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I Can't Believe It's a Frozen Entree

Twenty healthy frozen meals that don't taste like frozen meals.
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Who would have ever thought 30 years ago that the frozen entree section of the grocery store would span an entire aisle, and that you could choose frozen entrees that were organic, ethnic, vegetarian, or made for a certain diet? The frozen meal category has exploded over the years, largely due, I suspect, to the busy working family and the increasing number of one- and two-person households, and partly because of the popularity of weight loss diets.

I have to admit, I don't venture into this aisle often. But when I do, I'm looking for healthy frozen entrees that don't look or taste like frozen entrees. Why should you settle for food that's just OK-tasting, even when it's frozen?

I've personally had good luck with frozen entrees I've tasted at specialty supermarkets or stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (which are particularly good for organic or vegetarian entrees). But even in your typical supermarket, there are some standout frozen entree choices. But are they better for you too? There's the second challenge. 

Basically, there are three nutritional obstacles to overcome when searching for the perfect healthy frozen entree:

  • Finding an entree that isn't too high in sodium.
  • Finding an entree that contains enough fiber.
  • Finding an entree that doesn't have too much fat, particularly saturated fat.

Some frozen entrees/dinners have more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium. Some contain 12 to 20 grams of saturated fat (and even more total fat). And very few offer more than 3 grams of fiber (the amount found in a medium-sized apple).

My Search for Great-Tasting Frozen Entrees

There are hundreds of frozen entrees out there, and it would be quite an undertaking to taste even a fraction of them. In my personal search over the last couple of years, I have happened upon a few keepers. And to add to that list, I decided to ask some people who should know -- frozen food buyers and stockers for several of the markets I've already mentioned.

Without further ado, here are the entrees that the stores' frozen food managers named as particularly tasty and popular with their customers, along with some I've discovered along the way. You'll also find some of the most vital nutritional info plus some tasting "notes" from yours truly.

Calories
Grams Fat
GramsFiber
(mg) Sodium
%Calories
from Fat

AMY'S Black bean/Vegetable Enchilada

1806339030%

NOTE: A serving includes 2 small enchiladas, which taste pretty good -- especially if you garnish them with fat-free sour cream!

      

Brown Rice, Black-eyed Peas & Veggies Bowl
(1.5 g saturated fat)

29011858034%

NOTE: If you like all these ingredients, you'll love this bowl. You can always add extra zing with some salsa.

      

Brown Rice & Vegetables Bowl
(1 g saturated fat)

1806339030%

NOTE: A serving includes 2 small enchiladas, which taste pretty good -- especially if you garnish them with fat-free sour cream!

      

Vegetable Lasagna

31012568035%

NOTE: Mildly flavored lasagna with a homemade taste. The serving size is satisfying, too, with 5 grams of fiber and 16 grams of plant and dairy protein.

      
Calories
Grams Fat
GramsFiber
(mg) Sodium
%Calories
from Fat

CEDARLANE 3-Layer Enchilada Pie
(3 g saturated fat)

2157359529%

NOTE: This tasted like a home cooked meal. My only complaint is that the box says 2 servings per container, while most hungry people will eat the whole 5.5-ounce container -- in which case, you'll need to double the numbers above.

      

Burrito Grande with Chili Verde
(4 g saturated fat)

23010254039%

NOTE: A great-tasting entree. I loved the Chili Verde Sauce. My complaint is that the label says there are 2 servings, which means 1 serving is half a burrito (and it's a small burrito)! So, any hungry person will eat the 10-ounce serving -- which means the calories will be 460, with 20 grams of fat. Luckily, the ingredients are mostly whole foods. The saturated fat for the whole burrito would be 8 grams (mostly coming from the organic Jack cheese).

      

ETHNIC GOURMET Pad Thai with Tofu

4208372017%

NOTE: It is labeled "mildly spiced" and it was definitely nice and mild. Great flavor and very filling. I sprinkled some chopped nuts over the top for a little added crunch.

