Grab one of these the next time you want a healthy meal in a hurry.

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
December 04, 2018

I’m sure we’d all like to say we cook dinner from scratch every night, but there are days where that’s just not going to happen without some help. We need something quick and tasty—and something a little healthier than pizza delivery or fast food. This is when the idea of a frozen meal sounds ideal, but I’ve struggled to find a dish whose taste and nutrition label I cared for.

But things are slowly changing in the freezer case, because there’s a handful of new brands whose focus seems to be on higher-quality ingredients—which makes finding a balance between good taste and nutrition easier to find. Check out these 9 frozen meal options (some new, some old) that got the seal of approval from dietitians and taste testers.

Wildscape Cilantro Lime Chicken With Charred Corn Salsa, Freekeh, Black Beans, and Avocado Mojo Verde

The Wildscape brand is new and seems to emphasize quality ingredients (like EVOO, roasted corn, roasted bell peppers, and a chimichurri-like herb paste in this one). The result is that the dish tastes and looks like a meal I might have cooked at home and reheated for lunch the next day. In fact, the grain bowl is about as far from the frozen meal stereotype as you can get. The serving size is generous, and the fiber (12g) from the whole-grain freekeh and black beans made it filling. Wildscape meals are a little pricier than the typical frozen meal, but the other perks made it worth the cost—and still cheaper than a meal out.

  • Serving size: 1 container
  • Calories 400; Fat 14g (sat 3g); Protein 21g; Carb 53g; Fiber 12g; Sugars 7g; Sodium 610mg
  • Dairy-free

Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Fried Rice

Vegetarian Fried Rice from Trader Joe’s is the go-to frozen meal for Sacramento-based dietitian Jordan Mitchell, MS, RD. “This veggie-packed fried rice always hits the spot for me, especially when I add a scrambled egg to the mix,” says Mitchell. She also adds that it comes together in minutes, making this meal ideal for when she's when crammed for time. Bonus: it’s almost half the calories of the fried rice at Panda Express. Add an egg or two like Mitchell, or toss in some shelled edamame for a plant-based protein boost.

  • Serving size: 1 ¼ cup
  • Calories 210; Fat 2g (sat 0g); Protein 2g; Carb 7g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 3g; Sodium 190
  • Vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free

Rising Moon Organic Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

“My favorite frozen product” is how Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN described these ravioli, and after trying them, I get why!  Even though the pasta isn’t made with whole grains, the ingredient list reads like a pasta recipe you might make at home: organic wheat flour, organic eggs, Parmesan cheese, and so on.  “I keep these on hand for a quick meal when my menu planning falls short,” says Ivey, who says she adds a homemade or low-sodium jarred marinara, along with a few handfuls of baby spinach, to the cooked pasta for a quick meatless meal that everyone in her house loves.

  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories 200; Fat 3.5g (sat 2g); Protein 7g; Carb 36g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 1g; Sodium 300mg
  • Vegetarian

Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken

When you’re craving Asian takeout, try this Trader Joe’s bagged meal that Dallas-based registered dietitian Robin Plotkin swears by:  “It tastes as close to takeout Chinese as I’ve ever found” says Plotkin. Acknowledging that the nutrition facts aren’t that impressive, she thinks it’s a healthier alternative to takeout. The dish has a sweet orange-soy glaze, but the sodium is low and added sugars are kept at a minimum. Plotkin says she serves with a salad and brown rice to bump up the veggies and fiber.

  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories 320; Fat 16g (sat 3.5g); Protein 21g; Carb 24g; Fiber 1g; Sugars 6g; Sodium 330mg
  • Dairy-free

Amy’s Kitchen Light in Sodium Mexican Casserole Bowl

Bailee Hart, RDN says this bowl is one of her favorite frozen meals, and it was also a favorite two years ago in a frozen food taste test among Cooking Light editors. It’s a mixture of black beans, corn, and olives in a lightly spiced tomato sauce that’s then topped with a thick corn masa layer and sprinkled with cheese. Hart likes that this version has 50% less sodium, but still plenty of flavor, and recommends pairing it with fresh fruit for a quick lunch. This dish is also sold as a larger casserole, which can make a quick family dinner. Serve the casserole in a bowl with a diced avocado, or over a bed of lettuce with fresh tomatoes.

  • Serving size: 1 bowl
  • Calories 380; Fat 16g (sat 5g); Protein 12g; Carb 48g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 4g; Sodium 380mg
  • Vegetarian, gluten-free

Newman's Own Margherita Thin and Crispy Pizza

Some nights call for pizza, and this is the pizza I keep in my freezer for those times. It’s another frozen food that I discovered in taste tests two years ago, and I still haven’t found one to top its taste or nutrition. The pie has a perfect ratio of fresh tomato to cheese, and the tomatoes tasted like they were chopped just before the pizza hit the oven. The thin multigrain crust has a crisp, nutty flavor thanks to flaxseed and whole oat flour, and the tomato sauce is light—something that helps bring out the cheese and basil flavor.

  • Serving size: ⅓ of pizza
  • Calories 280; Fat 12g (sat 4.5g); Protein 12g; Carb 31g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 2g; Sodium 650mg
  • Vegetarian

Red’s Chicken and Riced Cauliflower

One of the only frozen prepared cauliflower rice meals I’ve seen, this southwestern dish is packed with flavor thanks to tomatillos, roasted corn, grilled chicken and white cheddar cheese. The “rice” isn’t mushy, and actually has a rice-like texture. In fact, I almost forgot that I was eating cauliflower and not a grain. Pair with a green salad, veggies or fruit to complete the meal, and top it with diced avocado or a dollop of guacamole and salsa.  

  • Serving size: 1 bowl
  • Calories 230; Fat 11g (sat 2.5g); Protein 14g; Carb 19g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 4g; Sodium 350mg
  • Gluten-free, meat/poultry raised without antibiotics

Dr. Praeger’s Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Bowl

Need a hearty breakfast in less than 5 minutes?  Try this breakfast bowl made with black beans, egg whites, corn tortillas and cheese that's a favorite of NYC-based dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. She describes the meal as “a Mexican brunch” that provides 14g protein and only 450mg sodium. “This hearty bowl is full of protein and fiber to keep me full all morning” says Rizzo. Want to bump the protein up a little more? Rizzo suggests adding an extra cooked egg.

  • Serving size: 1 bowl
  • Calories 270; Fat 7g (sat 3g); Protein 14g; Carb 37g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 3g; Sodium 450mg
  • Vegetarian, gluten-free

Blake's All-Natural Shepherd's Pie

Not only is Shepherd’s Pie a dish that I don’t each much, but beef and mashed potatoes aren’t foods that typically freeze well—meaning this isn’t a frozen meal I would typically pick up. So to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. In fact, I’ve bought it several times since. The mashed potatoes are as good as homemade—fluffy and with real butter flavor—and the ground beef tastes tender and high quality. Pair with steamed veggies or salad for a quick, made-from-scratch tasting comfort meal.

  • Serving size: 1 bowl
  • Calories 310; Fat 13g (sat 5g); Protein 18g; Carb 33g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 3g; Sodium 520mg
  • $3.69, Meat/poultry raised without antibiotics

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