Here at Your Secret Ingredient we always push the freshest of ingredients and unprocessed whole foods. However, time gets in the way. Sometimes turning to a frozen meal is the most convenient of choices.
Rules of Thumb (To do a good thing):
1) Pay attention to how many servings you are eating. Not all frozen meals are created equal. Some have more than one serving per container. Figure out how many servings you are eating and multiply the nutrition facts accordingly. Example: If a serving is 450 calories, but there are 2 servings per box and you eat the whole thing, you are really eating 900 calories, not 450.
2) Choose meals that are 500 calories or less per serving
3) Choose meals that are less than 20% fat calories in Daily Value (DV) column
4) Choose meals that are less than 600 mg of sodium per serving, ideally less than 500 mg per serving.
5) Choose meals with greater than 3g of fiber per serving and that has vegetables!
6) Choose meals with ingredients that you understand what they are.
Here is a Round-Up of the healthiest frozen dinner choices out there. These brands offer organic frozen foods that are lower in sodium, lower in calories, and are 20% or less calories from fat. Although the sodium still does run high (usually in 500-600 mg range), there is usually also a lot of fiber due to using whole wheat flours and vegetables. Good choices include:
Best Frozen Entrees:
-Amy’s Brand: No, I’m not just saying this because this brand is my name-sake...Great choices and lots of ethnic dishes to choose from.
- Black Bean Burrito (280 calories, 12% DV fat, 4 g fiber, 580 mg sodium, 9 g protein)
- Bowl of Black Peas and Brown Rice (290 calories, 17% DV fat, 580 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 11 g protein)
- Light and Lean Spinach Lasagna (250 calories, 9% DV fat, 540 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 11 g protein)
-Kashi Brand: By far the easiest to find with great variety.
- Kashi Black Bean and Mango with Whole Grain Pilaf (340 calories, 12% DV fat, 380 mg sodium, 7g fiber, 8 g protein)
- Kashi Chicken Florentine (290 calories, 14% DV fat, 550 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 22g protein)
- Kashi Chicken Pasta Pomodoro (280 calories, 9% DV fat, 470 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 19 g protein)
- Kashi Sweet and Sour Chicken (320 calories, 5% DV fat, 380 mg sodium, 6g fiber, 18 g protein)
-Organic Bistro Brand: Harder to find but definitely the comparatively lowest in sodium and least amount of unidentifiable ingredients that I’ve seen
- Wild Alaskan Salmon (380 calories, 20% DV fat, 240 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 20 g protein)
- Moroccan Chicken (290 calories, 14% DV fat, 390 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 19 g protein)
Best Frozen Pizza:
- Amy’s Light in Sodium Single Serve Spinach Pizza (440 calories, 20% DV fat, 390 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 19 g protein)
Best Frozen Breakfast:
- Van’s Lite Whole Grain Waffles: Dip in Greek yogurt, delicious! (2 waffles: 140 calories, 2% DV fat, 320 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 4 g protein)
- Vitamuffins: Great as breakfast or dessert. (Varies with flavor: 100 calories, 0% DV fat, 140 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 4 g protein)
- Amy’s Steel Cut Oatmeal Bowls (220 calories, 5% DV fat, 190 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 6g protein)
Really the best frozen dinners are ones you make yourself. They are lower in calories, sodium, and processed ingredients as well as being much better tasting and more economical. Try out these ideas to make on the weekend ahead of time and freeze in individual servings:
- Make a whole lasagna using veggies and low-fat cheese, cut it up into 8 pieces
- Freeze up soups and stews of all varieties.
- Use seasonal veggies to be able to eat the freshest veggies all year long
- Bake your own mini muffins with applesauce and yogurt instead of butter
- Make your own pasta sauce using canned crushed tomatoes, fresh herbs, lots of veggies and ground turkey or chicken and serve up over whole wheat pasta or store-bought ravioli
- Make your own veggies or turkey burgers and serve on a salad or on a whole wheat bun
- Freeze up some Mexican style rice and beans. Have in a bowl on its own or mix into tacos or burritos
- Make a big pot of meatballs and freeze in 2-3 ball servings. Make meatball sandwiches during the week!
- Bake breaded chicken in the oven and freeze. Use for chicken finger dippers for the kids or make chicken parmesan!
- Freeze quiches for breakfast, lunch or dinner meals
This blog entry was in response to a Your Secret Ingredient fan request. Want some answers? Send us your requests!!
--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN