6 ‘Healthy’ Frozen Dinners That Are Actually Terrible For You

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Frozen dinners have come a long way since the microwave and television dinners of the 1950s. Not only have the flavor options and accessibility of these dinners changed, but healthier frozen meals are available today. At the same time, there are also plenty of unhealthy frozen dinners that are marketed as “healthy,” even though they’re actually loaded with sodium, added sugar, fat, and weird preservatives.

When you’re wandering through the frozen food section of the grocery store looking for a convenient nutritious meal, it can be hard to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy frozen dinners, especially when you’re in a hurry. With that in mind, we talked to a few dietitians about what you might want to avoid when looking for a quick, easy, and healthy frozen meal, so you can spot an otherwise disguised unhealthy frozen dinner when you cross your path.

Here are six frozen meals that dietitians say are marketed as “healthy” but are actually terrible for you. And for more tips on finding a convenient and healthy meal on a busy night, be sure to also read When It Comes To Frozen Food, These Are The Healthiest.

Courtesy of Target

for food: 290 calories, 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 790 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 14 g protein

“Although this meal is low in calories, it lacks protein and fiber to help you feel full,” he says. Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFTY Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFTalso know as the nutrition twins. “With only 14 grams of protein and two of the 25 to 30 grams of fiber you need each day, you’ll likely be hungry soon after and reach for a snack or other meal.”

“Despite being low in calories, it is salty with 30% of your maximum daily sodium limit, highly processed with bleached flours and starches, and high in saturated fat with 21% of your maximum daily allowance,” Nutrition Twins adds. .

RELATED: The Worst Frozen Foods in America

healthy choice
Courtesy of Healthy Choice

for food: 320 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated), 500 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (5 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 16 g protein

Another “healthy” option that isn’t so healthy is Healthy Choice’s Chicken Parmigiana Meal.

“This one has 8 grams of added sugar: women should have a maximum of 24 grams and men should not exceed 36 grams. Since this is not a dessert, an innocent eater probably wouldn’t even think to consider sugar,” the Nutrition Twins explain. “With 500 milligrams of sodium, which is about 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance, and a long ingredient list that includes many additives and preservatives, this meal is best left in the aisle freezer.”

Trader Joe's Vegetable Pizza
Courtesy of Consumer Reports

for food: 300 calories, 11 g fat (4.5 g saturated), 550 mg sodium, 36 g carbs (4 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 12 g protein

“One would assume that an organic meal that included a rainbow of colorful vegetables would be healthy,” says Nutrition Twins. “But the downside to this one is that a slice is only a third of the pizza. Not only do many people eat more than this, but even if you stick to the serving size, you’ll still get 4.5 grams of saturated fat – 26% of your maximum daily allowance.”

It’s also crucial to pay attention to how much protein a meal has, because it’s what will help keep you full longer and help satisfy your appetite.

“Since it’s hard to stay satisfied with just 12 grams of protein in each serving, it’s no surprise that most people easily eat two servings per sitting,” the Twins say.

Atkins three meat pizza

for food: 420 calories, 29 g fat (11 g saturated), 1150 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (16 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 26 g protein

“Atkins meals are known to be keto-friendly and this meal provides a healthy dose of protein and fiber, thanks in part to the oat fiber pizza crust,” say the Twins. “But it comes at a high price related to heart health.”

Consuming too much sodium and saturated fat over time has been linked to higher LDL cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disease.

“One serving has 1,150 milligrams of sodium and 11 grams of saturated fat, which is almost half the maximum daily allowance,” the Twins explain.

RELATED: 7 Best Tips To Help You Stay Full For Longer

healthy choice
Courtesy of Healthy Choice

for food: 390 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated), 550 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (3 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 12 g protein

“Although Healthy Choice meals are portion controlled and relatively low in calories compared to something like Hungry-Man and Banquet Mega Bowls, some of their frozen meals aren’t really the ‘healthy choice,’” she says. Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDNauthor of Finally full, finally thin and a member of our Advisory Board of Medical Experts. “Sweet and sour chicken, for example, contains more than 20 grams of sugar and 600 milligrams of sodium.”

lean kitchen
Lean Kitchen Courtesy

for food: 240 calories, 7 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 630 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (2 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 16 g protein

Lean Cuisine markets itself as a healthy or “lean” frozen dinner option beyond its brand name; it also puts the lowest calorie count right on the front of its packaging. However, Young cautions that these meals may not be the best.

“These meals are calorie-controlled due to their small portion sizes, but they aren’t very filling and tend to be low in vegetables and whole grains and high in salt and sugar,” says Young. “This dish, for example, contains more than 600 milligrams of sodium and 14 grams of sugar. I suggest you cook something simple at home instead.”

With all the other healthy frozen dinners out there, it might be a good idea to skip the six listed above and opt for cleaner, higher-protein options that are also lower in sodium and added sugars.

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