The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Frozen Dinners
There’s no arguing the convenience of a frozen dinner; it doesn’t get much easier than opening a box and poking a fork into the plastic film covering the food tray. But the downside is that we often trade quality for convenience. When hungry and in a rush, we’re not always inclined to read the nutritional small print on a box, but as evidenced by our recent list of “The 10 Unhealthiest Frozen Dinners “, sodium levels are oftentimes through the roof in frozen dinners, and sky-high fat levels and crazy calorie amounts can quickly negate any convenience..
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With sales declining recently, largely due to an increasingly health-conscious public’s perception that frozen entrées aren’t healthy, the frozen food industry is working to get the word out that frozen food can be tasty and good for you. A ” Frozen Food Roundtable” with the American Frozen Food Institute and companies like General Mills and Heinz is planning an advertising campaign to try and change the way consumers think about frozen foods, and hopefully increase sales.
But while plenty of freezer meals still aren’t good for you, there are many choices that actually are. With good ingredients and low levels of sodium and fat, frozen meals can be the great idea they’re meant to be, combining convenience with nutrition. 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.
(See also: Best canned chili taste test)
The Four Healthiest Frozen Dinners:
Cedar Lean: “Cedar Lean” Spinach and Roasted Tomato Egg White Frittata
This high- protein (10 grams) frittata with potatoes and sauté ed spinach is a solid way to kick off the day; with Parmesan and feta cheeses, it has only 160 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 300 milligrams of sodium.
Artisan Bistro: Spiced Chicken Morocco
The chicken (raised without antibiotics and vegetarian-fed, according to the company) has a cinnamon apricot sauce, along with green beans and chickpea-almond pilaf. The complete meal has good stats: 17 grams of protein and only 270 calories with 8 grams of fat and 360 milligrams of sodium.
Kashi: Sweet & Sour Chicken
Served along with brown rice pilaf and whole grains, and a vegetable medley of green beans, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and edamame, this has a whopping 18 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber… yet are just 320 calories. It also has only 3.5 grams of fat and 380 milligrams of sodium.
Artisan Bistro: Wild Alaskan Salmon
The salmon, with a rosemary-orange glaze, is accompanied by a cranberry pilaf with organic whole-grain rice, walnuts, and a side of broccoli; not bad for just 280 calories and 6 grams of fat… and a commendably low amount — 135 milligrams — of sodium. Even better, the dish has 18 grams of protein. The company notes that Responsible Fishing practices were used in catching the salmon. When it comes to frozen dinner options, it doesn’t get much healthier than this.
The Four Unhealthiest Frozen Dinners
DiGiorno Small Size, Supreme Traditional Crust
This single-serving pizza might seem a better idea than grabbing a few slices at your local pizza joint. But still, its 770 calories are significantly more than most single servings of frozen pizza, with 32 grams of fat and 1, 330 milligrams of sodium (plus chemicals like methylcellulose and sodium stearoyl lactylate) to boot.
El Monterey Spicy Red Hot Beef & Bean Chimichangas XX Large
We like our Mexican food fix as much as the next person, but not when it involves a heaping load of calories (790), 43 grams of fat and 790 milligrams of sodium (plus a dose of sodium metabisulfite, whatever that is). According to CalorieKing.com, you’d have to walk 219 minutes to work off your meal.
Hungry Man Sports Grill (Swanson) Popcorn Fish and Chips
Part of Hungry Man’s Sports Grill series, the Popcorn Fish and Chips meal is topped with cheese sauce just to make it even more caloric (880). Like its colleague, the Classic Fried Chicken, it has an insane amount of sodium (2,640 milligrams ) and actually even more fat (48 grams).
Hungry Man (Swanson) Classic Fried Chicken
You’d better be a Hungry Man (grrr!) to eat this one, which comes with reconstituted potatoes, corn, and a brownie — and you’d better be an Exercising Man to work it off. It tops our list in the calorie category, coming in at 960, with an over-the-top sodium level (2,869 milligrams !) and 45 grams of fat. Ingredients like monosodium glutamate and sodium acid pyrophosphate make it even less like down-home cooking.
Click to see More of the Unhealthiest Frozen Dinners