Before I started college, frozen foods made up about 80% of my diet and being thrust into a kitchen-free dorm room for nine months, things haven’t been much different. I love the quick convenience of frozen meals and the easy nutrition that comes with them (although sodium and sugar counts need to be closely monitored). So, in honor of my love of all things frozen, I’ve rounded up my favorite frozen food items and also found a few tricks to help you pick the most delicious (and nutritious) items for all occasions!
Favorite frozen food brand: Lean Cuisine
- Sesame Stir Fry with Chicken – Delicious chunks of chicken tossed with whole-wheat pasta and an armload of edamame, broccoli, peppers, and carrots make this 300-calorie dish almost too good to be true.
- Roasted Vegetable Deep Dish Pizza – Cheesy deliciousness topped with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, all for 320 calories—that’s my kind of pizza!
- Parmesan Crusted Fish – A mild, white fish served with penne pasta in a fire-roasted tomato sauce, topped with veggies and cheese, all for just 300 calories and 8g of fat.
All-time favorite frozen dinner:
- Kashi Pesto Pasta Primavera – Carrots, peppers, and peas served over whole-grain penne-style pasta with a delectable basil pesto sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. At first glance, the green-ish sauce and somewhat wimpy appearance of this meal threw me off and set my expectations unreasonably low for how much I ended up truly loving this fiber-packed (7g) frozen dinner.
Favorite frozen breakfast:
- Best in Show: Van’s Lite Waffles – At just 70 calories a pop (140 for the serving size of two), you can dress these guys up with some sliced banana, sugar-free maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon for a decadent, low-cal breakfast.
- Runner-up: Cedarlane Garden Vegetable and Mozzarella Egg White Omelet – Being stuck in a dorm strictly limits my creativity for breakfast options, so this pre-made omelet is a great way out of my cereal/oatmeal breakfast rut. Perfectly cheesy and vegetable-packed, this 230-calorie breakfast is a great way to start the day.
Favorite frozen snack:
- Best in Show: Deep Chocolate Vita Tops – Easily, one of the most amazing products out there in the wild world of frozen foods. For 100 calories, 1.5g of fat, and a whopping 9g of fiber, you get a guilt-free, dreamy, chocolate treat that is fantastic alone, but even better paired with low-fat fro-yo or slathered with some peanut butter.
- Runner-up: Garden Lites Roasted Vegetable Soufflé – Another low-calorie (140) and yummy frozen item, this soufflé is packed with all kinds of vegetables and satisfies a grumbly stomach any time of day.
- Best in Show: Skinny Cow Individual Ice Cream Cups (any flavor!) – One of the Skinny Cow brand’s newer products, the ice cream cups are sure not ones to disappoint. Flavors including Strawberry Cheesecake, Dulce De Leche, Caramel Cone Crunch, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and Cookies and Cream help curb any ice cream hankering at a phenomenal 150 calories!
- Runner-up: Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae – The words “chocolate,” “cookie dough,” and “sundae” in conjunction with the words “light” or “low-fat” don’t usually conjure up ideas of a delicious, perfectly-portioned dessert, but with this Smart Ones tasty sundae treat, that’s exactly what you’re getting!
As I mentioned earlier, frozen items are great, especially for an on-the-run college student or if you’re simply sick of the dining halls and High Street’s limited options. Frozen dinners can definitely be a healthy option for the collegiette who is trying to whittle down her waist in preparation for Spring Break or personal satisfaction. If you’re not careful, though, you could be falling into diet pitfalls rather than moving forward. Here are some tips to help you make an informed and healthy decision the next time you’re at the grocery store and on the lookout for some frozen grub:
- Aim to keep the calories in the 250-350 range. Since a frozen dinner on its own usually isn’t enough to fill me up, I like to pair it with some fruit or a yogurt and the low calorie counts of the meal allow me to do so.
- Try to select meals with less than 10g of total fat and 4g of saturated fat.
- Choose dinners with no more than 800 milligrams of sodium. High sodium counts are one of the biggest disadvantages to frozen meals, but luckily, companies (like Amy’s) are beginning to answer our cries for lower-sodium products.
- Look for meals with 3g of fiber or more. Fiber is essential in a diet because it helps keep you full (and digestively on track)!
Like I said, a frozen meal doesn’t usually fill me up on its own. I definitely try to grab high-fiber options, but you can also try pumping your meal up with some frozen veggies to mix right in. Or add a nutritious and filling side option (fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese, light soup, etc.)!