There's a new section in the supermarket freezer aisles, and it's dedicated to kids. Nope, it's not the nugget section, but several shelves of frozen meals designed just for kids. Annabel Karmel products have been stocked by Coles for a while and have now made their way into Woolies (you can read my review of the Bolognese Pasta Bake here). In WA and NSW we also now have Coco and Lucas frozen meals. There are options like Spaghetti Bolognese, Beef Cottage Pie and Mild Butter Chicken. Let's see how the Spaghetti Bolognese compares to nutritional guidelines, and to the AK and Heinz Bolognese (in the baby aisle- previous review here)...
🔹Pasta (40%), tomato (22%), beef (17%), water, cheese, carrot, celery, onion, corn starch, olive oil, roasted garlic, salt, sugar, nutmeg, pepper, oregano.
🔹Common allergens include: gluten and milk. May contain traces of other common allergens due to shared equipment.
🔹All ingredients are those which you would use to make a homemade version 👍🏼
🔹Fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium (salt) content meet healthy eating guidelines.
🔹40% less fat than the Annabel Karmel Bolognese and 30% less saturated fat.
🔹Another product with no mention of the iron content, which makes it hard to compare to the Heinz or AK Bolognese. It does contain more beef than both competition products, so I'd expect it to have ~30% more iron. Based on this I'd expect it to provide about 26% of a toddler's iron requirements.
🔹I prefer frozen products (like this and the AK meal) to those that have been heat treated to store on a shelf at room temperature (like Heinz). Usually this means that more of the heat sensitive nutrients are retained.
🔹Very convenient for busy days.
🔹Double the sodium (salt) content of a serve of Annabel Karmel Bolognese, and four times the sodium content of Heinz Bolognese.
🔹More expensive than the AK meals ($4 vs $5 per meal) which works out to about $23/kilo. This is also much more expensive than homemade Bolognese.
🔹Less vegetables than the other meals. Doing the maths (and this is a best case estimation based on the ingredient list) suggests a maximum of 0.7 serves of veggies per meal. This meets 28% of a 3 year old's vegetable requirements, and 15% of a 4 year old's vegetable requirements. This Coco & Lucas meal actually has one of the highest vegetable content in the range, and some of the others (e.g. the butter chicken) have negligible vegetable content.
🔹The package states that it's "ideal for juniors foodies, 3-12 years". That seems like quite a big age range to me...
🔹No artificial preservatives, flavours or colours" which is true ✔️
🔹"Lovingly handmade." This seems incredible to me, and I wonder what the definition of 'handmade' actually is. I can't imagine that you could hand make enough meals to stock Woolworths, but perhaps I'm wrong.
🔹As with the AK meals, I don't think that toddlers or children need special kid foods in their normal diet. Serving the same food to all the family is a much better option for every day. But in terms of a quick and nutritious frozen meal, this is much better than the adult options- but I'd suggest adding a side of veggies. So, a good meal for when you need something quick and convenient, but not necessarily an every day food!
About Mealtime Building Blocks
Dr Kyla Smith is a paediatric dietitian specialising in fussy eating, feeding difficulties and childhood nutrition. Lauren Pike is an occupational therapist working in fussy eating and feeding difficulties. They have a private practice called Mealtime Building Blocks in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Kyla and Lauren on their website and sign up for their newsletter, and the Facebook page or on the Instagram page. You can also email them.