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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

The Scoop on Dinner Kits

Posted by Jenna Smith -

According to what was presented at a recent Research Chefs Association conference, consumers are seeking more innovated dinner kits, like those taco kits that have everything but the ground beef at hand. Why? Well, we live in a fast-paced world; we're pressed for time so the convenience factor is a huge plus. But we also want to feel like we are actually preparing the meal, not just warming something in a microwave.

So what does a dietitian think about these convenient dinner kits? As you may have guessed, I can't give you a straight answer, but I have a long and complicated version that I hope you'll read. First of all, if it gets people to cook in the kitchen and families to eat together at the dinner table, how can I not be for it? You don't have to make your own salad dressings and sauces or become a gourmet chef to serve healthy meals to the family. Dinner kits are convenient, but not as convenient as eating out at a restaurant or pulling through the drive thru of a fast food place where the temptation of high calorie, high fat meals are often in our faces. So at least a dinner kit still forces someone to get out the pots and pans and prepare a "homemade" meal.

Plus, many dinner kits, such as Kraft Sizzling Salads®, still require the addition of fresh foods like romaine lettuce, bell peppers, shredded cheese, and grilled chicken. These are certainly healthy, nutrient-packed ingredients. However, like all packaged foods we buy at the store, reading the nutrition label is vital. Seasonings, sauces, and about everything that comes in a nice convenient packet like this are often very high in sodium. Keep in mind that more than half the U.S. population is supposed to have no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. For a refresher on reading food labels, read my previous blog entry, Are You Able to Read the Label?

So if a dinner kit fits within in your budget (a dinner kit is generally more expensive as we tend to pay more for convenience), and the nutrition label doesn't show any jaw-dropping, terrible nutrition stats, then it can be a healthy, easy and fairly quick meal to occasionally add to the weekly dinner menu.

Here's an easy recipe that only takes two ingredients. Get it ready in the morning to marinate and it's ready to grill for dinner that night. No kit needed!

Spicy Grilled Chicken

2 whole skinless chicken breasts (4 pieces, about 1 pound)

½ cup bottled salsa

  1. Measure the salsa into a large bowl.
  2. Rinse and pat dry chicken pieces. Remove any remaining skin and fat. Place in the large bowl with the salsa and turn with tongs to coat completely. Place bowl in refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours.
  3. When ready to cook lift chicken pieces from bowl and place on hot grill or broiler pan. Grill or broil about 5 minutes on each side. Chicken is done when all juices are clear and when a cut into the thickest part of the meat shows no pink. (Chicken can also be baked. Coat baking dish lightly with nonstick spray. Place chicken in baking dish and pour salsa over chicken. Cover tightly and bake at 400º for 20 minutes. Test for doneness, as in grilling directions.)
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate to use in salads or sandwiches.

Yield: 4 servings(2- 4 ounce pieces)

Nutrition information per serving: 135 Calories, 26 grams protein, 2 grams total carbohydrate, 1 gram fat, 304 milligrams sodium

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