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Find healthy meals in the frozen aisle

June 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Priced at $3-$4, frozen dinners are often a cheaper option to eating out. With a side salad and piece of fruit, the meagerly portioned meals offer convenience and good health if you know what to look for.Trendy ingredients such as sun dried tomatoes, pumpkin squash and mangos are now being married to the usual chicken, beef and fish when it comes to frozen meals. Many meals are also adding more produce, whole grains and taste.

Sodium in frozen meals remains an issue. However, it is possible to find meals under 600 milligrams of sodium, which is 1/3 of the latest recommendation of 1800 milligrams per day for most Americans.

Lean Cuisine's Beef Chow Fun has 320 calories, 5 fat grams and 530 milligrams of sodium. It's a nice choice. Healthy Choice Pumpkin Squash Ravioli and their Sweet Asian Potstickers both meet recommendations.

Smart Ones Thai Style Chicken Rice Noodles, Lean Cuisine's Sundried Tomato Pesto Chicken and Healthy Choice Cajun Style Chicken and Shrimp all offer less than 300 calories per meal and are under 10 grams of total fat. The meals are also low in saturated fat.

Kashi Black Bean Mango married beans and fruit together for 340 calories, 8 fat grams and 7 grams of fiber, which is a great selling point.

Even though it's difficult to get a perfect nutrition profile, here is what to look for in a frozen food entrée:

  • A meal that is 300-500 calories
  • A meal that is 10-18 grams of total fat
  • A meal that is less than 4 grams saturated fat
  • A meal that is less than 600 milligrams of sodium
  • A meal that has at least 3-5 grams of fiber
  • A meal that has at least 10-20 grams of protein and 10 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamins and minerals
Remember, just because a food manufacturer says the meal is a healthy or a smart choice doesn't make it so. Take a moment to scan the facts to make sure your meal has the nutrition you need.

The best meals on ice:

Healthy Choice:
Cajun Style Chicken and Shrimp
Pumpkin Squash Ravioli
Sweet Asian Potstickers
Café Steamers Five-Spice Beef & Vegetables

Lean Cuisine:
Sundried Tomato Pesto Chicken
Beef Chow Fun
Glazed Chicken

Kashi:
Black Bean Mango
Mayan Harvest Bake
Ranchero Beans

Smart Ones:
Thai Style Chicken Rice Noodles
Cranberry Turkey Medallions


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