Be it a long night at the office, an empty fridge, or just a lack of motivation, sometimes the dinner odds are simply stacked against us. So, we turn to the freezer. Frozen meals are definitely a simple and quick solution to dinnertime anxiety. But, more often than not, they’re sad, tasteless meals, or worse, total diet busters.
To help ensure you’re stocking your freezer with the healthiest frozen meals possible (you know, just in case life happens), we chatted with three registered dietitians to learn what brands and meals earn their seals of approval for meals in a pinch.
“This company remains a trailblazer in healthful frozen meals. Their ingredients are non-GMO and sourced from certified-organic farms. This brand is great for anyone who has food allergies or wants to be more health conscious. With no hydrogenated fats, eggs, meat, fish, shellfish, poultry or peanuts it is a great choice for anyone. My favorite pick is Amy’s Light and Lean Quinoa and Black Bean Bowl with Butternut Squash and Chard. This meal is made with all whole grains, vegetables and best of all it is plant-based! An eight ounce serving has 240 calories, 10 g protein, 0.5 g saturated fat, 440 mg sodium, and 11 g of fiber. When you read the wholesome ingredient list, you can pronounce everything, which is a bonus!”
“This line of frozen meals can be hit or miss because some contain refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and exceptionally high sodium levels. The Pomegranate Chicken, with 180 calories, 17 g protein, and 450 mg of sodium, is my safe pick because it’s made with natural ingredients and free of hormones.”
“Luvo believes food should be nutritious but taste delicious and, in my opinion, they do not disappoint! They offer a variety of meat and plant-based entrées, as well as bowls with fresh chef-inspired flavor combinations. They use herbs and spices to flavor their food and keep sodium levels down. And they skip artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. They also take into consideration dietary restrictions. My favorite is the Hawaiian Un-Fried Rice Bowl with Forbidden Rice, which comes in at 42 g whole grains, 10 g plant-based protein, 1 cup of fruits and vegetables, and 7 g fiber!
“Luvo Chana Masala—this is one of my favorite Indian dishes, and Luvo’s version is great! One bowl has 17 g fiber (more than half your daily needs!) and 11 g protein. It’s a little low in calories, so I like to add some extra veggies and top it with one or two fried eggs. It’s also great with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.”
Red’s Natural Foods
“If you like Mexican food, especially burritos, this company is for you. Red’s pays special attention to specific dietary needs, like dairy-free and vegan. All the meats and dairy are antibiotic- and hormone-free. And you’ll never find an artificial preservative either. I love the Organic Bean and Rice Burrito with 270 calories, 9 g protein, 7 g fiber, and 640 mg sodium. It’s a great on-the-go option. When you’re craving Mexican, cruise down the aisle to take a look at their selections from bowls to burritos.”
“Lean&Fit Egg White Kale, Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese is my favorite breakfast on-the-go. It has the perfect blend of carbs and protein. And it comes in at just 150 calories, 10 g protein, and 19 g carbs; enough to jumpstart your morning.
“Chicken, Bean and Rice Burrito—these are great, portable and filled with 15 g protein, 4 g fiber, and only 320 mg sodium!”
Green Giant Steamers
“These are perfect if you need to add more vegetables and dietary fiber to your diet. Simply steam it or throw it on a pan and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings. Look for sauce-less varieties as they carry reasonably less calories, salt, and sugar per serving.
You can find a healthy meal in the freezer aisle as long as you know what you’re looking for.
Vyas says a nutritionally-sound meal typically has fewer ingredients, is higher quality, and contains product transparency with its ingredients. She suggests looking for the following quantities per entree:
-Half cup of fruits or vegetables
-Half to one cup of whole grains
-Three to four ounces of lean meat
-Over four grams of fiber
-Less than 400 milligrams of sodium
-Less than two grams of saturated fat
-Zero grams of trans fat
-Less than 500 calories
-No added sugar or preservatives.
Want more dietitian-approved foods? Check out our guide to snack bars that are actually healthy and tasty.