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Aster's avatar

Just how bad for you are tv dinners?

Asked by Aster (15309 points ) January 10th, 2013

Often, when my husband has a big steak for dinner I won’t feel like one so I will have a tv dinner and a sliced tomato. I know they’re “processed” but isn’t steak processed but in a different manner? Meaning the cows were given hormones and antibiotics before being slaughtered in arguably filthy conditions.
So are tv dinners all that worse than a big steak? Ready in seven minutes!

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29 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

The frozen dinner has (or more than likely has) added salt, sugar and other ingredients which you would not have added during your own cooking. Those include food coloring dyes, “stabilizers” and other ingredients that only appear for appearance and to induce you to buy more of the same product (especially the sugar and salt) because of the “great taste”.

Look at the ingredients list on the prepared dinner, and then look at the ingredients list on the steak. While you may feel that the raw steak has additives and components that you don’t want (such as fat and cholesterol, to be sure), “processed meats” are pre-cooked and also have salt and nitrates added for taste and preservative properties. Raw steak doesn’t have that.

This is not to say that your frozen dinner may, after all, be a healthier choice. They aren’t all made the same, after all, and the portions are smaller and there’s probably less fat and cholesterol in your choice. But it’s not as good a choice as, for example, a salad with raw vegetables and simple vinegar and oil dressing.

poisonedantidote's avatar

It all depends on the maker, while a tv dinner will normally be packed with chemicals, some of them are ok if you only have them from time to time.

I know steak has some negative associations to it, but for the most part it is just a big hunk of protein. A tv dinner on the other hand, is probably designed to last a billion years with the help of chemicals, and most of it was probably a mush of some kind, probably from a factory with minimum wage workers that piss in the mush for fun.

If your tv dinner has a burger-like meat thing, mash potato, some kind of sauce and some carrot, then chances are it is a little serving of death. On the other hand, if it does not have a very long shelf life, and has things like peas that keep well frozen, and don’t need insane processing, and it has things that are a bit higher quality, and not loaded in sugar or salt or bad fats, then it is not criminal to have one now and again.

tom_g's avatar

Like others have said, the tv dinner box will give you a ton of info. Start with the nutritional info (sodium, fat, calories, etc). And you find it contains ingredients that are unknown to you, it’s likely that they probably should be. Also be on the lookout for “processed” or “product” in the ingredients. Some of those frozen chicken things (chicken nuggets, etc) contain stuff like reconstituted chicken parts and other scraps.

If you are concerned about the steak, you should be able to get organic grass-fed antibiotics-free beef from your local Whole Foods or “natural” food mart.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Well its better than starving to death…

Coloma's avatar

I like the little Lean Cuisine type entrees now and then, they are fairly okay, lowcal, lowfat, but probably too salty. I haven’t had a real TV type dinner in years and years. I remember they taste pretty funky. haha

wildpotato's avatar

They’re not going to kill you, but they’re certainly not any good for you. Why not try your hand at making your own?

Aster's avatar

I really like Marie Callendar’s spaghetti and meat sauce. I put cayenne pepper on top . The one I just ate, that may make this my last day on earth, was chicken chunks (not fried) with pasta, broccoli, cheese, carrots by Marie Callender. Or is it Calendar?
@wildpotato I did not want to make it for myself because this is a “I don’t have to cook tonight” meal. Since he had a steak or two.

wildpotato's avatar

@Aster Gotcha, I didn’t realize you were asking about tonight specifically. I meant more as a general practice. The idea is to make them ahead of time, like between 1 week – 3 months in advance. Check out the links; these take very little prep. It’s basically: buy ingredients, put in bag, seal, put in freezer, nuke when you want.

Aster's avatar

Oh; I never thought of that. Interesting.

gailcalled's avatar

Check out Amy’s Kitchen at any food coop for better choices.

Here is a frozen broccoli pot pie, for example.

Her soups

Kardamom's avatar

It depends on which brands of TV dinners you get. Some are better for you than others. Amy’s makes a lot of good stuff, some of which is organic and all of which are vegetarian. You can read about Amy’s products Here I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Kashi products are also much better for you than the average frozen meal.

