Too tired or lazy to cook? The answer to your dilemma might be healthy frozen meals. The term “healthy frozen meals” might sound like an oxymoron because a lot of frozen meals are high in sodium, saturated and trans fat and other unhealthy ingredients. In researching this post, however, I have discovered tasty and satisfying frozen meals that are not so high in sodium, have little or no preservatives, little or no saturated fats, no trans fat, and contain good amounts of fiber, protein, vitamins and other nutrients.
There are a few rules you should follow in choosing and eating frozen meals. First, since most frozen meals don't contain enough vegetables and the low-calorie frozen meals might not fully satisfy your appetite, you should round out the meal with a salad, cooked vegetables (you can find microwaveable packs of those too) or a hearty vegetable soup.
Second, you want to make sure that the frozen meal you consume has less than 800 mg of sodium, at least three grams of fiber, and less than 4 grams of saturated fat. If you are on a low-sodium diet, then take the number of sodium milligrams you are allowed per day, divide that number by 3 and choose frozen meals that contain less than a third of your daily recommended amount. If you are watching your weight, then it may be a good idea to make sure the meal is less than 400 calories. Another good rule of thumb is to look for organic frozen meals or natural ones that are made with no preservatives. A few companies make frozen meals meeting all of these requirements. I will name a few here, but be on the lookout for more.
Healthy Choice has a Cafe Steamers Cajun Chicken and Shrimp meal that has 260 calories, 570 mg of sodium, 4 grams of fat (1g saturated fat), 3 grams of fiber, 15 grams of protein and no preservatives. It tastes amazingly fresh and a little spicy due to its Cajun seasoning. Because it was so low in calories, I paired it with a salad to round it out. The entire lunch was 6 WeightWatchers points (including the salad which was 1 point) and I didn't have to cook it myself.
Healthy Choice also makes a very tasty Chicken Margherita meal, comprised of chicken breast and sun-dried tomatoes over whole wheat pasta in a balsamic vinaigrette. Until I ate this meal, it never occurred to me to use balsamic vinaigrette as a pasta sauce. Now I'm inspired. The meal has 330 calories, 8 grams of fat (1.5g saturated fat), 500 mg of sodium, and 21g of protein. This meal was also 6 WeightWatchers points.
Kashi makes all natural frozen meals some of which are vegan such as the Tuscan Veggie Bake, which boasts 260 calories, 700 mg of sodium, 9 grams of fat (1.5g saturated fat), and 8 grams of fiber. It's a lasagna made with whole grain noodles, squash, eggplant, onion and sweet potato in a zesty basil tomato sauce. It was very tasty and quite satisfying. I rounded out the meal with a cup of stir fried broccoli. The entire meal was 6 WeightWatchers points, which left room for dessert.
Kashi also makes a mean Black Bean Mango meal comprised of black beans, onions, roasted peppers, and mangos in a mango sauce over a 7 grain pilaf. The meal contains 340 calories, 380 mg sodium, 8 grams of fat (1g saturated fat), 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. The meal itself is 7 WeightWatchers points. I had it for lunch with a salad. Be careful with this one though – it was delicious but very spicy.
Ethnic Gourmet makes a Taste of Thai Lemongrass & Basil Chicken meal comprised of white meat chicken and veggies in a lemongrass, basil, and coconut milk sauce over rice. The meal has 380 calories, 310 mg sodium, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein. I had it for dinner with a cup of green beans. The entire meal (including the green beans) was 7 WeightWatchers points and may I say that it was delicious.
Amy's, a company that specializes in organic foods, makes a very tasty and satisfying burrito made with organic beans and rice. It has 300 calories, 8 grams of fat (0.5g saturated fat), 580 mg of sodium, 6 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein. I had it with my curried zero point vegetable soup for lunch (see the recipes page) and was a happy child.
Other companies that specialize in making organic frozen meals include Organic Bistro, Cascadian Farms and CedarLane. I haven't tried their meals yet, but I will update this post when I do. Be sure to read the labels if you decide to go with one of their frozen entrees. Just because a meal is organic does not mean that it is low in sodium, calories and saturated fat.
There are so many companies that make frozen meals and a great number of frozen meals to choose from. They vary in taste, portions, quality of ingredients, and nutritional value. Following the general guidelines above may help you to choose some that work for you and your dietary needs. Since I have an intolerance for dairy, for example, all of the meals I have mentioned in this post are non-dairy. If you can tolerate dairy, then there are even more choices available to you.
Let me know if you find some tasty and healthy frozen meals that meet my criteria.