By Avital Binshtock
Nukeable Nutrition | SNL's Rachel Dratch | A Forest in a Box
While fresh food is almost always a better choice than the processed, packaged alternative, now and then we all find ourselves too drained to cook. When your culinary ambitions don't extend beyond pushing buttons, try these Earth-friendly, zap-ready recommendations from packaged-food experts.
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, who created and developed United Airlines' buy-on-board prepackaged-meal program, recently launched GoPicnic, a brand of portable, ready-to-eat meals sold in grocery stores, hotels, and airports.
"The Chicken Enchilada bowl from ($5) tastes like a fresh, made-from-scratch Mexican dish. It's so good that I have to remind myself that this frozen microwave meal is healthy and free of GMOs, hormones, and gluten. The manufacturing and packaging is also ecofriendly; the compostable bowl is made of sugarcane. To offset its electricity use, Evol buys one renewable-energy credit for every kilowatt-hour of electricity its facilities consume."
is the CEO of Original SoupMan, the company that inspired Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" episode. Casale oversees production and purchasing for all the company's products, including a line of frozen soups sold in supermarkets.
"The Margherita Pizza ($5) from has an organic rice-flour crust and organic tomatoes and is gluten-free. Amy's makes one of
the best microwavable pizzas I've ever had. If I'm looking for something quick and I'm not in a soup mood, which is rare, this is the best option."
is the founder of nutritional-consulting firm What's in Your Cart? and the chief nutritionist at online food store Daily Gourmet.
"The Mayan Harvest Bake ($5) from is a nutrient-dense dish filled with plantains, roasted sweet potato, black beans, and antioxidant-rich kale with a spicy ancho sauce. It's served over whole-grain polenta and amaranth. Kashi prides itself on using safe food with minimal processing, on sourcing products domestically, and on using packaging made of recycled products. Its mission—'find simple, natural ingredients and don't mess them up'—aligns with my clean-eating philosophy."
wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Easy Freezer Meals (Alpha Books, 2011) and is the editor of Cheri on Ice, a make-ahead cooking blog.
"Microwavable meals that you make and freeze yourself are far more ecofriendly than those that are commercially produced, packaged, and transported in refrigerator trucks to supermarkets. My favorite is a [click here for Sicard's recipe] with green chilies and eggs for breakfast, or with grilled vegetables, tofu, rice, and beans for lunch. I assemble at least 50 at a time, complete with hot sauce and cheese, and store them in the freezer. Five minutes or so in the microwave, and I have a healthy, satisfying meal."
founded ORC Foods, a manufacturer of frozen appetizers. The company recently launched a packaged-food line called Falafel Republic.
"While meatless alternatives are always important, I like the flavor of 's Beef Pot Roast ($4.25), which is tender with a kick of juicy flavor that complements the vegetables and home-style mashed potatoes. Their new frozen-food trays, made partly of calcium carbonate, use 40 percent less plastic and emit 55 percent less greenhouse-gas pollution. It's nice to see a well-established brand make a proactive move toward a more sustainable environment."
SNL's Rachel Dratch
Food photos by Lori Eanes (5); Julia Stamberger photo courtesy of Tom McGrane; Arnold Casale photo courtesy of the Original SoupMan; Stacy Goldberg photo courtesy of Daily Gourmet/Heather Saunders Photography; Cheri Sicard photo courtesy of Catrina Coleman; Greg Bukuras photo courtesy of Falafel Republic