Healthy frozen meals
According to Astute Analystica, a global analytics and advisory company, the global frozen food market anticipates growth from its current market of $254 billion to over $500 billion by 2030.
Why? According to its research, that’s partly because the “busy lifestyles of individuals have led to a growing demand for ready to eat food products as they are instant, convenient, affordable and equally healthy alternatives to fresh food products.”
In other words, people are busy, but they want healthy and affordable food to eat. Enter: ready-made frozen meals. And let’s face it, we could all use some food prep relief in the kitchen, especially during the work week.
Convenient and healthy frozen meals
The food industry is cranking out healthy frozen meals that you can pop in the oven, microwave or quickly sauté on the cooktop. Another bonus: These meals can help reduce food waste, as you don’t have to buy a slew of ingredients to satisfy a recipe, while having to throw the unused portions of the ingredients in the trash.
If all of this isn’t motivation enough to start shopping down the frozen food aisle at the supermarket, here’s another incentive: Frozen meals can allow you to expand your taste palates with globally-inspired, culinary cuisines. These fully prepared meals allow you to awaken your taste buds to flavors from around the world without having to purchase a plane ticket. These African, Latin American, Asian and Indian heritage cuisines, which are all full of fruit, veggies, whole grains, along with lean protein foods and vegetables oils, are also receiving the seal of approval from in-the-know registered dietitian nutritionists and cardiologists for their health benefits.
What to look for when choosing a frozen meal
If you’re ready to expand your culinary palate but are short on time, I’ve composed, with the help of my registered dietitian nutritionist colleagues, 14 healthy frozen meals, with unique flavor profiles, for your cooking ease.
If you’re picking a frozen meal beyond this list, here are some tips to keep in mind:
— Make sure it contains adequate calories for a meal. Otherwise, consider enhancing the meal with healthy sides or stretching it with an addition or two. Feel free to add some veggies, dairy and whole-grain sides to boost the nutrition at the meal. Here are some ideas.
— Check the Nutrition Fact Panel for the amount of heart-unhealthy, saturated fat content per serving. If a meal provides 20% or more of the daily value for saturated fat, it’s considered high in this fat. Adjust the saturated fat intake at your other meals accordingly.
Nutrisystem’s Asian-Style Salmon With Pasta
This is my favorite for multiple reasons. This savory dish delivers a boatload of protein (31 grams), which is more than 60% of the recommended daily value and includes a colorful medley of carrots, peppers and edamame, which help deliver 5 grams of fiber (18% DV) in each serving. DV is the recommended amount of a nutrient to consume daily. The % DV is how much of that nutrient is found in a single serving of food.
The salmon also provides some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Here’s the best part: I order these babies from Nutrisystem online or over the phone so they’re delivered to my doorstep. That’s what I call one-stop healthy shopping.
(Full disclosure: I’m a consultant with Nutrisystem, but I’d order these anyway.)
Healthy Choice Greek Style Chicken Power Bowl
Kathleen Zelman, a Georgia-based dietitian who’s founder of No Nonsense Nutrition and co-host of the podcast True Health Revealed, is a fan of this bowl as it’s full of vegetables, including cauliflower rice, simmered in a delicious vinaigrette.
Saffron Road Chicken Tikka Masala With Basmati Rice
Even RDNs who write cookbooks often need a meal prep break. That’s why Toby Amidor, a U.S. News contributor, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of “The Family Immunity Cookbook,” stocks her freezer with this spicy frozen meal.
According to Amidor, this popular meal is a blend of Tandoori spices from Indian cuisine. This meal provides 11% DV of iron, a mineral many Americans fall short of in their diet.
Chef Bombay Beef Vindaloo
According to Nicole Rodriguez, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who resides in the metro New York area, the flavor of this frozen meal rivals that of the vindaloo at her favorite local restaurant but can be had in less time and at significant savings to her wallet.
She loves the beef, ginger and cilantro infused flavor. Here’s the best part: It serves up only 15% DV of heart-unhealthy, saturated fat so there’s room to spare at other meals. Plus it offers 19% of your DV of iron. She rounds out this savory meal with leftover veggies.
Sweet Earth’s Curry Tiger Bowl
This East Asian bowl, featuring curried lentils, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots and brown rice, seasoned with cinnamon, cardamon and turmeric, is an easy vegetarian lunch for Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in the Los Angeles area and expert reviewer for U.S. News.
The lentils help provide legumes in your diet. While the recommendation is for adults to consume two cups of legumes weekly, most of us don’t even come close to this amount. This meal can help.
