Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Frozen Meal?

Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Honey Citrus Chicken

Let’s face it, the greatest culinary invention in America is not sliced bread, it’s the TV Dinner, better known today the “Frozen Meal”. When these meals first appeared in the fifties, they seemed to be a godsend to housewives who would slave away at the kitchen on a daily basis. They were no small feat from a food science perspective either.

Unfortunately, these products are not the healthiest thing to put in your mouth. Whether the calorie count, crazy-high amounts of sodium, or a compendium of additives you’d be hard pressed to find nutritious frozen meals at the supermarket. This is despite the fact that an entire aisle is devoted to microwave friendly meals.

The market has progressed since those early days, with food manufacturers catering to a growing need for fast solutions that take into account the nutrition aspect as well. We decided to take a look at a new line of products introduced by Lean Cuisine a few months ago. The “Honestly Good” brand extension is a tall order, but to our surprise these products were OK.

Let’s take a look, for example, at Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Honey Citrus Chicken, pictured here. There are many claims on the front of package:

  • 100% all natural
  • no artificial ingredients
  • minimally processed
  • no preservatives

Some of these buzzwords have no meaning (“all natural”), but they do push on all the right buttons. As always, the truth lies in the ingredient list:

Broccoli, Blanched Raditore Pasta (Water, Whole Durum Wheat Flour, Semolina), Grilled Chicken Breast Fillet (Cooked Chicken Breast, Water Rice Starch, Seasoning [Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Chicken Powder, Flavor, Salt], Salt, Natural Flavor), Honey Citrus Sauce (Water, Tomatoes, Honey, Sugar, Onions [Onions, Soybean Oil], Chicken Broth, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic Puree, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Canola Oil, Corn Starch, Lemon Zest Flavor [Lemon Peel, Sugar, Lemon Oil], Spices, Sea Salt, White Wine Concentrate, Dehydrated Red Peppers, Basil), Yellow Zucchini, Spinach, 2% or less of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon Blend (Lemon Peel, Sugar, Lemon Oil), Sun Dried Tomatoes, Blanched Almonds, Parsley, Sea Salt, Basil, Spices

Although it looks daunting at first, the ingredient list is fairly understandable to the average Jane. With all the flavorings added (garlic puree, lemon peel, spices, parsley…), we don’t quite understand why “Natural Flavor” had to be added. We like the fact that the first ingredient is Broccoli!

Looking at the nutrition label, the calorie count is relatively low for a meal, at 320. This may be too low for a dinner, but a salad as a side could help fill you up. The protein count is good – 27 grams, which is between one third to one half the daily needs for most adults. There are only 7 grams of fat. The broccoli and whole wheat pasta kick in with 6 grams of fiber, which is over 20% of the daily requirement. The sodium count, 500 milligrams, is relatively low for a meal, in part due to the use of all the added flavorings mentioned above.

Is this a healthy meal? Depends how you define healthy. But of all the frozen meals we’ve seen, this product definitely seems to have covered all its nutritional bases.

Want to know this product’s nutrition grade? Get the free Fooducate app for you iPhone or Android.

Get Fooducated

  • Penny Leventis

    What about Amy’s meals? They are organic and most are gluten free and vegan.

    • Vegan love

      I love Amy’s! They have awesome vegan, low sodium, organic, non gmo, and minimally processed frozen foods.

    • Jen

      I love Amy’s also! They are mostly very tasty and not that processed. A little pricey but worth it.

  • Kim M.

    I use a variety of Amy’s meals for lunches. As for this one that Fooducate used as an example? Forgive me if this sounds picky, but “Grilled Chicken Breast Fillet” should not be followed by (Cooked Chicken Breast, Water Rice Starch, Seasoning [Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Chicken Powder, Flavor, Salt], Salt, Natural Flavor). That means it is not chicken. I would skip this one and go for an Amy’s Organic Sandwich pocket.

  • Utopia

    I agree, Amy’s meals are the best. Some of the light and lean have 260-320 calories and are a great addition to a cup of soup or salad, though some are hefty in sodium. Regardless, it’s the only frozen meal I’ll buy.

  • neecie

    Many Trader Joe’s frozen meals are great …good ingredients no junk

  • jadegreen_eyz

    The one aspect of frozen meals I have always found disappointing is the miniscule amount of vegetables they incorporate.

    • Brooklyn

      I’ve never heard of Amy’s. I just moved to Florida from New York so even the supermarkets are ( 4 lack of a better word), foreign to me. Can someone tell me where to find this brand. Obviously, it’s in the frozen food isle. Lol. I hope. Thanx.

      • KellyB

        Should be available anywhere in frozen organic section …… Amy’s also has soups and other organic food items

        • KellyB

          Costco carries the soups …. Haven’t checked their frozen food isle

    • Brooklyn

      I’ve never heard of the brand Amy’s. I just moved to Florida from Manhattan. Even the supermarkets are ( for lack of a better word), foreign to me. Can someone tell me where 2 find it? Obviously, it’s in the frozen food isle. I think. Lol. Thanx. I appreciate it greatly.

  • Skylar

    Amy’s is the only frozen meal brand I buy. I’m disappointed that a Lean Cuisine meal was chosen as a good example of a healthy frozen meal. I’ll never buy Lean Cuisine meals unless they go organic and/or GMO free.