Frozen Entrees: 20 Healthy, Tasty Frozen Meals

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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.

Amy's Vegetable Lasagna
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
310 12 5 680 35%

NOTE: Mildly flavored lasagna with a homemade taste. The serving size is satisfying, too, with 5 grams of fiber and 16 grams of plant and dairy protein.

Cedarlane 3-Layer Enchilada Pie
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
215 7 3 595 29%
(3 g saturated fat)

NOTE: This tasted like a home cooked meal. My only complaint is that the box says 2 servings per container, while most hungry people will eat the whole 5.5-ounce container -- in which case, you'll need to double the numbers above.

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Cedarlane Burrito Grande with Chili Verde
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
180 6 3 390 30%
(4 g saturated fat)

NOTE: A great-tasting entrée. I loved the Chili Verde Sauce. My complaint is that the label says there are 2 servings, which means 1 serving is half a burrito (and it's a small burrito)! So, any hungry person will eat the 10-ounce serving -- which means the calories will be 460, with 20 grams of fat. Luckily, the ingredients are mostly whole foods. The saturated fat for the whole burrito would be 8 grams (mostly coming from the organic Jack cheese).

Cedarlane Ethnic Gourmet Pad Thai with Tofu
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
420 8 3 720 17%

NOTE: It is labeled "mildly spiced" and it was definitely nice and mild. Great flavor and very filling. I sprinkled some chopped nuts over the top for a little added crunch.

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers Grilled Chicken & Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Sauce
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
240 5 4 600 19%

NOTE: Great combination of flavors, wonderful sauce, and tender chicken pieces.

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers Cajun Style Chicken & Shrimp
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
250 3 3 600 11%

NOTE: Nice homemade taste with a kick from the Cajun spices.

Kashi Lemongrass Coconut Chicken
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
300 8 7 3680 24%
(4 g saturated fat)

NOTE: Unique flavors come together in this dish. Chicken was tender, and the Kashi added some crunch.

Kashi Sweet & Sour Chicken
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
320 3.5 6 380 10%
(.5 g saturated fat)

NOTE: The Kashi gives the dish a nice crunch, and the 6 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein help make it satisfying. The chicken is tender, and the sweet & sour sauce is mildly flavored.

Lean Cuisine Salmon with Basil
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
220 6 4 660 25%

NOTE: This is a quick way to try to work toward your recommended 2-3 servings of fish a week! A very nice dish made with 100% whole grain pasta. I liked all the ingredients, and just added a couple of teaspoons of shredded Parmesan to complete the flavors.

Organic Bistro Wild Salmon (with cranberry pilaf and walnut broccoli)
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
500 23 8 80 41%
Contains 2.5 g omega-3s and only 3 grams of saturated fat

NOTE: Salmon was tender, and the pilaf and walnuts added crunch. The flavors are subtle; you may want to squeeze a lemon wedge or extra sprinkle of pepper over the top.

Trader Joe's Trader Ming's BBQ Chicken Teriyaki
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
150 3.5 0 570 21%
A 21-ounce bag in the frozen section makes 3.5 (1-cup) servings.
(1 g saturated fat)

NOTE: Tastes homemade and uses white and dark skinless chicken meat. You really only need to use one of the two sauce packets -- this will bring down the sodium, too.

Trader Joe's Black Bean & Cheese Taquitos, 4
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
310 11 7 180 32%
(2 g saturated fat)

NOTE: Start warming up your toaster oven to 400 degrees while you microwave 4 taquitos for a minute to quickly thaw them. Then crisp up your taquitos by baking them on a sheet of foil in the toaster oven for 4-5 minutes.

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Trader Joe's Calabacita & Cheese Quesadilla (with veggies & beans)
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
240 9 4 440 34%

NOTE: This is great tasting and spicy. I thaw one of the quesadillas in the microwave for a minute then brown and crisp it in a nonstick frying pan (this takes 1 minute).

Trader Joe's Chicken Serenada Chicken breast with a coco Caribe sauce topped with poblano peppers
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
290 12 0 650 37%
(1.5 g saturated fat)

NOTE: The fat grams mainly come from canola and olive oil. One 17.3-ounce container makes 2 servings of this elegant entrée. Because it doesn't contain any fiber, you'll need to serve the chicken with whole-grain noodles or steamed brown rice and vegetables.

Trader Joe's Penne Pepperonata
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
200 4.5 3 190 20%
A 16-ounce bag in the frozen section makes 4.5 (1-cup) servings.
(2 g saturated fat)

NOTE: Very tasty! Heat up quickly over the stove with 1/4 cup water or low-fat milk, or in a microwave-safe dish without any liquid added. It's even better with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese over each serving.

Whole Kitchen (Whole Foods) Pad Thai with Tofu
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
340 14 3 490 37%
(2 g saturated fat)

NOTE: Very appealing and satisfying entrée. A tablespoon of soy nuts or chopped peanuts adds a nice crunch. The majority of the fat grams seem to come from tofu, peanut butter, peanuts, and canola oil.

Whole Kitchen (Whole Foods) Chicken Tikka Masala
Calories Grams Fat Grams Fiber (mg) Sodium Calories from fat
490 13 4 870 24%
(4.5 g saturated fat)

NOTE: Full of flavor, and seemed more like a homemade dish than a frozen entrée.

One Final Healthy Frozen Entrée Tip: Pump Up the Produce!

If you ever wondered why you're hungry an hour or two after eating a frozen entrée, it might be because they only have around 250 calories. They are called "entrées" for a reason.

To turn them into a satisfying meal, add some sides like a green or fruit salad, steamed veggies, or a whole-grain roll. Look at your particularly frozen entrée and see what's missing. Fruit? Vegetables? Whole grains?


Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

SOURCES: Nutritional information from the labels on boxes purchased in December 2007 and January 2008.

©2008 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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Reviewed on 1/28/2008

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