Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
You can find a dizzying array of frozen meal options at grocery stores, supermarkets, and even convenience stores. Standing in front of the freezer at your local grocery store searching for the best option when you are trying to lose weight or wanting to eat healthy can be overwhelming! Let’s make it a bit easier with a list of some healthier frozen meal options from the most popular brands with affordable prices.
Healthy Choice: Its Simply Steamers line is “free from artificial ingredients and made with vibrant vegetables, tender protein, and culinary-inspired sauces."
- Grilled Basil Chicken – With basil, a staple Italian herb, this meal contains 230 calories and 19 grams protein, 440 mg sodium, 5 grams fiber, and 2 grams added sugar.
- Grilled Chicken Pesto and Vegetables – This flavorful meal has 200 calories, 28 grams protein, 600 mg sodium, 5 grams fiber, and <1 gram added sugar.
- Beef Chimichurri – Made with chimichurri, an Argentinian condiment, this option has 220 calories, 16 grams protein, 550 mg sodium, 5 grams fiber, and 2 grams added sugar.
- Meatball Marinara – This is a tasty option with 280 calories, 18 grams protein, 490 mg sodium, 6 grams fiber, and 4 grams sugar.
- Mediterranean Lentil Bowl – This vegetarian option contains 220 calories, 13 grams protein, 600 mg sodium, 10 grams fiber, and 2 grams added sugar.
Lean Cuisine: Offering a wide variety of options, Lean Cuisine meals are made without artificial preservatives. Choices include low carb, meatless, gluten free, and lower calorie meals to suit every palate.
- Herb Roasted Chicken – Certified by the American Heart Association (meeting criteria for heart healthy food), this meal offers 180 calories, 18 grams protein, 4.5 grams fat, 580 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, and 1 gram added sugar.
- Glazed Chicken – Made with white meat chicken, this meal has 290 calories, 20 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, and 5 grams added sugar.
- Roasted Turkey and Vegetables – Lower in fat, this option contains 210 calories, 17 grams protein, 4.5 grams fat, 730 mg sodium, 3 grams fiber, and 6 grams added sugar.
- Steak Portabella – This option is low calorie but higher in sodium, with only 160 calories, 18 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 770 mg sodium, 3 grams fiber, and <1 gram added sugar.
- Spinach Artichoke Ravioli – This meatless option contains 280 calories, 12 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 690 mg sodium, 4 grams fiber, and 2 grams sugar.
Smart Made: These meals are made by Heinz and contain no artificial colors or flavors as mentioned on their website.
- Chicken with Spinach Fettuccini – Despite being made with pasta, this meal contains 230 calories, 22 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 630 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, and 4 grams sugar.
- Chicken Parmesan – Surprisingly lower in sodium than most popular frozen meals, this meal contains 280 calories, 20 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 590 mg sodium, 3 grams fiber, and 6 grams sugar.
- Grilled Sesame Beef and Broccoli – This is a tasty beef option with 220 calories, 14 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 610 mg sodium, 5 grams fiber, and 10 grams sugar (added sugar amount not listed).
- Angel Hair Marinara – A meatless low calorie and low fat option, this meal contains 200 calories per serving, 7 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 580 mg sodium, 4 grams fiber, and 6 grams sugar (added sugar amount not listed). To increase its protein content, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese.
- Cheese Scramble – This vegetarian low calorie option is perfect for breakfast but can be eaten at any time of day with 190 calories, 15 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 530 mg sodium, 1 gram fiber, and 2 grams sugar.
Michelina’s: According to its website, Michelina’s frozen Italian dinners is named after Michelina Paulucci, who immigrated from Bellisio Solfare in northeastern Italy to Minnesota in the 1900s. She loved to cook and started catering her delicious meals to the people of her new hometown. Their son, Jenn, started selling these convenient microwaveable Italian meals in the 1980s, with the goal of offering great food at a low price. Their Lean Gourmet line offers lower calorie tasty meals that will suit the needs of those looking to lose weight.
- Creamy Rigatoni with Broccoli and Chicken – Made with classic Italian ingredients, this meal contains 270 calories, 13 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 640 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, and 4 grams sugar.
- Chicken Alfredo Florentine – This creamy Italian meal contains 250 calories, 12 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 650 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, and 2 grams sugar (added sugar amount not listed).
- Salisbury Steak – This beefy meal contains only 180 calories, 9 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 690 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, and 2 grams sugar (added sugar amount not listed).
- Shrimp with Pasta and Vegetables – This seafood option contains 240 calories, 10 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 500 mg sodium (lower than most popular meals), 2 grams fiber, and 4 grams sugar (added sugar amount not listed).
No matter if your taste buds are craving Italian, Asian, Mediterranean, or Mexican food, there is a frozen meal for you — even if you are trying to follow a healthy meal pattern. Here are some things to consider when buying frozen meals:
1) Go for frozen meals that are under 500 calories per serving.
2) Limit fat to less than 10 grams per serving (less than 5 grams fat per serving is better).
3) It’s best to opt for frozen meals with less than 600 mg sodium, but since it is difficult to find them, at least choose meals with less than 800 mg sodium.
4) Sugar! You probably didn’t think savory meals would have sugar, but a lot of them do. Choose meals with less than 10 grams total sugar and less than 5 grams added sugar per serving.
5) Fiber-containing frozen meals are a plus! Look for at least 2-5 grams of fiber per serving. If you find a meal you really love that does not contain much fiber, eat a small side garden salad with fat-free or low fat salad dressing.
Here you go! Hopefully with these tips, you will not have to spend so much time staring at the frozen meals wondering if they're worth buying. These more modern versions of the TV dinners of the 1970s are made to taste fresh when reheated and can fit anyone’s dietary needs, even those with the most discerning palates. Put it on a fancy plate, garnish it with some fresh herbs, and serve it over candle light. Voila! A gourmet meal in an instant!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.