If you’re wandering the aisles of your local grocery store alone and hungry, it’s hard to walk past the frozen dinner section without doing a bit of snooping first. After all, frozen meals are quick and easy to make, require absolutely no meal planning at all, and they’re relatively cheap. The only problem? Frozen dinners, though convenient, aren’t exactly healthy — many frozen meals are high in sodium and loaded with sugar (via Sharp).
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find something that’s both tasty and nutritious in the frozen, pre-packaged aisle of the store. You just have to do a bit of research first. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the first thing you should do when browsing through pre-made meals is to check the sodium level and opt for entrees that have less than 600 mg of sodium. “For starters, when consuming frozen foods, you should always read the ingredient and nutrition labels,” Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Real Nutrition tells Real Simple. “For complete meals, I recommend products with less than 600 calories per meal, depending on your needs and goals.”
You should also read into a product’s advertise-y jargon. For example, some frozen dinner companies may tout that their meals are “natural” or “organic” — reading the ingredient list and the label on the back should help you decipher how true these claims are (via WebMD.)
The healthiest vs. the most popular frozen dinner
Being healthy isn’t necessarily a factor when it comes to a food’s popularity (remember the whole Popeye’s chicken sandwich ordeal?), and this is definitely true for frozen TV dinners (via HuffPost). According to Statista, Stouffer’s, a brand known for its unhealthy, carb-filled “Italian classics,” won the popularity contest of 2020. By the end of February, the brand generated more than $141 million in the U.S. alone.
So, what’s the answer then? If we’re being honest, there is no one correct answer. We can, however, offer a few solid recommendations. According to Healthline, Amy’s Light in Sodium Black Bean Vegetable Enchilada, Luvo Steel Cut Oatmeal with Quinoa and Mixed Fruit, and Ian’s Fish Sticks Family Pack are all healthy, low-sodium, and low-calorie options.
When it comes to shopping frozen, you can do one of two things: Read the ingredients label as though your life depends on it (and opt for low-sodium, low-calorie options) or stick with frozen veggies and fruits.
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