The Best Frozen Dinners
No time to cook? Try one of these 12 healthy options
Stroll down any supermarket frozen food aisle and the evidence is clear:
frozen meals are big sellers, claiming more shelf space than virtually any
other type of frozen food. Beyond the old-standard TV dinners, you'll find
ethnic (especially Asian), vegetarian, low-calorie, supersized, natural, and
The challenge is to find frozen meals that you enjoy, that will satisfy your
hunger, and won't sabotage your weight
Choosing a Frozen Meal
There is no getting around it. When selecting a frozen meal, you'll need to
read the "nutrition facts" panel on the package to make sure
your choice is a healthy one. So allow yourself a little extra time on the
frozen-foods aisle (or use my handy list of picks below).
Loss Clinic eating plans prescribe two levels of frozen meals: a light
frozen dinner, with less than 300 calories and no more than 8 grams of fat; and
a regular frozen dinner, with 360-400 calories and a maximum of 25 grams of
Jot these numbers down and refer to them when checking labels. Of course,
whenever possible, it's best to select a lighter frozen meal, with fewer
calories and fat.
Here's a label-reading tip: Make sure you check the portion size, listed on
the very top of the nutrition label. Some crafty manufacturers measure a
portion as something less than the entire contents of the box.
As a general rule, look for entrees that include plenty of vegetables. These
tend to be lower in calories and higher in vitamins and minerals as well as
fiber (which helps fill you up). Opt for brown rice or whole grains whenever
possible, and choose lean meat, fish, or chicken.
Some frozen dinners are loaded with fat, sodium, and calories. Sticking with
the lighter versions (such as Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Smart Ones) is
usually a safe bet. But there are no guarantees. You still need to read the
label to be certain.
If you're watching sodium, be especially careful about frozen meals. My
advice for everyone is to look for meals with less than 800 milligrams of
sodium (that's about 1/3 of a day's recommended allotment). If you're on a
divide the total number of sodium milligrams recommended per day by three. Then
use that number as a guide when selecting frozen entrees.
Don't be fooled into thinking that package claims are always what they seem.
While most brands are reputable and honest, some may use wording that can
mislead you. For example, it's not always clear what makes products labeled
"natural" or "organic" qualify for that terminology.
Some labels boast that their dinners are "preservative free," yet
most frozen meals don't include preservatives because freezing prevents
spoilage. The bottom line: Don't assume a product is healthy without carefully
checking out the nutrition facts panel.
By the numbers, here are my guidelines for choosing a healthy frozen
1. Aim for those that keep calories in the 250-300 range (journal as light
2. Choose meals with less than 4 grams of saturated fat.
3. Choose meals with less than 800 milligrams of sodium.
4. Select meals with at least 3-5 grams of fiber.