      
Calories
Grams Fat
GramsFiber
(mg) Sodium
%Calories
from Fat

HEALTHY CHOICE CAFÉ STEAMERS Grilled Chicken & Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Sauce
(2 g saturated fat)

2405460019%

NOTE: Great combination of flavors, wonderful sauce, and tender chicken pieces.

      

Cajun Style Chicken & Shrimp

2503360011%

NOTE: Nice homemade taste with a kick from the Cajun spices.

      

KASHI Lemongrass Coconut Chicken
(4 g saturated fat)

3008768024%

NOTE: Unique flavors come together in this dish. Chicken was tender, and the Kashi added some crunch.

      

Sweet & Sour Chicken
(5 g saturated fat)

3203.5638010%

NOTE: The Kashi gives the dish a nice crunch, and the 6 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein help make it satisfying. The chicken is tender, and the sweet & sour sauce is mildly flavored.

      

LEAN CUISINE Salmon with Basil

2206466025%

NOTE: This is a quick way to try to work toward your recommended 2-3 servings of fish a week! A very nice dish made with 100% whole grain pasta. I liked all the ingredients, and just added a couple of teaspoons of shredded Parmesan to complete the flavors.

      

ORGANIC BISTRO Wild Salmon (with cranberry pilaf and walnut broccoli)

5002388041%

Contains 2.5 g omega-3s and only 3 grams of saturated fat
NOTE: Salmon was tender, and the pilaf and walnuts added crunch. The flavors are subtle; you may want to squeeze a lemon wedge or extra sprinkle of pepper over the top.

      
Calories
Grams Fat
GramsFiber
(mg) Sodium
%Calories
from Fat

TRADER JOE'S Trader Ming's BBQ Chicken Teriyaki
(1 g saturated fat)

1503.5057021%
A 21-ounce bag in the frozen section makes 3.5 (1-cup) servings.

NOTE: Tastes homemade and uses white and dark skinless chicken meat. You really only need to use one of the two sauce packets -- this will bring down the sodium, too.

      

Black Bean & Cheese Taquitos
(2 g saturated fat)

31011718032%

NOTE: Start warming up your toaster oven to 400 degrees while you microwave 4 taquitos for a minute to quickly thaw them. Then crisp up your taquitos by baking them on a sheet of foil in the toaster oven for 4-5 minutes.

      

Calabacita & Cheese Quesadilla (with veggies & beans)

2409444034%

NOTE: This is great tasting and spicy. I thaw one of the quesadillas in the microwave for a minute then brown and crisp it in a nonstick frying pan (this takes 1 minute).

      

Chicken Serenada
(1.5 g saturated fat)

29012065037%
Chicken breast with a coco Caribe sauce topped with poblano peppers

NOTE: The fat grams mainly come from canola and olive oil. One 17.3-ounce container makes 2 servings of this elegant entree. Because it doesn't contain any fiber, you'll need to serve the chicken with whole-grain noodles or steamed brown rice and vegetables.

      

Penne Pepperonata
(2 g saturated fat)

2004.5319020%
A 16-ounce bag in the frozen section makes 4.5 (1-cup) servings.

NOTE: Very tasty! Heat up quickly over the stove with 1/4 cup water or low-fat milk, or in a microwave-safe dish without any liquid added. It's even better with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese over each serving.

      

WHOLE KITCHEN (Whole Foods) Pad Thai with Tofu
(2 g saturated fat)

34014349037%

NOTE: Very appealing and satisfying entree. A tablespoon of soy nuts or chopped peanuts adds a nice crunch. The majority of the fat grams seem to come from tofu, peanut butter, peanuts, and canola oil.

      

Chicken Tikka Masala
(4.5 g saturated fat)

49013487024%

NOTE: Full of flavor, and seemed more like a homemade dish than a frozen entree.

 

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