The frozen food section is filled with hundreds of convenient selections, each brand claiming to be better than the next – single serve, healthy, high fiber, etc. And with hectic schedules, who doesn’t want some time shaven off the cooking time? But there are some dangers to your diet lurking in that freezer.
Here are some tips to help you make smart choices at the store when you can’t cook fresh:
- Make sure the meal has a lean source of protein, such as brands like Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and Weight Watchers
- Choose dinners or entrees with no more than 300-400 calories
- Choose meals with no more than 30% of the calories coming from fat. This would be about 10-14 grams of total fat if the meal contains 300-400 calories.
- Select meals with no more than 6 grams of saturated fat
- Aim for a sodium content no higher than 600 milligrams
- Add on a side salad with low calorie dressing, a serving of fruit, and a glass of low-fat milk to round out the meal. This will help you boost the fiber, calcium and nutrient contents of your meal
Women’s Health recently did a breakdown of the best of the best. Here are our favorite category winners and the nutritional value in each healthy box. The good news? These won’t break the bank or your diet!
Best High-Protein: Organic Bistro Whole Life Meals
The three meals in this new line are crammed with 31 to 32 grams of lean protein each, which will keep you full and help build muscle. “I look for meals with ingredients that I would actually find in a supermarket and use in a home-cooked meal,” says Susan Nitzke, Ph.D., professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. And these dishes deliver: They’re flavored with thyme, parsley, and walnuts no chemical mumbo jumbo.
Best Low-Sodium: Amy’s Kitchen Light in Sodium
It’s not just taste that gave old TV frozen dinners a bad rap. “One of the biggest problems with most frozen meals is their high sodium content. Some contain about half the recommended daily amount of 2,300 milligrams,” says Hope Warshaw, R.D., author of What to Eat When You’re Eating Out. The four meals in this line contain only 190 to 380 milligrams per dish and still have tons of taste.
Best Portion Size: Lean Cuisine Dinnertime Selects
Itty-bitty portions can leave you feeling ravenous after scraping the last bite from a plastic tray. “Because most frozen meals are around 9 ounces, I would recommend them as a perfect take-to-work lunch,” Warshaw says. “But you might want something more substantial for dinner.” These 10 hearty 12-ounce meals keep calories under 400 and portion sizes supper-suitable and some even include dessert.
Best Junk-Food Substitute: Cedarlane Zone Pizzas
Hankering after something greasy but trying to resist that bacon double cheeseburger? Microwave food never tasted so good with these nutrition-friendly pizzas. Containing soy, whole-wheat flour, 380 calories, and 27 grams of protein each, they satisfy the junk-food craving without the extra fat.