Here’s the great thing about microwavable meals in 2018: Companies have pivoted away from packing mystery meat with sodium to mimic a flavorful, nutrient-dense entree and created frozen meals along a variety of international cuisines thatare actually good for you—including vegetarian and vegan varieties, low-calorie options, and organic dishes.
You get the convenience, ease, and affordability without taking a health hit. After all, once you’ve done your 9-to-5, finished a workout, and completed the day’s chores, it’s nice to sit down to something quick and effortless that doesn’t come out of a drive-through window.
In fact, those who opt for a frozen meal from a grocery store consume an average of 253 fewer calories and 2.6 grams of saturated fat per day than those who feast at fast-food joints, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Those who reported eating frozen meals had higher amounts of key nutrients in their diet, too, including fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
For starters, you have to check the nutrition label—starting with portion size. Many companies try to trick you by labeling the portion as something less than the entire box of food. In general, aim for entrees that have lots of vegetables, whole grains, and a lean source of protein. You should also look at the ingredient list and nix those that have a bunch of added chemicals or preservatives you can’t pronounce. Keep it clean.
Here’s what to look for when shopping for a healthy frozen meal:
- Fewer than 600mg of sodium
- Fewer than 5g of saturated fat
- Greater than 3mg of fiber
- Greater than 10g of protein
To give you a head-start, we sifted through the frozen food section to find out which meals are worth heating up. Here are the healthiest microwavable meals you can eat right now.
Jordan Mazur, M.S., R.D., is the coordinator of nutrition and team sports dietitian for the San Francisco 49ers.
Good Food Made Simple Southwestern Veggie Breakfast Bowl
Good Food Made Simple’s Southwestern Veggie Breakfast Bowl is a godsend for frantic mornings. The protein-packed breakfast bowl is easy to eat on the go, and it’s loaded with nutritious, flavorful ingredients. Corn, salsa, black beans, and a hint of chili powder jazz up russet potatoes and egg whites for a combination that satisfies.
Nutrition per bowl: 190 calories, 3g fiber, 14g protein, 3g sugar, 490mg sodium, 7g (4g saturated) total fat, 20g carbs
Evol Fire Grilled Steak
Evol’s Fire Grilled Steak bowl mirrors the flavors of Chipotle—with a fraction of the calories. The steak comes with a cilantro-lime pesto sauce, complete with black beans, white rice, bell peppers, roasted corn, and cheddar cheese. While it may not pack as much meat as you’d like, the ingredient list is clean.
Nutrition per bowl: 400 calories, 8g fiber, 20g protein, 3g sugar, 520mg sodium, 18g fat (4g saturated), 40g carbs
Luvo Chicken Chorizo Chili
Luvo’s Chicken Chorizo Chili is the perfect high-protein, low-calorie lunch that’ll fuel you through the afternoon grind. The creaminess of the black-eyed peas and beans balances out the heat from the jalapeño-flavored sausage. This microwavable meal is anything but bland.
Nutrition per bowl: 260 calories, 13g fiber, 18g protein, 6g sugar, 340mg sodium, 8g fat (1 g saturated), 30g carbs
Tandoor Chef Balanced Vegetarian Paneer Tikka Masala With Rajma & Onion Basmati Rice
Craving Indian takeout? Try Tandoor Chef Balanced Vegetarian Paneer Tikka Masala With Rajma & Onion Basmati Rice. The meat-free wonder boasts traditional flavors. The paneer cheese is paired with a tandoori-spiced gravy, kidney beans and lentils, and tender rice.
Nutrition per entree: 390 calories, 4g fiber, 15g protein, 6g sugar, 620mg sodium, 16g fat (5g saturated), 46g carbs
Amy’s Light In Sodium Black Bean Vegetable Enchilada
Amy’s Light In Sodium Black Bean Vegetable Enchilada is made with a ground, organic corn tortilla and loaded with black beans, tofu, and veggies. The meal has 190mg of sodium, about a third less than Amy’s regular vegetarian enchilada. And even though it’s gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free, it’s full of flavor.
Per container: 320 calories, 6g fiber, 10g protein, 4g sugar, 360mg sodium, 12g fat (1g saturated), 44g carbs
Trader Joe’s Chicken Burrito Bowl
Looking for something hearty? This Trader Joe’s Chicken Burrito Bowl has Southwest-style chicken breast, brown rice, red quinoa, black beans, corn, bell peppers, and cheddar cheese. An irresistible chipotle sauce ramps up the flavor. With 22 grams of protein, this is a lunch that’ll satiate your hunger.
Per Entree: 380 calories, 10g fiber, 22g protein, 3g sugar, 560mg sodium, 11g fat (4g saturated), 54g carbs
Kashi Chimichurri Quinoa Bowl
Kashi’s Chimichurri Quinoa Bowl is a plant-based meal that’s chock-full of lentils, kale, and zucchini. An Argentinian-inspired grilling sauce—made with vinegar, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and aromatic herbs—brightens up the microwavable meal. It’s low in calories and has 10 grams of protein, so it’s best eaten as a light lunch.
Per Entree: 240 calories, 12g fiber, 10g protein, 5g sugar, 330mg sodium, 7g fat (1g saturated), 41g carbs
Healthy Choice Power Bowls Adobo Chicken Bowl
Healthy Choice Power Bowls’ Adobo Chicken Bowl has a delicious blend of Guajillo chili, corn, poblano peppers, and tomatoes—plus antibiotic-free chicken. We like the wholesome mix of kale, spinach, red quinoa, and whole-grain rice. It’s not too carb-dense, but still filling.
Per Entree: 330 calories, 8g fiber, 26g protein, 4g sugar, 600mg sodium, 8g fat (2.5g saturated), 38g carbs