chicken which has a cool 28g protein for a one person serving.
See, no fancy weird foods needed, just a few simple swaps, not so hard huh? What will you buy or make this week that’s higher protein than you were having before? Come and let me know in my free Facebook Group!