RD Picks for Frozen Meals

Sometimes you want the satisfaction of a “real meal”, but you just do not feel like cooking. Maybe cooking isn’t a strength of yours, or you don’t have access to a kitchen, or you are too busy for meal prep. Frozen meals have come a long way, and they are an alternative option for take-out. Frozen meals are typically less expensive than take-out, are easy to find, and conveniently pre-portioned.

Historically, frozen meals had a negative reputation mostly due to the sodium content. While this may be true for some options, it is not the case for all. Frozen meals, in moderation, can be part of even a low-sodium diet. Options for special diets, such as gluten free or vegan, seem to be consistently added to the freezer section these days. Food does not need to be fresh to be nutritious. I am a Registered Dietitian and I always have 1-2 frozen meals on hand for those lazy days.

I searched popular frozen meal brands, scoured nutrition facts labels and ingredients, and created a list of some balanced frozen meal options. Below you will see each meal listed with its own “pros” and “cons”, as well as some recommendations on how to make that frozen meal not feel like a “TV dinner”. Please note that I have not personally taste-tested most of these meals, so I can only attest to their nutritional composition. 😊

Tips for dressing up a frozen meal:

  • After the meal is cooked, recycle the microwaveable bowl and pour the ingredients onto your ceramic dish of choice
  • Add a lean protein (note that this may add sodium if it a processed protein source)
  • Stir in some cheese to add calcium and protein (note this will increase the fat, sodium, and cholesterol content of the meal). Or shake some parmesan on top.
  • Stir in some canned, low-sodium beans or lentils for added protein and fiber
  • Top with arugula
  • Chop up and sauté some extra veggies and mix them into the dish
  • Top with plain Greek yogurt (works well with Mexican-style dishes as a substitute for sour cream)
  • Serve a salad or other vegetable on the side  
  • Food safety tip: these meals should reach 165F after cooking. I recommend investing in a meat thermometer!
Image source: amys.com

Amy’s Vegetable Lasagna, Light in Sodium

Reasons this meal is a RD pick:

  • Suitable for vegetarian diets
  • Suitable for soy and tree nut allergies
  • Low in sodium 280mg
  • 4g of fiber and 15g of protein
  • Good source of calcium

Shortcomings:

  • Could add 2-3 turkey or meatless meatballs to increase protein intake
Image source: target.com

Purple Carrot Frozen Maple Chipotle Veggie Bowl

Reasons this is a RD Pick:

  • Suitable for gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets
  • Low fat, high fiber
  • Good source of iron
  • I have had this one, and it was delicious

Shortcomings:

  • 11g of protein for a meal is low for the average healthy adult. To increase the protein, you could add your grilled meat or poultry of choice, additional pumpkin seeds, some Greek yogurt on top (like sour cream), or mix in some cheese
  • Sodium content is 760mg. For those who are on a sodium restricted diet, this amounts to 51% of your sodium intake for the day
Image source: target.com

Evol Chicken Enchilada Bake

Reasons this is a RD pick:

  • High fiber and 20g of protein
  • Suitable for gluten-free diets
  • Lower than most frozen meals at 510mg of sodium
  • Moderate source of calcium

Shortcomings:

  • Saturated fat content is high, especially for people with high cholesterol
Image source: goodnes.com

Lean Cuisine Butternut Squash Ravioli

Reasons this is a RD pick:

  • Provides 2 servings of vegetables
  • Suitable for vegetarian diets
  • Lower in fat (partly due to the portion size)

Shortcomings:

  • 10g protein – could increase protein be adding a meat or  meatless protein (such as grilled chicken, turkey meatballs, impossible meat, etc.)
  • Sodium content is 43% of a the daily value for those on a low-sodium diet
Image source: tattooedchef.com

Tattooed Chef Frozen Veggie Hemp Bowl

Reasons this is a RD pick:

  • Suitable for gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian diets
  • Low in saturated fat
  • High fiber
  • Low sodium (only 260mg!)
  • Nutrient-dense ingredient list

Shortcomings:

  • May be an unpleasant option for those with irritable bowel syndrome
Image source: target.com

Scott and Jon’s Shrimp Alfredo with Penne

Reasons this is a RD pick:

  • High protein
  • Moderate source of calcium
  • Relatively low in fat

Shortcomings:

  • Likely does not contain a full serving of vegetables
  • Makes up 37% DV of sodium for those on a low-sodium diet

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