The Best Heart Healthy Frozen Dinners, Says Dietitian
Frozen dinners are the ultimate convenience food. Arguably more convenient than even fast food since leaving the house isn’t required. A full meal in one box, ready in two minutes, and served in its own box? The only thing not to love is the high sodium and saturated fat values that often come in these pre-packaged dinner meals.
If you’re trying to stick to a heart-healthy diet, you’ve probably been told to steer clear of frozen dinners and many other prepackaged meals. They’re often high in sodium and saturated fat while being on the low end of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which provide heart-healthy fiber and antioxidants.
And yet, there are still many heart-healthy frozen dinners at the store you may not realize are great for your cardiovascular health.
Expert tips for finding heart-healthy frozen dinners
When perusing the frozen aisles at the store, follow these tips to easily find frozen meals that are healthy for your heart.
1. Look at sodium.
Frozen packaged foods can have almost 75% of the daily value (DV) of sodium in just one meal. One of the first things to do when choosing a heart-healthy dinner is to take a peek at the sodium on the nutrition facts label.
One Hungry Man Meatloaf dinner will add 1,350 milligrams of sodium to your day, which is 90% of the 1,500-milligram daily intake limit that the American Heart Association recommends most adults stick to.
A trick I use with clients is to give preference to foods that have less than 10% DV of sodium per serving and to most often choose foods that have less than 20% DV of sodium per serving.
2. Look for saturated fat.
Saturated fat has been controversial in the health community for some time, but the research and recommendations still stand that limiting saturated fat benefits heart health. The American Heart Association recommends that only 10% of your calories come from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this means only 120 calories, or between 13 to 14 grams, come from saturated fat.
Some frozen dinners can be quite high in saturated fat; that same Hungry Man frozen dinner has 10 grams of saturated fat, or 75% of the recommended limit.
3. Choose high fiber.
Does the meal include whole grains, beans, vegetables, or fruit? These ingredients add heart-healthy fiber to your diet.
Compared to lower fiber diets, diets high in fiber lead to a greater reduction in blood pressure, LDL and total cholesterol levels, and blood sugar, according to an April 2022 review in BMC Medicine.
The 2020-20205 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends an average of around 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. A high-fiber food provides at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Thankfully, we’ve done some of the work for you and found some of the most heart-healthy frozen dinners available at the market. Choose one of these options to enjoy the convenience of a quick dinner at home while taking care of your heart.
The best heart-healthy frozen dinners to buy
1. Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burger
Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers are the perfect choice for those looking for a heart-healthy option packed with ten different types of veggies,” says Kristin Draayer, MS, RDN. This is a great option for vegan or plant-based diets.
Each burger has 130 calories, 0.5 grams of saturated fat (3% DV), 250 milligrams of sodium (11% DV), 5 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.
The protein of these burgers is quite low, so keep that in mind when planning your dinners. For a complete and heart-healthy meal, add the burger to a salad with beans or a quinoa bowl, and top it with sliced avocado for extra protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fat.
2. Whole Foods Spinach Ricotta Ravioli
This meal is perfect for vegetarians and those looking to reduce their meat intake. Each serving has 270 calories, 2.5 grams of saturated fat (13% DV), 125 milligrams of sodium (5% DV), and 14 grams of protein.
“Drizzle with olive oil for a healthy fat and serve with mixed veggies for extra fiber and satisfaction,” says Wiemann.
To make this meal extra convenient (and add in some fiber), choose a bag of frozen vegetables to toss in the microwave and steam. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh and much quicker to make on a busy night.
3. Gorton’s Roasted Garlic and Herb Grilled Cod
Researchers have found that people who eat fatty fish three times per week have one-half the risk of death from heart disease and one-third the risk of death from a heart attack as people who eat no fish.
Salmon is one fish with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids per serving, the heart-protecting essential fatty acids found in fish, although fish like tuna, mackerel, and sardines are also high in omega-3s.
Each Gorton’s Roasted Garlic and Herb Grilled Cod has 100 calories, zero grams of saturated fat, 310 milligrams of sodium (13% DV), and 17 grams of protein. It also has 340 milligrams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids per serving. Research suggests getting 0.5 to 1.8 grams of combined EPA and DHA daily for the most heart health benefit.
“Pair this cod with a serving of frozen brown rice or quinoa and frozen veggies with no salt added, and you’ll get about 5 to 6 grams of fiber in this easy frozen dinner,” says Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES.
4. Tres Latin Foods Black Bean and Sweet Corn Pupusas
These Tres Latin Foods Black Bean and Sweet Corn Pupusas are a delicious heart-healthy choice, great for quick and easy weeknight meals, as recommended by Bonnie Newlin, MS, RD, LDN, CLT, a plant-powered registered dietitian at Crave Nourishment.
If you haven’t had a pupusa before, it’s corn mesa (or dough), which is filled with a flavorful blend of black beans and sweet corn in this frozen dinner.
Just one pupusa has 130 calories, 0.5 grams of saturated fat (3% of the DV), and 170 milligrams of sodium (7% DV). Each one also has 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.
A filling and heart-healthy dinner could look like two of these pupusas served with lettuce, salsa, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.
5. Forks Over Knives Indian Potato, Chickpea, and Lentil Curry
“Forks Over Knives’ frozen dinners are a fantastic heart-healthy choice,” says Ashley Kitchens, MPH, RDN, plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant Centered Nutrition.
Each serving has 300 calories, zero grams of saturated fat, 300 milligrams of sodium (13% DV), 16 grams of fiber, and 16 grams of protein.
The high fiber in this Forks Over Knives Indian Potato, Chickpea, and Lentil Curry comes from ingredients like brown rice, potatoes, chickpeas, and lentils. It’s perfect for plant-based eaters and anyone looking to increase their plant proteins and fiber.
6. Tattoos Chef Buddha Bowl
The Tattoos Chef Buddha Bowl is loaded with vegetables and has everything you need for a meal (including the flavorful tahini sauce) right in a convenient little bowl. One serving has 320 calories, 2.5 grams of saturated fat (13%), 310 milligrams of sodium (13%), 9 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein.
If you have trouble getting your veggies in throughout the day, this buddha bowl has one cup of them to help pack in the fiber and antioxidants you want in a heart-healthy frozen dinner.
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