Fabulous frozen food? You bet!

Our grocery cart looked scary filled with 55 frozen meals. But we found 9 yummy, healthy dinners you can serve fast and enjoy

Desperate for a quick, tasty and nutritious meal? Hit your frozen-food aisle. Yup, that’s right. You can find convenient dinners that taste good – and are good for you – in its chilly abyss. And that’s not all! Eating portion-controlled frozen meals may actually help you lose weight, according to a University of Illinois study.

To help you grab the right ones, Jennifer Danter and I taste-tested more than 55 frozen dinners. (Jennifer’s qualifications include the fact that she is our associate food editor. Mine are a bit less official: I eat a lot of frozen food.) We looked for contenders that met basic nutritional guidelines set by Robin Silverstein, a registered dietitian in Toronto: about 20 grams of protein, four grams of fibre, 800 milligrams of sodium (the less sodium the better) and less than 30 per cent of calories derived from fat. And they had to taste good. Rejects prompted comments such as “Eating this is like drinking gravy.” But the nine winners were so good we didn’t want to stop eating them. You won’t either. Bon appétit!

Best beef

The product President’s Choice Steak & Vegetable Pot Roast

What you get Slices of braised beef with mushrooms, baby carrots and pearl onions in beef gravy topped with potatoes. Serves four, $8.49

Nutritional value (per serving)
19 g protein, 3.8 g fat,
21 g carbohydrates,
412 mg sodium, 2.9 g fibre, 194 calories (overall, this meal scores extremely well)

The taste The gravy is savoury and thick. The beef is tender, and the potatoes are well seasoned. This meal wowed us – one Test Kitchen staffer took home the leftovers.

Round it out

· Add a few pinches of dried tarragon and stir in a spoonful of Dijon mustard for a French-style roast.
· Enjoy it with a glass of red wine and you’ll reap the benefits of disease-fighting antioxidants.
Best chicken

The product President’s Choice Thai Red Curry Chicken

What you get Chicken in a coconut milk sauce with jasmine rice. Serves one, $3.49

Nutritional value (per serving)
19 g protein,
11 g fat,
59 g carbohydrates,
788 mg sodium,
1.8 g fibre,
411 calories (low in fibre)

The tasteThe creamy coconut milk gives this meal such authentic flavour you’ll feel as though you’re dining at your favourite Thai restaurant.

Round it out

· Throw in a handful of fresh spinach leaves to boost fibre.
· Toss in a few toasted almonds for crunch and a hit of vitamin E.
Best seafood

The product High Liner Stir-Fry Creations Teriyaki Salmon

What you get Pacific salmon strips, broccoli, peppers, carrots and long-grain rice with teriyaki sauce. Serves two, $8.99

Nutritional value (per serving)
22 g protein,
4 g fat,
68 g carbohydrates,
1,060 mg sodium,
6 g fibre,
400 calories (high in sodium)

The taste Wow! Big chunks of salmon with a pleasant teriyaki sauce that’s not too sweet. Don’t be intimidated by the multi-step prep – it’s easy and well worth the effort.

Round it out

· Dress it up with fresh lemon wedges and sliced green onions.
· Serve it with a glass of V8 for an extra serving of vegetables.
Best pasta

The product Campbell’s Ignite Chicken Alla Parmigiana

What you get Chicken, garden vegetables and rotini pasta in a rosé sauce. Serves one, $4.99

Nutritional value (per serving)
32 g protein,
9 g fat,
55 g carbohydrates,
890 mg sodium,
9 g fibre,
430 calories (plus 16 essential nutrients)

The taste This meal looked and tasted so cheesy we figured it had to be bad for us – but, nope, it delivers well on both protein and fibre.

Round it out

· Boost flavour without adding salt by sprinkling on onion or garlic powder.
· Follow this nutritionally complete meal with a square of dark chocolate for a helping of disease-fighting antioxidants.
Best lasagna

The product Master Choice Meat Lasagna

What you get Noodles layered with a tomato meat sauce and cheese. Serves four, $9.99

Nutritional value (per serving)
22 g protein,
12 g fat,
41 g carbohydrates,
1,200 mg sodium,
4 g fibre,
360 calories (high in sodium)

The taste Firm noodles in a savoury, not-too-sweet tomato meat sauce. A great eat-in-your-jammies dinner.

Round it out

· Pick up a takeout marinated-veggie salad from your deli to add more colour, fibre and nutrients to your plate.
· Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh basil or a few shavings of Parmesan cheese for richer flavour.
Best pizza

The product Amy’s Organic Pesto Pizza

What you get Pizza crust topped with mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, broccoli and pesto sauce. Serves two, $9.99

Nutritional value (per serving)
18 g protein,
16 g fat,
59 g carbohydrates,
720 mg sodium,
3.15 g fibre,
450 calories (beware: this meal is slightly high in fat)

The taste The crispy crust was our favourite part. Because of the higher fat content, make it a once-in-a-while treat.

Round it out

· Spice up this fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza with dried chili flakes or a shake of hot pepper sauce.
· Enjoy it with an arugula or spinach salad tossed with peppers and cucumbers for added fibre.
Best buy

The product Smart Choice Rigatoni Arrabiata

What you get Rigatoni noodles in a tomato sauce. Serves one, $1.49

Nutritional value (per serving)
8.5 g protein,
3 g fat,
42 g carbohydrates,
749 mg sodium,
4 g fibre,
228 calories (low in protein)

The taste At less than $2, we were skeptical about this meal. But our taste buds were pleasantly surprised with the hit of spicy, tangy tomato sauce and al dente noodles.

Round it out

· Add kidney beans or lentils for more protein and bulk.
· Pump up the flavour by throwing in capers or sliced black olives.
Best low-calorie entree

The product Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine Santa Fe Chicken

What you get Chicken, rice, corn, black beans, peppers and tomatoes in a sour cream sauce. Serves one, $2.99

Nutritional value (per serving)
18 g protein,
6.9 g fat,
49 g carbohydrates,
708 mg sodium,
3.6 g fibre,
330 calories (a well-rounded meal)

The taste Because the words sour cream are on the package, we liked this meal from the outset. Bonus: it contains a full serving of vegetables, although the small portion size may leave you feeling a little hungry.

Round it out

· Serve it with a hearty bowl of lentil soup.
· Roll up the chicken mixture in a warm whole wheat tortilla for extra fibre.
Best vegetarian

The product President’s Choice Indian Chana Masala

What you get Chickpeas, onions and tomatoes served with basmati rice. Serves one, $3.49

Nutritional value (per serving)
13 g protein,
9.1 g fat,
82 g carbohydrates,
501 mg sodium,
11 g fibre,
462 calories (slightly low in protein)

The taste The sauce is fragrant and flavourful but not too spicy. Paired with the rice, the entree is a reasonable portion size.

Round it out

· Throw in some chopped mango or dried apricots for added flavour.
· Serve this meal with a glass of soy milk or follow it with yogurt for extra protein.
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