I Can't Believe It's a Frozen Entrée!

20 healthy frozen meals that don't taste like frozen meals.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Who would have ever thought 30 years ago that the frozen entrée section of the grocery store would span an entire aisle, and that you could choose frozen entrées that were organic, ethnic, vegetarian, or made for a certain diet? The frozen meal category has exploded over the years, largely due, I suspect, to the busy working family and the increasing number of one- and two-person households, and partly because of the popularity of weight loss diets.

I have to admit, I don't venture into this aisle often. But when I do, I'm looking for healthy frozen entrées that don't look or taste like frozen entrées. Why should you settle for food that's just OK-tasting, even when it's frozen?

I've personally had good luck with frozen entrées I've tasted at specialty supermarkets or stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (which are particularly good for organic or vegetarian entrées). But even in your typical supermarket, there are some standout frozen entrée choices. But are they better for you too? There's the second challenge.

Basically, there are three nutritional obstacles to overcome when searching for the perfect healthy frozen entrée:

  • Finding an entrée that isn't too high in sodium.
  • Finding an entrée that contains enough fiber.
  • Finding an entrée that doesn't have too much fat, particularly saturated fat.

Some frozen entrées/dinners have more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium. Some contain 12 to 20 grams of saturated fat (and even more total fat). And very few offer more than 3 grams of fiber (the amount found in a medium-sized apple).

My Search for Great-Tasting Frozen entrées

There are hundreds of frozen entrées out there, and it would be quite an undertaking to taste even a fraction of them. In my personal search over the last couple of years, I have happened upon a few keepers. And to add to that list, I decided to ask some people who should know -- frozen food buyers and stockers for several of the markets I've already mentioned.

Without further ado, here are the entrées that the stores' frozen food managers named as particularly tasty and popular with their customers, along with some I've discovered along the way. You'll also find some of the most vital nutritional info plus some tasting "notes" from yours truly.

Amy's Black Bean/Vegetable Enchilada
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
180 6 3 390 30%

NOTE: A serving includes 2 small enchiladas, which taste pretty good -- especially if you garnish them with fat-free sour cream!

Amy's Brown Rice, Black-eyed Peas & Veggies Bowl
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
290 11 8 580 34%
(1.5 g saturated fat)

NOTE: If you like all these ingredients, you'll love this bowl. You can always add extra zing with some salsa.

Amy's Brown Rice & Vegetables Bowl
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
260 9 5 270 31%
(1 g saturated fat)

NOTE: Someone who is used to eating this type of dish will really like it. If you aren't, try sprinkling some shredded cheese and fresh herbs over the top for a little extra punch.

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