Who’s eaten a meal that came from a box or a can in the last month? I’d bet you a coffee* that it did not have a full cup of vegetables. In the ideal world, we would all be organized enough to always have sandwich fixings, leftovers, or quick to assemble meals in the house. Unfortunately, this is not the best of all possible worlds and lapses occur.

The occasional can of soup or frozen pizza does not wreck complete havoc on your overall diet if your portion size is reasonable. And– you can easily soup it up with some extra nutrition. The easiest thing to do it to up the vegetables and follow it with fruit. Keep some canned or frozen (low sodium, plain) vegetables of choice on hand and toss them into, onto, or beside your emergency meal.

Why? They add nutrients (each vegetable has its own particular selection), fiber, volume, and generally help keep you satisfied with smaller portions of the high calories food like macaroni and cheese. Try to have half your bowl/plate be vegetables and the other half can be protein and carbohydrates (grains, potatoes). In addition, vegetables are generally a good source of potassium which you’ll need to help balance out the excess salt from the box.

Some practical suggestions for what to try:

  • chicken soup with broccoli or kale
  • split pea soup with carrots
  • macaroni and cheese with spinach or peas
  • pizza with peppers and olives
  • meat/chicken curry with cauliflower or wax beans
  • meat sauce and pasta with chard and/or mushrooms
  • chili with corn, kidney beans/black beans, and spinach
  • New England chowder with broccoli
  • What else? It depends on what you like and what your back-up foods are. Make a list. Stick it on the fridge, and be sure you always keep that extra bag of frozen spinach or can of roasted red peppers in the pantry. Even a can of pears or pineapple (in juice) can help redeem an otherwise not so nutritious meal. Let me know how it goes. Or if I owe you a coffee.

    *redeemable only if you are within biking distance and collect from a bike