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Wilburn: Study up on frozen dinners
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Canning, freezing and food preservation classes in July, August
Hall County Extension, in partnership with the Hall County Library System, will be offering food preservation classes on up-to-date resources for canning, freezing, drying, jelly making and pickling. These classes will provide you with basic resources as well as information on food preservation brochures, books, websites, online courses and DVDs. Free dial gauge pressure canner testing and “So Easy to Preserve” books will be for sale for $18.

When: 1-3 p.m. July 14
Where: East Hall  Library, 2435 Old Cornelia Hwy., Gainesville.
How much: $3 per person or family, paid on the day of the class
More info: Call 770-532-3311, ext 161 by July 13

When: Noon-1 p.m. Aug. 11
Where: Spout Springs Library, 6488 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch
How much: Free; part of the Cooperative Extension Master Gardener series
More info: Call 770-532-3311, ext. 191 by Aug. 10

Stroll down any supermarket frozen food aisle and the evidence is clear: Frozen meals are big sellers, claiming more shelf space than virtually any other type of frozen food.

Beyond the old-standard TV dinners, you’ll find ethnic (especially Asian), vegetarian, low-calorie, super-sized, natural and organic meals.

The challenge is to find frozen meals that you enjoy, that will satisfy your hunger and are healthy. So, when selecting a frozen meal, you’ll need to read the nutrition facts panel on the package to make sure your choice is a healthy one.

There are essentially two levels of frozen meals: A light frozen dinner, with less than 300 calories and no more than 8 grams of fat; and a regular frozen dinner, with 360 or more calories and a maximum of 25 grams of fat. And here’s a label-reading tip: Make sure you check the portion size, listed on the very top of the nutrition label. Some crafty manufacturers measure a portion as something less than the entire contents of the box.

As a general rule, look for entrées that include plenty of vegetables. These tend to be lower in calories and higher in vitamins and minerals as well as fiber (which helps fill you up). Opt for brown rice or whole grains whenever possible, and choose lean meat, fish or chicken.

If you’re watching sodium, be especially careful about frozen meals. Look for meals with less than 800 milligrams of sodium (that’s about one-third of a day’s recommended allotment). If you’re on a low-sodium diet, divide the total number of sodium milligrams recommended per day by three. Then use that number as a guide when selecting frozen entrees.

Remember to add a glass of fat-fee milk and fruit to complete your healthy meal!

Source:  University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.