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The Healthiest Frozen Foods in the Supermarket: Family Meals

Illustration: Christina Harrison Text: Daniel Boone

Sure, we'd like to say we cook dinner from scratch each day, but there are nights where cooking dinner just isn't going to happen. Before you head to the drive-thru or call for pizza, check out these frozen meals that serve two to four people. Pair any with a salad or steamed vegetables for a quick meal that tastes close to homemade and is much healthier than fast food or delivery pizza.

Taste Test Winners:

Trader Joe's Channa Masala

This classic Indian dish is as comforting as it is healthy. The prominent ingredient, chickpeas, are cooked in a savory tomato-based sauce that includes onions, garlic, mango powder, cilantro, and spices. The end result is a creamy vegetarian dish with lots of flavor and a subtle touch of spicy heat. We recommend serving with hot cooked brown rice, which you can also buy frozen at Trader Joe's for $1.99. $2.29, vegetarian

ServesCalories 180; Fat 9g (sat 2g); Protein 6g; Carb 19g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 8g; Chol 5mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 460mg; Calc 40mg

Amy's Family Size Vegetable Lasagna

This lasagna has the perfect balance of noodles, veggies, sauce, and cheese. The tomato sauce is tangy and robust, and the noodles are sturdy, not soggy like you often see in microwaved pasta dishes. Even though it has no meat, this dish is hearty and will please both adults and kids. $9.99, vegetarian

ServesCalories 320; Fat 12g (sat 5g); Protein 14g; Carb 39g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 6g; Chol 25mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 630mg; Calc 300mg

Amy's Family Size Mexican Casserole

The family-friendly dish features a mixture of black beans, corn, and olives in a lightly spiced tomato sauce, but it's the thick corn masa layer sprinkled with cheese on top that pushed this comforting dish to the top of our list. Serve in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream or over a bed of lettuce with chopped fresh tomatoes. $9.99, gluten-free, vegetarian

ServesCalories 290; Fat 13g (sat 4.5g); Protein 10g; Carb 34g; Fiber 5g; Sugars 3g; Chol 15mg; Iron 3mg; Sodium 700mg; Calc 200mg

Trader Joe's Mojito Salmon

It's rare you find a frozen fish with great flavor and texture. In fact, this may be the first time we've ever recommended one. But, the salmon in this dish had great flavor when cooked in the tangy citrus sauce. Made with tomatillos, cilantro, and lime, the sauce is fresh-tasting and bright - a perfect compliment to the salmon. Cook a little less than recommended for more tender fish. $7.99

ServesCalories 310; Fat 16g (sat 1.5g); Protein 32g; Carb 6g; Fiber 0g; Sugars 3g; Chol 80mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 650mg; Calc 40mg

Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken

It's hard to find a frozen Asian entree that's not high in sodium and still has flavor, so we were excited to find this meal. A take on the classic stir-fry, this bagged entree features dark meat chicken pieces and peppers in a subtle sweet-and-spicy ginger sauce that's topped with chopped peanuts after cooking. Serve with brown rice and steamed or stir-fried vegetables to complete the meal. $4.99

ServesCalories 240; Fat 10g (sat 2g); Protein 24g; Carb 17g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 8g; Chol 90mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 690mg; Calc 20mg

Things to Look For:

  • Whole grains: Many meals use refined grains, lowering the fiber and nutrient content. However, there are some now that use whole grains or another nutrient-dense carb source like beans or sweet potatoes. Check the ingredient list and look for brown rice instead of white and whole wheat pasta over wheat. 

  • Sodium: If you're not careful, you can easily consume all of your daily sodium in one frozen meal. Keep sodium in-check by choosing meals with 400mg to 750mg of sodium per serving. This amount usually allows the dish to have enough sodium to bring out flavors, but won't blow your daily sodium allotment.

  • Saturated Fat: Comfort foods often call for ingredients with lots of saturated fat (think cheesy fillings and creamy sauces). You don't have to totally avoid creamy or cheesy meals, but check the nutrition facts and choose one with ⪯ 7g saturated fat.

​​​​How We Tested

Only frozen foods that met Cooking Light’s nutrition guidelines were tested. Products were eliminated based on the following: lack of calorie and/or protein adequacy, lack of whole grains, presence of trans fat or hydrogenation, presence of significant added sugars, and presence of artificial coloring or sweeteners. All frozen foods were cooked according to package directions and taste tested by a panel of Cooking Light editors and staff. To ensure consistency, Breville microwaves were used to cook all foods.