The 12 Unhealthiest Frozen Dinners on Store Shelves – We know that you’re busy with your job, taking care of things at home, socializing, working out, and so much more. That’s why it can be difficult to find time to prepare nutritious meals seven days a week, and that’s also why you might find yourself grabbing a few frozen dinners whenever you stop by the grocery store. However, as Melissa Arce, RD, LD, tells Eat This, Not That!, “Frozen dinners may be convenient, but the nutrition can often be lacking,” and there are plenty of unhealthy frozen dinners on grocery store shelves that you may want to avoid.
“While the calorie content tends to be reasonable, ranging widely from more of a snack (around 300 calories) to a meal (around 600 calories), the portions of frozen meals tend to be small, which may leave individuals hungry and wanting to eat more despite having just eaten,” Arce says while addressing just one issue with these particular products.
Beyond that, she notes that the “high levels of sodium” often found in frozen dinners “may cause high blood pressure in some individuals, or have the potential to worsen outcomes of some chronic health conditions, such as end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis or heart failure.”
“More important than what frozen meals do contain may be what they don’t, which is oftentimes adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables,” Arce adds. “Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They are so important for health, longevity, and disease prevention.”
Although you may want to take a look at the kinds of frozen food you have at home right now, you might also want to avoid the following options, which happen to be 12 of the unhealthiest frozen dinners on store shelves right now.
Marie Callender’s Meatloaf and Country Fried Chicken
Per meal: 500 calories, 28 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 2,370 mg sodium, 37 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 25 g protein
Marie Callender’s Meatloaf and Country Fried Chicken will surely fill you up due to the duo of entrées that are both relatively heavy. That’s not to mention the 500 calories and whopping 2,370 milligrams of sodium. Frankly, while noting the negative aspects of this frozen dinner, Arce says that it’s not only “lacking fiber,” but is also “high in sodium and saturated fat.”
Banquet Chicken Fried Chicken Meal
Per package: 310 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 980 mg sodium, 37 g carbs (4 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 11 g protein
Banquet Chicken Fried Chicken Meal may seem rather hearty thanks to the fried chicken, which comes “smothered” in country-style, gravy not to mention the sweet corn and mashed potatoes. However, Arce says that “a portion size this small is more of a snack.”
“If someone is trying to lose weight by eating these meals, they will likely find themselves hungry, which can lead to cravings and greater vulnerability to overeating later in the day,” Arce explains. Instead, she says, “I would recommend adding a fruit or vegetable on the side to increase the nutrition of this meal and make it more filling.” Although you may just want to avoid it altogether.
Michelina’s Teriyaki Chicken
Per package: 330 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 910 mg sodium, 61 g carbs (1 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 9 g protein
Michelina’s Teriyaki Chicken comes with a bowl of rice with tiny bits of broccoli and carrots. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really do much at all to help this become a nutritious option. As Arce tells us, “For more stable blood sugar, I’d like to see a little more fiber and protein in this meal to balance out its ample carbohydrate content.”
Trader Joe’s Cheeseburger Burrito
Per burrito: 610 calories, 31 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 1,190 mg sodium, 53 g carbs (4 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 27 g protein
“I’d give this meal an A for calorie, protein, fiber, and carbohydrate content. The balance of these components suggests that this meal will be filling and sufficient,” says Arce, which might lead you to believe that Trader Joe’s Cheeseburger Burrito—which happens to be exactly what the name suggests—is an ideal option. However, Arce is also sure to note, “The downsides of this meal are the high sodium and saturated fat content.”
Amy’s Tortilla Casserole & Black Beans Bowl
Per bowl: 410 calories, 18 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 830 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (6 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 18 g protein
Amy’s Tortilla Casserole & Black Beans Bowl is another option that may sound good at first, and as Arce says, “The nutrition is reasonable in terms of calories, saturated fat, sodium, carbs, fiber, and protein.” However, she again notes that “These meals are pretty small portions,” which could lead you to eat more than expected. This will seriously increase the amount of calories, sodium, fat, and carbohydrates that you’re consuming with the meal.
Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese
Per meal: 500 calories, 23 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 1,170 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 22 g protein
Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese promises a “rich and creamy” meal that’s made with “a sharp cheddar cheese sauce.” While it also apparently forgoes preservatives, it does have almost as many calories as a Big Mac and definitely has more sodium than the fast-food offering.
Boston Market’s Chicken Pot Pie
Per cup: 470 calories, 34 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 660 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 9 g protein
When it comes to Boston Market’s Chicken Pot Pie, Arce tells us, “I’d like to see a little more protein and fiber here.” In fact, there are only 2 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein, which is not enough.
Frankly, women should aim to eat 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day if not more, while men should be eating around 30 to 38 grams a day at least, according to the Mayo Clinic. As for protein, you should try to consume 15 to 30 grams of protein during every meal, which this meal doesn’t come close to providing.
El Monterey Three-Cheese Quesadilla Meal
Per package: 580 calories, 29 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 840 mg sodium, 59 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 21 g protein
The El Monterey Signature Three-Cheese Quesadilla entrée “Delivers a charbroiled three-cheese quesadilla served with yellow Spanish-style rice and topped with a creamy queso sauce,” according to their website.
Granted, to fulfill this promise, the meal contains 580 calories for a moderately-sized offering. That’s not to mention the 840 mg of sodium, 59 grams of carbs, and 29 grams of fat. In this case, maybe they should think about skipping the two extra kinds of cheese, otherwise, you should simply avoid this meal.
Hungry-Man Salsbury Beef Steakettes
Per package: 610 calories, 33 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,520 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (5 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 26 g protein
“So much sodium!” Arce says while discussing Hungry-Man Salsbury Beef Steakettes. Indeed, while this meal has 1,520 milligrams of sodium, Acre points out that the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends keeping sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams per day,” which means that this frozen dinner would make up a large portion of your overall daily intake.
Banquet Meatloaf Meal
Per meal: 330 calories, 14 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 1,340 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (3 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 13 g protein
Banquet Meatloaf Meal comes with mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and even a cinnamon apple dessert. It also happens to top off both the meatloaf and potatoes with gravy. Although that might be tasty, the flavor is enhanced with 1,340 milligrams of sodium, which is way too much for one meal.
Totino’s Hamburger Party Pizza
Per ½ pizza: 360 calories, 19 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 710 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 10 g protein
Totino’s Hamburger Party Pizza may combine two of your favorite meals, however, this results in a dish that’s more than just a little bit unhealthy. Whenever you dine on this meal, you’ll be consuming 710 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, and 19 grams of fat—and that’s all just in a half-sized serving!
Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy
Per meal: 390 calories, 17 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 1,160 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (4 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 15 g protein
One of Marie Callender’s offerings pops up again with their Country Fried Chicken & Gravy. With 1,160 milligrams of sodium, it’s simply too much for one meal, especially if you want to avoid the effects that excess sodium over time may have on your health, such as an increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, or heart disease.
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