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Quickie Holiday Meals for Caregivers: Check Out the New Frozen Foods, Better Than Before

Essential Puree - QUickie Holiday Meals for Caregivers
The following is a guest post by Diane Wolff that discusses her book “Quickie Holiday Meals for Caregivers.”

At the holiday season, families are busy. Daily planning for meals for a loved one on the dysphagia diet can be challenging. Not anymore.

In a new article in the holiday eating issue of Today’s Dietitian Magazine, Juliann Schaeffer says,Food companies are introducing entrées made with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and fewer artificial ingredients and preservatives to meet consumer demand for healthier frozen fare.”

This is welcome news.

My new line of eBooks, Quickies for Caregivers, was created for the time-challenged caregiver who does not have time to cook, does not know how to cook or does not want to cook.

I recommend quality frozen foods that can be pureed for the loved one on the dysphagia diet with confidence. Each person purees to the level of the National Dysphagia Diet that is prescribed for the loved one.

The newest trend in frozen foods, clean eating, is a great help for the time-challenged caregiver. These healthier foods are perfect for the Essential Puree philosophy of food of nutritional healing.Nutrition matters. Getting the correct nutrients is critical.

I have conducted my own informal research over the past year and a half and my finding on brands that work for this approach agrees with the list.\ recommended by Today’s Dietitian.

First you set up your puree station. This can be as simple as a mini food processor, available for about thirty dollars. Then you get a blender with a flat bottom, not one of the ones with the blades that screw out of the bottom. This is for easier cleaning. My preferred brand has a double fow of blades for getting the right texture to the food. All of my recipes are for level 4 of the NDD, the puree form. Please blend to level 5 or 6 if your loved one has more capability. This is where you consult with your healthcare provider.

Once you have these tools, you get a mesh sieve and a silicone spatula for removing any skins or seeds or fibers from the puree. These are available for under $5. Then you are set to go. You line up your appliances on the kitchen counter and you have a puree station, just like a professional kitchen.

For quickie meals in the holiday dysphagia kitchen:

Make a list of your loved one’s favorite dishes and go shopping in advance. When times get busy, if you a supply on hand, you will always be ready to make a meal without dropping everything and running to the store. At meal time, prepare the meal according to directions.

Puree with additional sauce from the pantry if needed. For this, you need my Master Sauce Guide, available as a free download at www.essentialpuree.com

Thicken to the desired thickness recommended by your healthcare professional. For instructions on Instant Thickeners for food and beverages, you need my free download, Science of Puree, also a free download.

I recommend these frozen items because they are superior in flavor and ingredients to the very poor offerings that come from the commercial food companies that make thickened foods for the pureediet. Most of the already pureed offerings have sub-standard flavor and unappetizing texture. They are like pureed versions of institutional food from the 1950s. They are sadly out of date with the demands of the modern consumer looking for healthy foods and clean eating. The public is demanding healthy choices.

If one purees them at home, one gets a better choice than taking what the big commercial food companies are offering. If you thicken with the top quality xanthum gum thickeners, you get superior flavor and texture, as well as visual appeal. This is an upgrade for the dysphagia diet.

If you buy family size meals, you can prepare more than one portion at a time, and reserve the extra portions in the fridge or freezer for subsequent meals. This way, you save time and money and a great meal is always on hand, ready in a very short amount of time. This is the batch cooking method that I recommend for the dysphagia kitchen. Cook once, eat two, three or four times.

Here are the best companies for good meals.

  • EatingWell.Made with whole grains and vegetables (but without preservatives or artificial flavorings or fillers), EatingWell offers eight meals with innovative flavors, including Korean Inspired Beef and Moroccan Inspired Chicken.

Fresh-Seal packaging helps maintain freshness and allows for a window into the box so customers can see what’s inside.

  • Good Food Made Simple.The No. 1 brand in the natural and organic breakfast burrito segment, Good Food Made Simple is now expanding into lunch and dinner options with entrée burritos, café wraps, and macaroni and cheese. Relying on antibiotic-free meats, farm-fresh cheese, brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, and organic sautéed veggies, the company stresses “less is more,” which is in line with the demand for simplicity.
  • Red’s Natural Foods.Red’s is also cashing in on consumers’ affection for the burrito. Red’s recently introduced its first vegan product, the Organic Bean & Rice Burrito
  • Luvo.Luvo offers a variety of healthful breakfasts, entrées, and burritos based on whole foods and fresh flavor combinations, including Kale Ricotta Ravioli. Luvo uses whole foods, whole grains, and herbs and spices to keep sodium and calorie counts down. All meals have less than 500 mg sodium and are between 250 and 370 kcal.

“At Luvo, we’re seeing a lot of interest in plant proteins and meatless options,” Cassetty says. Hawaiian Un-Fried Rice with Forbidden Rice, shiitake mushrooms, and pineapple is 360 kcal, with 10 g protein, 7 g fiber, and 330 mg sodium.

  • Saffron Road.another frozen food option that’s offering ethnic flavor combinations, such as Vegetable Pad Thai and Chicken Tikka Masala. Saffron Road recently launched a new line of fish bowls that use only wild-caught fish, including a Lemongrass Basil Fish with Rice Noodles Bowl Sesame Ginger Salmon with White Rice Bowl
  • Blake’s All Natural Foods. The company prides itself on sticking to the basics of old family recipes. For consumers looking for less-processed remakes of old classics, Blake’s offers its classic Chicken Pot Pie and Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie, as well as Shepherd’s Pie and Macaroni & Beef, Turkey Pot Pie and Beef Pot Pie, both made with antibiotic-free meat and garden vegetables.
  • Amy’s Kitchen.Family-owned Amy’s Kitchen, which uses ingredients that are sourced from organic-certified farms (with an emphasis on local), and Non-GMO Project Verified, in its healthful frozen options. No hydrogenated fats. Very tasty is Amy’s Light & Lean Quinoa & Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard, made with whole grains, plant protein, and vegetables. .

Legacy Brands Take Note

Legacy brands, the old faithful frozen entrée companies, are also responding to this hot new trend.

In August, 2016. Stouffers, announced a Kitchen Cupboard initiative to renovate and simplify its recipes across new and existing meal lines. The ingredient changes will come over the next few years and include recognizable ingredients such as those from the home kitchen with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

(Previously, sodium counts were high. Stouffer’s will now offer lower-sodium options.)

This year Lean Cuisine ntroduced a line of limited-edition entrées. This is a response to the demand for higher protein counts and ethnic flavors, including Chicken Tikka Masala and Thai-Style Ginger Beef. containing no artificial preservatives and some organic ingredients. (the brand went through a major overhaul last year) i