Lightlife also makes some good stuff, that’s better for you than some of the others.

And here are some more good frozen entree products that you might like that are listed in Women’s Health Magazine

Good eatin’!

Seek's avatar

Kashi dinners are pretty good. I like the taste of Lean Cuisine meals, as well, and they’re a little less pricy and go on sale more often.

Kardamom's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Lean Cuisine products are quite good. For me though, they only make a few vegetarian entrees, but of those I love Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli Last time I made one, I though on a handful of chopped veggies I had on hand during the the last 30 seconds of cooking time. It was super-yummy!

gailcalled's avatar

^^^ threw?

Kardamom's avatar

^^ Ooops! Yes : )

Yetanotheruser's avatar

When I make a soup or stew, I usually make enough to last a couple meals, and still have some left over to put into individual-size freezer containers. That way I know what’s in it (I don’t knowingly use phosphates, nitrites or MSG…haha), and I can warm up only what I need for a given meal.

Kardamom's avatar

@Yetanotheruser Ha Ha, I’m now picturing a spice rack with cute little McCormick’s and Penzy’s bottles of nitrates, phosphates and MSG. Next to those would be bottles of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, and carmine. Yummy!

Seek's avatar

@Kardamom I know! I’m a most-of-the-time vegetarian, too, but I have a weakness for their Thai Spring Rolls.

mazingerz88's avatar

I’m doing this Nutrisystem diet program. I’m glad I have fertile imagination. Imagining myself getting sexier and sexier everyday. Otherwise, I would see it for what it is. Eating prison food.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I forgot about the Amy’s, I have tried a couple of things, not bad.

diavolobella's avatar

They do tend to have a lot of sodium. I eat a lot of Lean Cuisines and Amy’s Organics. I know the Amy’s are better for you but they are expensive and some of them not too good. I had a pesto tortellini one last night and it was pretty gross.

The “Eat This, Not That” series of books has a lot of really good information about which ones are nutritionally better or worse and trade outs between them. Those books are good for that in more categories than just TV dinners, in fact.

Aster's avatar

I had one Amy’s tv dinner and didn’t like it. Never bought another.

wildpotato's avatar

@Aster Agreed. I find Amy’s pretty bland, and very expensive.

diavolobella's avatar

@Aster and @wildpotato I’ve only ever had one Amy’s that was really good. The cheese enchiladas. Those are good enough that I buy them regularly when they are on sale. Full price they are like $5 and that’s ridiculous.

wildpotato's avatar

@diavolobella You’re right, the Amy’s cheese enchiladas are great. I don’t know how I forgot about those. I used to use the mandatory college lunch plan money to buy stacks of them and the burritos because they were a much better option than the cafeteria, and you have to use those “points” (which cost $1.20 apiece and yet are somehow equivalent to a dollar in the college convenience store) or they disappear. Stupid Sodexho. Rant over.

Kardamom's avatar

Amy’s Vegetable Pot Pie is really good.

So is Amy’s Broccoli and Cheese Pot Pie

I also like Kashi Pesto Pasta Primavera

And Stouffer’s Farmer’s Harvest Vegetable Lasagna

And Gardein’s Fake Mandarin Orange Crispy Chicken

And Morningstar Farm’s Fake Sesame Chicken

Lightlife also recently introduced some new Frozen Entrees that I would like to try. My favorite veggie burger is Lightlife’s Backyard Grill’n Burgers

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t eat TV dinners. I can’t imagine they would be very healthy but if it’s just a once in a while thing, it isn’t going to kill you. @wildpotato is right though. When you are cooking on other nights, freeze a portion for a dinner when you don’t want to cook. That way you know exactly what you’re eating but have the convenience of a TV dinner.

Kardamom's avatar

I agree with @Bellatrix Make sure you use the right Containers for freezing your meals and make sure you label, date and organize them so that you can easily find your soup, your chili, your mashed potatoes and your sliced meats.

Here’s a Guide that suggests how long certain foods will remain tasty in the freezer.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@diavolobella GA for “Eat This Not That”! Some of the entries in that book seem to be counter-intuitive, but I like the fast-food entries.

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