Frozen entrées have come a long way since the days of TV dinners. For busy people, the healthiest frozen entrees can mean a nourishing meal in minutes, and can spare you from ordering takeout when you’re running late, not in the mood to cook, or forgot to take a package of chicken breast out of the freezer to defrost. In other words: Frozen entrees can be life savers (and time savers).
A healthy frozen entree is also a great backup plan at the office. On days when you know you’ll be back-to-back, stash one in the work freezer along with a small salad in the fridge and you’ll be ready to power through your busy day.
When shopping for the best healthy frozen entrees, look for a few key things: Scan the serving size to see if the meal is meant for one or more servings. This is a good way to judge the right portion. Look through the ingredient list to see what types of foods are within. You're looking for mostly whole foods, such as chicken, beef, brown rice, quinoa, beans, vegetables and spices. Ideally, your healthy frozen entree has whole grains (such as that brown rice and quinoa) instead of fluffy white rice or noodles, though these are often harder to find. A big drawback of frozen entrees is that they may be too light to satisfy your appetite. Here are a few nationally-available options, along with some ideas to boost nutrition, freshness, and satisfaction while keeping calories in check.
At work: Add 100-calorie almond pack, either tossed in or on the side, or serve with a chopped, boiled egg (available at many convenience stores or packed ahead of time).
At home: Toss with ½ cup of shredded, rotisserie chicken or 1 poached or fried egg. Add a tablespoon of chopped nuts if you like.
At work: have with a side salad brought in advance or picked up nearby. Toss 2 c greens with ¼ cup chickpeas, 1 Tbsp. cheese, and 2 tsp. dressing (or 2 tsp. oil + vinegar). Or serve lasagna over cooked zucchini noodles, which you can also stash in the office freezer and heat in the microwave.
At home: Make a lasagna toss. Cut entrée into quarters and toss with ¼ cup canned and rinsed cannellini beans. Top with 2 tsp toasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. parmesan.
At work: Have with a side salad (see above). Or fold in 1/4 c. frozen peas or edamame stored in the office freezer.
At home: Heat 1-2 cups broccoli or cauliflower (from frozen or leftover fresh) and ¼ c. frozen peas. Fold into the Mac & Cheese. Or mix the mac & cheese with frozen butternut squash noodles that have been reheated in the microwave. Add 1/4 c. shredded, rotisserie chicken to pack in more protein.
REDS Chicken & Cheese burrito (or another burrito around 300 calories)
At work or home: Make a burrito salad. Cut burrito into about 6 pieces. Toss burrito pieces with 2 c. salad greens, ¼ c. black beans, and 2 tsp. dressing. Add a tablespoon of roasted pumpkin seeds if you like. At the office, you can buy a plain garden salad nearby if you haven't pre-packed one.
At work or at home: Add crunch. Crumble 5 tortilla chips over the cooked entrée.