It truly doesn’t get any easier than a frozen dinner. Lots of people have a stack of them waiting in their freezer, just in case a weeknight rolls around where they just can’t make themselves turn on the oven. But often, convenience can come at a cost — many frozen dinners are lacking in nutrition and can leave you feeling unsatisfied or regretful.
So we took into account a few key considerations to narrow down 15 of the healthiest frozen dinners you can find in the freezer aisle. No longer are we stuck with a three-compartment tray of mystery meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. Ethnic foods, organic dinners, vegetarian, and even gluten-free entrées are just some of the options available now. Keep an eye out for meals with whole grains and at least one serving of vegetables, as well as fiber and protein.
We looked at the nutrition provided by each meal — a dinner with enough protein and fat to keep you satisfied without going overboard was ideal.
Then, we looked at the ingredients and additives used in each. Some frozen meals had paragraphs of chemical contents listed on the back — we nixed those. Instead, we prioritized meals with real food ingredients that wouldn’t taste like mush. You can find organic frozen dinners without preservatives, entrées with no artificial ingredients, and meals that actually have vegetables with nutrients (and some snap) left in them.
Finally, we looked at the sodium content, since some can come doctored up with excessive amounts to supplement flavor.
Are Smart Ones really that smart? Is Lean Cuisine lean enough? Is Healthy Choice actually a healthy choice? We trolled the aisles of the frozen food section to find out which meals are worth sticking a fork in, and ranked the healthiest.
Not everything from Trader Joe’s is super-nutritious — as you could probably guess from the overflowing chocolatey frozen desserts and aisles of treats. Their fried food frozen appetizers (while delicious) aren’t exactly a well-balanced meal, either. But the chain surprises us now and again with some surprisingly healthy items. This frozen burrito bowl is prime example, filled with brown rice, chicken, beans, and heaps of vegetables. It relies on cheese, spices, and lime juice for flavor.
A delightful blend of brown rice, grilled chicken, vegetables, and feta is drizzled with tahini sauce for Greek-inspired perfection. The ingredients in this bowl are all pronounceable and real; the bowl offers 19 grams of protein, a half cup of vegetables, and 8 grams of fiber, making it a truly satisfying meal.
This steak-filled bowl has us dreaming of eating Chipotle — while this guy did lose weight eating Chipotle every day, we don’t advise you do the same. This option has all the fixings of a fabulous burrito bowl — cheese, beans, roasted vegetables and all — and delivers with 20 grams of filling protein and a good amount of healthy fats. Add some hot sauce if you prefer a kick of spice in your rice — just not too much!
Barley is a seriously underrated whole grain. This bowl packs 8 grams of fiber, plus an impressive amount of protein from healthy chicken sausage. It’s also got kale and other vegetables you might not normally prepare yourself.
This meal is part of Healthy Choice’s “Simply Steamers” collection — the “simply” indicating the simple ingredients used to make the meal. It might surprise you, but pasta and meatballs can be healthy! This meal is low in sodium, high in protein, and loaded with spinach for an extra boost of vitamins you might otherwise be missing.
Red wine braised beef sounds like something off a 5-star dinner menu — but surprisingly, you can buy it frozen. This meal is loaded with vegetables like carrots and butternut squash, both of which have a ton of vitamin A. The polenta isn’t super creamy and rich like some restaurants make it, but it still manages to taste like comfort food.
There are a whopping one and a half cups of fruits and vegetables in this dinner for one. It also offers 23 grams of whole grains and 11 grams of fiber. The So Cal Kale & Bean bowl is vegan, but manages to squeeze in 10 grams of plant-based protein — unlike most other vegan frozen meals that neglect to think about protein entirely.
There’s nothing worse than a disappointing or bland frozen meal. But this one is exactly the opposite —the 26 grams of protein will keep your body satisfied while the authentic taste of vindaloo will satisfy your taste buds. All of the ingredients are things you might find in your own kitchen. The meal also contains coconut milk, so you get some healthy fats from it, too!
Not everything you might eat from Stouffer’s leaves you feeling healthy, but this bowl certainly does. Pork can be so fatty that it overwhelms a meal, but this bowl only contains 12 grams of fat (some snack bars have 20) and still gets all the good protein from the meat. The sauce is low in sugar, and the meal contains 90 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C.
Love Mexican food but hate takeout? Here’s your answer. This meal’s packaging isn’t loud about the fact that it’s healthy, but it totally is. Twenty grams of protein, low in sugar, a good amount of healthy fat, and rich with minerals like calcium and potassium — it’s truly the whole enchilada.
It’s got “balanced” in the name for good reason. It’s cheesy, but filled with good, fibrous foods like beans and lentils. It’s made with olive oil — which is good for heart health — and contains 15 grams of vegetarian protein.
This bowl is a combination of so many nutritious foods. Sweet potatoes, kale, chard, tofu, pumpkin seeds, all over a bed of protein-rich quinoa… Who knew frozen food could get you to actually eat your vegetables?
Chowing down on a bowl of lasagna might feel indulgent, but this meal is actually more of a boost to your diet. It has 20 grams of protein and more vegetables than we could count (okay, we counted, and it’s seven). If you decide after all to ditch the frozen food idea and make a (really simple) dinner at home instead, here are a few recipes you can whip up in no time.
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