Frozen meals are a very convenient way to get some food into your system. You pop one into the microwave and within a few minutes you’re enjoying a hot lunch or dinner that generally tastes pretty good. Frozen meals tend to have a reputation for being quite unhealthy, and indeed there are some that are really bad for you: full of fat, calories, and sodium. But are there any frozen meals out there that are actually healthy?
Well, it depends on what your definition of “healthy” is. A problem facing the frozen food industry today is the fact that one of the primary definitions of “healthy” — low in fat and calories — has taken a backseat in recent years to other attributes, especially the use of real, wholesome, natural ingredients, ones with names that aren’t hard to pronounce.
We recently ranked the healthiest frozen dinners that you can buy, and when you look at the nutrition label it’s hard to argue that they’re bad for you; most contain fewer than 400 calories and 10 grams of fat. Another important aspect is the fact that they also generally contain healthy ingredients. Look at the nutrition for our healthiest meal, Artisan Bistro’s Wild Alaskan Salmon, and the most foreign-sounding ingredient is xanthan gum, which is a natural thickener. They also tend to not have that many ingredients in general.
Take a look at the nutrition label and ingredients in an unhealthy frozen dinner, on the other hand, like Hungry-Man Selects Classic Fried Chicken, and you’ll find that not only does it contain nearly 60 grams of fat and almost 1,000 calories, it also uses ingredients like MSG, mono and diglycerides, TBHQ, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Essentially, it’s fast food in frozen form.
So yes, there are healthy frozen dinners out there. Just make sure that you check the nutrition and ingredients label.