In a recent post, I lamented the lack of low-carb convenience foods. A short while later, I heard from the Atkins company offering to send me some samples of their new line of frozen meals. Perhaps I should have wished for world peace or an end to global warming, but tasty, low-carb frozen food is not too shabby!
Some stores are already selling the new Atkins products and they should be available nationally soon. The line includes breakfasts like Farmhouse-Style Sausage Scramble and Tex-Mex Scramble and dinners like Italian Sausage Primavera, Meatloaf with Portobello Mushroom Gravy, Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo, Roast Turkey Tenders with Herb Pan Gravy, and Beef Merlot. They only sent me the last three, so that is what my review is based on.
I'm pleased to say that the new Atkins Frozen Meals exceeded my expectations; comfort food is a good description. The beef, chicken, and turkey were moist and tender, covered with delicious sauces, and paired with green vegetables. The portion sizes are generous and it is mostly real food with no extenders or starchy sides like ordinary packaged frozen dinners. The prices are remarkably low at about $3.50 to $4.50, but it varies with the store. Each meal contains from 4 to 7 net carbs and from 310 to 390 calories. They are very good and I predict they will be a big hit with low-carbers who don't have the time, the skill, or the space to cook, or don't want to bother with figuring out the nutrition counts, which is pretty much all of us at one time or the other. All the meals fit the guidelines for all phases of Atkins, including induction.
The meals come in recyclable trays and can be heated either in a microwave or in a 350 degree oven. (I transferred mine to a pyrex pie pan and covered them with an oven-safe plate before cooking. I still get shivers when I think of all the food I fed my kids that came in plastic trays back when microwaves first came into vogue, long before there was any suspicion that plastic could be harmful. If you are old enough, you probably remember the trays; they were so very convenient and we all kept them and reused them until they were totally caramelized. The Atkins trays are probably perfectly safe, but it's easy to transfer the contents to glass if you want to be absolutely sure.) Yes, the new Atkins frozen meals are very tasty, convenient, and perhaps a better choice than eating out. They can't compete with fresh, home cooking, but for many people that is not an option anyway. I plan to keep a few in the freezer so I can take a vacation from cooking when my husband is away or when I have a deadline or need to test recipes that don't work for a balanced meal. They would also be a good choice for college students or those who share living space with others who eat differently. I will probably add some salad greens and good fat, like pasture butter and extra-virgin olive oil, to compensate for the canola oil and to help keep me full. And since I'm long past induction, I can add some condiments, like sugar-free cranberry sauce to the turkey dinner.
There will surely be questions about the ingredients in some of the new products, but the ones I tried listed meat and vegetables first and included real butter and cheese. They are processed foods, though, and they do contain some things, such as soy, wheat, canola, and MSG under various names, that are of concern to those who try to eat a healthful diet. (See below for more about MSG.) On the whole, these are better than most packaged meals available in stores and in my opinion, a better choice as a meal replacement than an Atkins bar or shake. Feel free to weigh in with your own opinion.
MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) MSG is a flavor enhancer that contains glutamate, called the 5th taste or umami, which is found naturally in lots of good things, like Parmesan, anchovies, and tomatoes. It is often branded as an excitotoxin, like Aspartame, and it is said to stimulate the brain to produce a pleasurable sensation. Some critics of its use suggest that it may over-stimulate brain cells to death. Any time a food gets raves about how good it is, chances are it contains a lot of MSG. Most processed foods do, whether it is listed on the label or not. There are many weasel words for it, and I've seen products that list hydrolyzed protein, yeast extract, and natural flavors, all code words for MSG, while still bragging about "no added MSG." I really don't know whether MSG in processed food is worse than the natural kind. I often point out that a chemical is still the same chemical no matter where it comes from, but I try not to eat too much of it, just in case. I wonder if they have a doggie version of MSG that makes dogs get excited about eating dog food? I usedto buy a very expensive dog food prescribed by the vet that listed peanut shells as the first ingredient. My dog loved it, but he was fat, nervous, and suffered from horrible allergies ~ I was too clueless back then to give him raw meat.
Message to Ruffie in doggie heaven: I'm sorry. Mommie