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The Healthiest Frozen Foods in the Supermarket: Global-Inspired

Illustration: Christina Harrison Text: Daniel Boone

Craving Chinese takeout? Try one of these instead globally-inspired entrees instead. They're just as fast and allow you to enjoy an Asian (and even African) meal with a lot less sodium, fat, and calories. Each is made with authentic seasonings that are in the traditional versions, which offers come culinary diversity to the ordinary frozen entree.

Taste Test Winners (Asian):

Lean Cuisine Marketplace Thai-Style Noodles with Chicken

There's something comforting about a creamy peanut sauce, and this one doesn't disappoint. Whole wheat noodles, chicken, carrots, and green beans are tossed with a lightly-spiced peanut sauce. The vegetables were crisp-tender, but the noodles were a little softer than some tasters would have preferred. $3.15

Calories 300; Fat 6g (sat 1.5g); Protein 18g; Carb 43g; Fiber 5g; Sugars 11g; Chol 30mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 520mg; Calc 100mg

Lean Cuisine Sesame Stir-Fry with Chicken

This was one of the few Asian meals that used whole wheat noodles. The noodles are tossed with chicken, broccoli, edamame, and a soy-sesame sauce that's well-balanced, not overpowering. Try it topped with a little extra crunch by adding a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts. $3.15

Calories 280; Fat 5g (sat 1g); Protein 21g; Carb 38g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 13g; Chol 40mg; Iron 4mg; Sodium 650mg; Calc 80mg

Taste Test Winners (Indian):

Amy's Indian Mattar Paneer

Paneer is an Indian cheese that's simmered with sweet peas in a spiced tomato sauce in this classic dish. Served over basmati rice, the paneer is tender and moist, and the meal is filling. Toasted cumin seeds in the rice are a nice touch that compliment basmati's nutty flavor. $3.99, gluten-free, vegetarian

Calories 370; Fat 11g (sat 4g); Protein 13g; Carb 54g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 8g; Chol 20mg; Iron 3mg; Sodium 780mg; Calc 100mg

Tandoor Chef Kofta Curry

There's three parts to this entree - channa masala, kofta curry meatballs, and spinach basmati rice - which make it feel like a full meal. The curry and masala sauces are have a nice balance of spices and taste like they've simmered for hours. $3.99, gluten-free, vegan

Calories 400; Fat 19g (sat 3g); Protein 10g; Carb 47g; Fiber 9g; Sugars 8g; Chol 0mg; Iron 4mg; Sodium 690mg; Calc 100mg

Amy's Indian Vegetable Korma

This vegan version is packed full of tender cauliflower, green beans, carrots, peas, and potato all cooked in a creamy, slightly sweet curry sauce. A side of seasoned dal and buttery-tasting rice round out the hearty meal. $4.59, gluten-free, vegan

Calories 310; Fat 12g (sat 3.5g); Protein 9g; Carb 41g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 7g; Chol 0mg; Iron 4mg; Sodium 680mg; Calc 60mg

Taste Test Winners (African):

Trader Joe's Greens, Beans & Grains

We loved the unique flavor in this African-inspired curry. The dish has an earthy combo of garbanzos and kale that are simmered in a slightly spicy curry sauce and served over couscous. Add creaminess and tone down the heat by adding a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. Or, add a sprinkle of chopped peanuts if you want a little crunch. $2.99, vegetarian

Calories 280; Fat 8g (sat 1.5g); Protein 11g; Carb 40g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 4g; Chol 5mg; Iron 3mg; Sodium 390mg; Calc 80mg

Things to look for: 

  • Sodium: Asian food is known for its high sodium content thanks to sauces, marinades, and spice blends. Keep sodium intake in check by choosing entrees with <800mg of sodium. This will allow for the dish to have authentic flavor, but save room in your daily sodium allotment for other meals.
  • Whole Grains: This was the hardest category to find whole grain choices since most frozen options use white rice or refined noodles. Check the ingredient list and buy ones with whole grain pasta or brown rice when possible. Or, look for a dish that features beans or legumes over refined grains like Trader Joe's Greens, Beans & Grains.
  • Peanuts and nuts: If you've got a peanut or nut allergy, read the packaging carefully to make sure sauces don't use peanuts or nuts as a seasoning or thickener.

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.