Wednesday, February 11, 2015

dinner made easy - turkey burgers and sweet potato fries

Sometimes you need a quick and easy dinner that doesn't require much in the way of prep work or cleanup, but you still want to eat healthy, and you'd prefer it if the food tasted good too.

We had one of those nights last week. Late meetings at work and homework that needed help left little time for a big dinner, so we turned to the freezer: Trader Joe's Frozen Turkey Burgers and Alexia Chipotle Seasoned Spicy Sweet Potato Fries (purchased at Fry's; rated 4.8 stars on 1,733 reviews on the Alexia website) answered the call.

Preparation

The turkey burgers went straight from the freezer to the grill. I let them cook a few minutes to thaw before adding seasoning, but otherwise I grilled them the same way I normally grill burgers and turkey burgers. Then I melted cheese for those who wanted it, and everyone is welcome to grab a bun and add condiments to taste.

The fries are even easier - turn on the oven, spread the fries out on a cookie sheet/pan, and in they go.

Add in a salad with some freshly cut tomatoes and cucumbers, and the whole meal took less than 10 minutes of prep time. (plus cooking time.)

Food Quality

We all know that fresh food is better than frozen, and packaged food is never as good as the food you prepare yourself (both in terms of nutrition and taste.) So how bad are these burgers and fries?

frozen turkey burgers
photo of the box - Trader Joe's Turkey Burgers


Well, the ingredient list looks safe: Turkey, Salt, Rosemary extract. We could get nit-picky about how much salt, and why didn't they just list rosemary / why extract? But compared with most pre-packaged foods that is an awfully short list, and there's nothing in that list I can't pronounce or tell you what it is.

From a calorie standpoint - 180 per burger will fit into just about any diet (unless you're trying to gain lots of weight!)

Now let's take a look at those frozen french fries..

alexia chipotle sweet potato fries
photo of the front of the bag

photo of the Nutritional Information

close-up photo of the Ingredient List


First I considered the calories, listed at the top of the Nutrition Facts.

  • 130 Calories per serving with 7 servings in the bag. However, we get about 5 servings out of the bag - we each eat a portion with dinner, and then one of my boys brings the extra fries in his lunch to school the next day.
  • 130 calories per serving * 7 servings = 910 calories in the bag.
  • 910 calories / 5 servings in our family = 182 calories per serving for our family (give or take for each person's portion.)


Next I read the Ingredient List, and while it's a longer list than I would have preferred, it's mostly powdered spices, and it's mostly things I've heard of and can pronounce. Even the things I wasn't sure about were short words and easy to pronounce, but I did have to look a couple up online:

  • Dextrin - this sounds like it could be man made, but then I found an article titled "8 benefits of dextrin" on a website called Global Healing Center, which made me feel better. Turns out dextrin is a natural fiber which can act as a binding agent. Hmmm, ok.
  • Gluconic Acid - the good news is that this is the last ingredient listed; the bad news is it shows up on a website called GMO Compass. However, even this website points out it's a naturally occurring fruit acid which accrues during the decomposition of carbohydrates. I don't know whether the gluconic acid in my sweet potato fries came from GMO carbs or not, but I'm not going to worry too much about it either. It's the only potentially bad ingredient and it's last on the list - I'll take the trade-off for my easy to prepare meal. (It's ok to just be healthy - you don't have to be perfect.)

Calorie Count

How many calories did my whole meal contain?

  • Turkey Burger - 180
  • Turkey Burger bun - 150
  • Cheese on Burger - 110
  • Condiments (ketchup, mayo, pickles) - 100
  • Chipotle Fries - 182 (per my revised calculation)
  • Salad - negligible
  • Ranch Salad Dressing - 75
  • Total Calories - somewhere in the neighborhood of 800, depending on portion sizes
    • If I was trying to lose weight and limit my calorie intake, I would skip the cheese, mayo, and ranch dressing, and I would have eaten a smaller portion of fries. That would keep the meal closer to 500 calories.
    • As it was, 800 calories for dinner works great for me as part of a 2,000 calorie diet in maintenance mode.
    • Either way, if you know what you're eating, what your daily goal is, and how much you've already eaten that day, you can plan and budget accordingly.


Meal Review

This was a good meal - maybe not something I'd crave in the mid-afternoon or travel across state lines for, but a good, fresh-tasting, full-flavored meal. It left me satisfied without feeling stuffed-full, and happy that I had eaten a reasonable amount of healthy calories. Prep work and cleanup are a breeze, too, which is a big bonus.

We'll definitely replenish our freezer and keep this in the rotation of "once every couple months when life is more frenzied than normal and we need to get dinner going in a hurry" meals.

Cheers to another easy-healthy meal.

- Chris Butterworth


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