Amy’s Pad Thai
Amy Gorin, a plant-based dietitian and owner of Master the Media, follows a gluten-free diet so this meal is prepared without wheat-containing soy sauce. Bonus points: It’s also dairy free, lactose free, vegan and kosher.
She adds a tossed salad with a ginger dressing for a Thai-themed dinner.
Deep Indian Kitchen Chickpea Masala
When a chef recommends a flavorful frozen meal, I know she’s on to something. Chef and registered dietitian nutritionist Abbie Gellman enjoys this vegan frozen delight.
Chickpeas are the primary source of not only the protein, but also provides most of the 50% DV of fiber, a ridiculously high amount for one meal. According to Gellman, she loves this brand of frozen meals because they always use whole ingredients, spices and herbs.
Tortilla Crusted Fish by Lean Cuisine
While the latest recommendation is that adults consume at least 8 ounces of seafood weekly, on average, we’re consuming only about half of the amount.
That’s why Lauren Harris-Pincus, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of “The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook,” enjoys this tasty, Mexican-inspired fish dish that is made with a mix of corn, poblano peppers and rice. This savvy RDN serves it on top of a cup of steamed frozen veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower or green beans, to soak up the extra sauce and add another serving of Mother Nature’s finest.
Amy’s Spinach Pizza
“This pizza’s whole food ingredients, nutrient-dense spinach and fiber make it a healthy alternative to traditional pizza. Top it off with frozen roasted vegetables to increase the nutrients and fiber. If you want to go gourmet, top it with crumbled goat cheese, figs and basil.”
Tattooed Chef Buddha Bowl
Eating out of a bowl is still a hot trend. That is why dietitian Lisa R. Young recommends the Tattooed Chef Buddha Bowl. The sweet potatoes and chili-coated chickpeas served over riced cauliflower provide a plant-based meal that is high in beta-carotene and fiber while providing 10 grams of plant protein.
Lean Cuisine Apple Cranberry Chicken
If you are looking for a frozen meal with chicken that has the American Heart Association seal of approval, Kiran Campbell, RDN, recommends the Lean Cuisine Apple Cranberry Chicken entrée. This heart-friendly meal contains white meat chicken in an apple reduction sauce with sweet cranberries, and a whole-wheat orzo pasta.
According to Campbell, it is “a sweet and savory AHA Heart-Check Certified dish full of flavor.” Eat to your heart’s delight.
Sweet Earth Veggie Lo Mein
As a vegan, dietitian Christine Milmine often reaches for the Sweet Earth Veggie Lo Mein for a colorful Asian-inspired weekday meal that gives this popular take-out classic a run for its money. To round off the meal, she adds some fruit and unsweetened, calcium-fortified soy milk.
Tattooed Chef Plant-Based Egg Roll Bowl
Combining the traditional flavor of egg rolls in a bowl, this Tattooed Chef Plant-Based Egg Roll Bowl is a satisfying meal, says dietitian Mandy Endright.
It is low in added sugars and provides a whopping 13 grams of protein. She often adds a side of frozen, cooked spinach or kale or tops it with a cooked egg for even more protein.
El Monterey Bean & Cheese Burritos
If you are looking to dig into some Mexican cuisine from your freezer, try these El Monterey Bean & Cheese Burritos recommended by RDN Sarah Harper.
“Not only are these burritos nutritious, but they are also vegetarian, easy-to-make and very inexpensive. Each burrito costs less than $1.”
Each burrito serves up 200 calories and 3 grams of fiber. Harper typically serves two burritos with a side of salsa to add more veggies to her meal.
14 healthiest frozen meals:
— Nutrisystem’s Asian-Style Salmon With Pasta.
— Healthy Choice Greek Style Chicken Power Bowl.
— Saffron Road Chicken Tikka Masala With Basmati Rice.
— Chef Bombay Beef Vindaloo.
— Sweet Earth’s Curry Tiger Bowl.
— Amy’s Pad Thai.
— Deep Indian Kitchen Chickpea Masala.
— Tortilla Crusted Fish by Lean Cuisine.
— Amy’s Spinach Pizza.
— Tattooed Chef Buddha Bowl.
— Lean Cuisine Apple Cranberry Chicken.
— Sweet Earth Veggie Lo Mein.
— Tattooed Chef Plant-Based Egg Roll Bowl.
— El Monterey Bean & Cheese Burritos.
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Frozen Meals: Nutritionist-Approved Options for Convenient Eating originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 09/14/23: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.