The Healthiest Frozen Foods in the Supermarket: Mexican-Inspired
Tex-Mex and Mexican-inspired meals were a big category to tackle, but one we gladly took on. From enchiladas to tamales to rice and beans, these meals were first narrowed down by nutrition and then sampled. We found lots of options that were healthy, full of flavor, and fresh-tasting thanks to the bold flavors in ingredients like chipotles, cumin, chili powder, lime, and cilantro.
Taste Test Winners:
The masa in the tamale had a fresh corn taste which paired nicely with the Monterey Jack cheese filling. A fresh-tasting tomatillo sauce covered the tamale, and the side of seasoned brown rice with black beans and bell peppers is a great accompaniment. Overall, the meal is flavorful and satisfying. $3.76, gluten-free, vegetarian
Calories 400; Fat 16g (sat 5g); Protein 13g; Carb 51g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 8g; Chol 20mg; Iron 3mg; Sodium 780mg; Calc 200mg
The name "enchiladas" is be a bit misleading for this dish, but the entree was still a group favorite. A better description of the dish is a Southwestern-take on manicotti where two corn tortillas are filled with a ricotta-consistency cheese mixture and topped with a fresh-tasting salsa verde. Serve over a bed of lettuce to add even more fresh flavor. $3.98, gluten-free, poultry raised without antibiotics
Calories 410; Fat 16g (sat 6g); Protein 19g; Carb 46g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 4g; Chol 45mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 610mg; Calc 250mg
If frozen meals often leave you hungry, then this one's a good choice to try. The meal includes an enchilada with a creamy, cheese and spinach filling and topped with a zesty tomatillo sauce. It's served along a side of brown rice and black beans. Our only complaint was that we wished the rice and beans had a little more seasoning, but a dash of hot sauce or salsa can fix that. $3.76, gluten-free, vegetarian
Calories 400; Fat 13g (sat 6g); Protein 17g; Carb 54g; Fiber 8g; Sugars 5g; Chol 30mg; Iron 4mg; Sodium 780mg; Calc 300mg
Others We Liked:
We loved the slightly spicy flavor in this dish, as well as the texture of the rice and beans. The serving size is on the small side, but this entree would make the ideal base for a more filling, Mexican-inspired bowl by topping it with shredded rotisserie chicken, chopped tomato, and dollop of sour cream. Another idea is to use this entree as a side dish for two on taco night. $2.99, vegetarian
Calories 270; Fat 6g (sat 2.5g); Protein 8g; Carb 46g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 6g; Chol 10mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 690mg; Calc 150mg
This cheese tamale is topped with a smoky chile sauce that is a nice balance to the sweet corn masa. There's an ample amount of spicy heat in the sauce, but the side of brown rice seasoned with lime helps cool it down a touch. $3.15, vegetarian
Calories 330; Fat 9g (sat 3g); Protein 8g; Carb 55g; Fiber 5g; Sugars 10g; Chol 10mg; Iron 0mg; Sodium 580mg; Calc 150mg
A simple, but filling meal, this tamale is filled with roasted corn, zucchini and peppers and then topped with red tamale sauce that only has a hint of heat. It's served with a side of seasoned black beans. $3.76, vegan, gluten-free
Calories 280; Fat 7g (sat 0.5g); Protein 9g; Carb 44g; Fiber 10g; Sugars 4g; Chol 0mg; Iron 5mg; Sodium 740mg; Calc 150mg
Two corn tortillas are stuffed with a cheesy mixture of beans, rice, zucchini and roasted corn and topped with a tangy salsa verde. The flavor of both tomatillos and lime juice are apparent in this fresh-tasting sauce which compliments the creamy filling well. $3.89, gluten-free, vegetarian
Calories 330; Fat 10g (sat 4g); Protein 11g; Carb 51g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 5g; Chol 15mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 570mg; Calc 150mg
Things to Look For:
Whole Grains and Beans: Many meals use tortillas made with refined grains, so look for ones that use at least a mix of whole and refined grains. Choose meals that include beans and corn to boost the fiber and nutrition.
Sodium: Enchilada sauce and cheese aren't usually low sodium foods. Keep sodium intake in check by choosing an entree with ⪯800mg of sodium. This amount allows the dish to have enough sodium to bring out flavors, but also saves room for other meals in your daily sodium allotment.
Saturated Fat: Cheesy filling and toppings are what make many of these entrees so food, but they can have lots of saturated fat . Keep sat fat to a minimum by looking for one with ⪯ 7g saturated fat.
How We Tested:
Only frozen foods that met Cooking Light's nutrition guidelines for sodium and saturated fat content 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.