When you think of "frozen meals," what comes to mind? Do you conjure up memories of eating off the metal TV trays that conveniently folded up and tucked away nicely between the couch and the armchair?
If so, then it may come as no surprise to you that those trays were created in 1952 with TV dinners in mind. The official name "TV dinner" and accompanying frozen food items were invented the following year by Swanson out of necessity to use up a gross miscalculation of Thanksgiving turkeys the company thought the American public would consume.
Thankfully, frozen dinners have come a long way from the original cold slabs of turkey served up on aluminum trays alongside ice cream scoop-shaped servings of cornbread dressing with gravy, sweet potatoes and peas. Not only are they more appetizing, but some varieties are also a lot healthier.
Although eating in front of the TV isn't recommended, we all do it from time to time. Armed with guidelines from our dietician, Becky Hand, for frozen dinner selection and serving sizes (a calorie count between 300-400, no more than six grams of saturated fat and the sodium should be no more than 600 milligrams), we pored through the freezer aisles to bring you 10 of the healthiest options available. Now when you pull out that TV tray, you don't have to feel guilty about what you put on it.
1. Evol Fire Grilled Steak Skip the fast-food burrito bowl and fire up this beauty, instead. Coming in at 400 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 20 grams of protein and 520 milligrams of sodium, you'll shave off about 200 calories, four grams of saturated fat and 835 milligrams of sodium from Chipotle's similar offering.
2. Lean Cuisine Craveables Supreme Pizza With all the taste of delivery pizza but so much less guilt, this 340-calorie, single-serving pie is packed with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, roasted pepper, onion and four cheeses. Three grams of saturated fat, 16 grams of protein and 470 milligrams of sodium round out the nutrition on this freezer gem.
3. Luvo Red Wine Braised Beef and Polenta A side of roasted broccoli would pair well with this hearty, low-calorie entrée. It's hard to believe this flavorful pre-packaged meal only contains 250 calories, two grams of saturated fat, 17 grams of protein and 300 milligrams of sodium, but it's true.
4. Luvo Chicken Chile Verde This tasty Southwestern meal contains chicken that actually looks and tastes like chicken, beans for extra protein and polenta for a new twist on cornbread. With just 300 calories, four grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of protein and 490 milligrams of sodium, you can add on a side of asparagus to round out your meal.
5. Evol Fire Grilled Chicken Poblano Containing real, easy-to-pronounce ingredients and just 250 calories, two grams of saturated fat, 12 grams of protein and 340 milligrams of sodium, this gluten-free chicken dish is one you can feel good about eating again and again.
6. Healthy Choice Café Steamers General Tso's Spicy Chicken Healthy Choice entrees such as this slimmed-down version of a traditional Asian chicken dish are easy to find in your grocer's freezer. Containing 290 calories, one gram of saturated fat, 16 grams of protein and 580 milligrams of sodium, go ahead and stock up.
7. CedarLane Burrito Grande with Salsa Roja Boasting a respectable 240 calories, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 10 grams of protein and 540 milligrams of sodium, this isn't your average frozen burrito. Made with an organic tortilla, black beans, basmati rice and other real ingredients, you won't have to wonder what other mystery foods you might be eating.
8. Kashi Black Bean Mango Kashi's take on a classic black beans and rice dish adds a layer of complexity by combining both savory veggies and a pop of sweetness from diced mango. This dish's nutritional count is also satisfactory, containing only 340 calories, one gram of saturated fat, eight grams of protein and 380 milligrams of sodium.
9. Amy's Cheese Ravioli with Sauce Jump on the bowl bandwagon with this hearty organic pasta and tomatoes dish, which will help keep you fuller longer due in part to each serving's 14 grams of protein. Add to that 380 calories, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 14 grams of protein and 680 milligrams of sodium and you have yourself a healthy comfort food to enjoy when you just don't have time to cook.
10. Lean Cuisine Craveables Four Cheese Pizza When you want pizza but not the meat, this frozen option is perfect. Packing just 380 calories, three grams of saturated fat, 19 grams of protein and 600 milligrams of sodium into a sizeable portion, you can satisfy your pizza craving and stay within your daily nutritional needs.
Which healthy frozen dinners do you like to eat? Share them in the comments.
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