Search IconSearch

8 Ways to Find the Best Frozen Meals

How to get the most from your frozen entrée

Microwave meal of turkey with gravy, stuffing, and green beans

When you’re rushing to get ready for work or too tired to cook dinner, nothing’s easier than grabbing a frozen entrée. After all, the prep time is zero.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But how do you make sure these convenient meals aren’t hurting your efforts to stay healthy (and trim)? Registered dietitian Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, offers eight tips to keep in mind when browsing the frozen food aisle.

How to find the best frozen meals

Many frozen dinners are packed with tons of salt and saturated fat, but these aren’t your only options. There are ways to find healthy, convenient frozen meals for you and your family!

1. Emphasize quality

“The most important thing to look at is the ingredients list,” says Taylor. If you can find meals with fewer than seven ingredients, she says, you’re more likely to be eating whole foods and less likely to be eating additives and preservatives.

The quality of the ingredients is more important than the quantity of calories, she says.

Just because a product is advertised as “organic,” “natural” or “vegan” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. You have to read the nutrition label and ingredients list to be sure.

2. Round out meals

“The best meals have a nice portion of colorful vegetables, a lean protein source (like chicken, turkey, beans or fish/seafood) and either a whole grain or a starchy vegetable,” says Taylor.

If any of these elements are missing, add them as a side. “Try pairing a chicken and sweet potato entree with a side salad, or round out your meal with raw veggies and hummus,” she notes.

3. Choose whole grains

“Entrees that utilize 100% whole grains or even grain alternatives, like bean pasta and cauliflower rice, are best,” says Taylor.

Finding refined grains, like white rice, in a frozen meal “is a deal-breaker for me,” she adds.

4. Keep it lean

“Compared to traditional frozen entrees, ‘lean’ and ‘light’ varieties typically shave off considerable calories, saturated fat and sodium,” notes Taylor.

Such meals are typically less than 400 calories — a good limit when you’re watching your weight.

Steer clear of ‘hearty’ or ‘family-size’ meals unless you plan on sharing them,” she adds. Even then, these products are often high in unhealthy saturated fats, sodium, added sugars and refined grains, so keep an eye on the label.

5. Favor fiber

Fiber is a nutrient missing from most processed foods. Fiber eases digestion and helps you feel full so you don’t overeat.

“Choosing meals with beans, whole grains and vegetables is a good way to increase your fiber,” says Taylor. “Aim for at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day.”

6. Spare the starch

Try to avoid frozen entrées that solely contain starch, such as macaroni and cheese, suggests Taylor. Instead, choose more balanced options that also contain lean protein and vegetables.

“If you crave the comfort of a starchy meal, eat only half the portion of the meal, then balance out the meal with a source of protein and some vegetables, like a hard-boiled egg and side salad,” she says. “Balance is key to supporting your overall health and quieting those carb and sugar cravings.”


7. Consume salt and saturated fat in moderation

Frozen meals can be notoriously high in sodium and saturated fat. “The worst frozen meals have more than 700 grams of sodium and more than 4 to 5 grams of saturated fat,” says Taylor.

It’s best to limit the sodium in your frozen meals to 600 milligrams or less, and the saturated fat to 3 grams or less.

8. Say no to trans fats and sugar

Avoid any meal containing trans fats, says Taylor. The FDA has ruled it unsafe for human consumption. Here’s her pro-tip: “Scan the ingredients list for ‘partially hydrogenated oils,’ a fancier term for trans fats.”

Taylor advises limiting added sugar as well. The daily limit for added sugars is 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men. “Many frozen entrees labeled ‘healthy’ are high in added sugar. Some contain 12 grams — that’s a whole tablespoon!”

Eating healthy and conveniently

On most days of the week, you’ll want to rely on fresh meals — or tasty leftovers. “At the end of the day, I would limit frozen meals to no more than twice a week,” notes Taylor.

But when you need the convenience of a frozen entrée, these tips can guide your choices.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Plate with beef, eggs, avocado, leafy greens and apricots, with multi-grain bread, walnuts, sweet potato and yogurt
July 11, 2024/Women's Health
What To Eat and Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding

A well-balanced diet of whole grains, salmon, leafy greens and more can help maintain energy and increase milk supply

Sliced grilled chicken over salad
How To Follow a Healthy MS Diet

A variety of healthy foods can help reduce inflammation and keep other conditions at bay

Person standing in front of oversized nutrition label, reading it
June 19, 2024/Nutrition
What Can You Learn From a Nutrition Label?

Information on serving size, calories and nutrients can help you make healthy choices

Person contemplating healthy food choices with protein
June 7, 2024/Nutrition
How Much Protein Do You Need? And How To Get It

The general rule is 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight — but that may not be right for you

Wooden spoon with pink Himalayan salt over glass of water, with container of pink Himalayan salt
June 6, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Sole Water? And Why Are People Drinking It?

Adding salt to your water isn’t going to have measurable benefits — but there may be plenty of downsides

Big open jar of pickles
May 22, 2024/Nutrition
Are Pickles Good for You?

Pickles are low in fat and calories and rich in some vitamins and minerals, but they’re usually high in sodium

Person reflecting on food and exercise
May 9, 2024/Mental Health
The Importance of Understanding Your Eating Habits

Learning about your relationship with food can help improve your eating behaviors and patterns

Bowl of partially peeled tamarind
May 8, 2024/Nutrition
5 Reasons To Try Tamarind

With a sweet, tangy flavor, this tropical fruit is super versatile and high in antioxidants

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims