Eating healthy can sometimes be tough. You might not always have time to cook meals from scratch using fresh ingredients. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on a balanced diet. While they get a bad rap, frozen meals can be a good option if you know what to look for. Use these tips to find the healthiest frozen meal brands the next time you need a quick, nutritious dinner.
Make Healthy Choices in the Freezer Aisle
First things first — know what to look for on the Nutrition Facts label. Look for meals that are:
- Lower in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar
- Higher in unsaturated fats, protein and fiber
When you’re shopping for healthy freezer food, avoid products that are packed with saturated fat. While you may have heard that your body needs fat to thrive, that good kind of fat is called unsaturated fat. Too much saturated fat, on the other hand, can raise your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease.
Many frozen meal brands are also high in added sugar and sodium. Brands pack in these ingredients because it’s a cheaper way to boost flavor than using quality herbs and spices. Unfortunately, this can be bad news for your health. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. And added sugar adds calories, but no nutrients — so it’s best to cut down on added sugar.
So now that you know what to avoid, what should you look for in a healthy frozen meal? Try choosing meals that are higher in protein, fiber and healthy unsaturated fats. And you’ll also want to choose foods made of quality ingredients that provide these nutrients — like lean proteins, whole grains and (of course) lots of veggies.
Wondering what to look for on the ingredients list? Try these tips:
- Look for options with more whole food ingredients that you can easily recognize.
- Choose meals centered around leaner proteins like skinless chicken, fish or beans.
- Look for healthy high-fiber whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice or barley.
- Aim for a colorful mix of veggies, like leafy greens along with a red or orange veggie.
- Try to avoid meals with heavy cream sauces or sugary glazes.
Check Out 6 of the Healthiest Frozen Meal Brands
Now that you know a little more about what to look for in the frozen foods aisle, here are a few examples of healthy frozen meal brands that try to follow these practices. Just be aware that the nutrition facts and ingredients for specific meals from these brands can vary quite a bit, so you’ll still need to read the labels to make a healthy choice.
Amy’s frozen food meals are both organic and vegetarian, so they’re a good choice if you avoid meat and prefer organic ingredients. Being meat-free also means these meals are usually lower in saturated fat, as animal products are the biggest source of saturated fat.
The brand also caters to many food allergies and restrictions, offering choices that are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, tree-nut free and corn-free. Amy’s also offers meals that are specifically low in sodium, which is better for your heart health.
2. Healthy Choice
The name of this brand pretty much sums it up — Healthy Choice is a good option for a quick meal made with healthy lean proteins and vegetables. The brand is dedicated to creating products that comply with recommended guidelines for sodium, saturated fat and total fat, meaning you won’t eat an entire day’s limit of these things in just one serving.
Some of its most popular products — like Power Bowls — come in classic protein, grain-free, vegan and vegetarian varieties, helping to cater to all dietary needs.
3. Saffron Road
For a little more variety, head to the Saffron Road brand. This company creates healthy frozen dinners inspired by various cuisines across the world. You’ll find a mix of Thai, Hawaiian, Mexican and Indian dishes, all with a healthy twist. Each meal is protein-based, helping you to fulfill your daily requirements.
Some of Saffron Road’s meals can be higher in sodium than other picks on this list, so you may want to avoid this brand or read labels closely if eating a low-sodium diet is important to you.
Evol prides itself in using fresh, nutritious ingredients in all of its dishes. That means you’ll find them packed with antibiotic-free meats, vegetables, whole grains and spices. The brand doesn’t use any artificial colors or flavors and also puts only cage-free eggs in its recipes.
While the use of fresh ingredients and high-quality protein is a selling point, just be careful to read the nutrition facts before you chow down. Some of Evol’s meals are higher in saturated fat and sodium, meaning they won’t be the best choice for everyone.
5. Good Food Made Simple
Another brand name that cuts straight to the point, Good Food Made Simple creates healthy frozen meals made of organic veggies, whole grains and antibiotic-free meats. It doesn’t use artificial ingredients like fillers or chemical preservatives, and at least 70% of its meals are made with organic ingredients.
While the brand has numerous low sodium and low saturated fat options, you may want to steer clear of the pasta meals. These are higher in fat and sodium, likely from the cheese used for the sauce.
6. Lean Cuisine
While Lean Cuisine meals often focus on calorie reduction — which isn’t always the healthiest approach to eating — they also contain ingredients that are healthier than many other brands on the market. This brand crafts a wide variety of dishes for many dietary needs, including people who need to eat gluten free, vegetarians and people who are cutting back on carbs.
All Lean Cuisine meals are crafted with the help of a nutritionist to ensure they’re fully balanced. They all also have 10 grams of fat or less, which is great if you’re watching your saturated fat intake.
Frozen Meals Can Be Healthy When You Choose Wisely
By paying a little attention to labels in the freezer aisle, you can find frozen meal choices that are healthy, filling and delicious. So when you find yourself crunched for time, don’t feel like fast food or takeout is your only option — remember that you can keep ready-made healthy meals on hand to eat anytime.