100 Popular Frozen Meals Ranked by Sodium Content

The best and worst prepackaged meals to buy

When shopping for healthy food, you probably check the nutrition facts label for calories and fat — but even the seemingly "healthy" foods can sometimes pack absurd amounts of sodium.

Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, a condition that affects about one in three Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, are at a significantly higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and heart failure, among other conditions.

Sodium is naturally present in some foods, but it’s also used in processed foods to prevent the growth of bacteria, bind ingredients, enhance color, and give food a firmer texture, according to the American Heart Association.

Our body requires about 180 milligrams to 500 milligrams of sodium a day in order to maintain the right balance of fluids in the body, transmit nerve impulses, and maintain muscle function.

The recommended daily sodium level is 1,500 milligrams, with 2,300 milligrams being the very highest amount we should consume in a day. For a low-sodium label, the Food and Drug Administration requires food products to have no more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. A product’s packaging can’t claim it’s "healthy" if it exceeds 480 milligrams of sodium per reference amount.

Since frozen meals are one of those products that tend to be high in sodium, we decided to do some grocery shopping and find out just how much is in the most popular brands. Boston Market and Hungry Man apparently love the salt — not that we were expecting anything incredibly healthy from either brand. But what was somewhat surprising was that plenty of Weight Watchers meals had more sodium than Hot Pockets, and some meals from natural and organic food brand Amy’s contained more than 700 milligrams.

— Melissa Valiant, HellaWella


More From HellaWella:

• Americans spend almost 25% of grocery money on processed food

• Media mash: Produce prescriptions, sexist videos & healthy potato salad

• Men’s health media mashup

• Foursquare lists top 10 healthiest cities

• Sodium sneak attack: Watch out for these healthy favorites