10 Best and Worst Frozen Foods

For someone who loves eating healthfully, I'm a terrible cook. If a recipe calls for more than five ingredients or uses a word like "julienne," I bail and curl up with a bag of baby carrots on the kitchen floor, rocking myself.


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So for me, the frozen foods aisle at the grocery store can be a savior. The only problem? A lot of frozen meals have hidden health horrors.


"Most frozen meals are high in sugar and sodium, contain tons of preservatives, and don't have much to offer in terms of fruits, vegetables, or fiber," says Laura Cipullo, a registered dietician and certified diabetes instructor in New York City.


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So what's a healthy-eating, recipe-averse, busy-girl-on-the-go supposed to do? Choose the healthiest frozen meal option, of course. Because for every chemical-laden, fat-filled frozen meal, there is a comparable option with better ingredients and less fat.


Here are the 10 worst frozen foods you can eat -- and their healthier, just-as-tasty stand-ins:


The Worst: Kashi Sweet and Sour Chicken

Kashi usually serves up quality meal with top-notch ingredients, but this dish has a whopping 25 g of sugar. That equals two Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The better bet? Kashi Lemongrass Coconut Chicken, which has a way more reasonable 6 g of sugar per meal.

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The Worst: Hot Pockets Calzone, Pepperoni and Three Cheese

This pocket may be stuffed with flavor, but it's also stuffed with ingredients -- more than 100 of them, in fact. How they made pizza so complicated is beyond us.

The better bet? Amy's Cheese Pizza in a Pocket Sandwich, which has 15 ingredients. "As a rule, the fewer ingredients in frozen dinners, the healthier," Cipullo says. Bonus: none of the ingredients in this healthy swap are preservatives of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).




The Worst: Banquet Boneless Pork Rib (Shaped Patty Meal)

What on earth is a "shaped patty meal," you ask? You probably don't want to know, Cipullo says. This dish contains controversial ingredients such as MSG, butylated hydroxytoulene (BHT, which is used to slow the rancidity of oil and fats in foods), and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

The better bet? Organic Bistro's Beef Tips with Mushroom Sauce, which is free of questionable fillers and made with organic rice and veggies.

The Worst: Boston Market Chicken Pot Pie

Pot pie may be the ultimate in comfort food, but the 780 calories and 48 g of fat in this frozen meal will make your body feel anything but comfortable.

The better bet? Applegate Farm's Chicken Pot Pie, which is made with extra veggies and has less than half the fat of Boston Market's pie.



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The Worst: Totino's Party Pizza, Hamburger

Here's one way to have the party come to a screeching halt: Tell your guests you're serving a pizza with a whopping 5 g of trans fat, which raises levels of LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) and lowers levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol).

The better bet? Healthy Choice's Pepperoni French Bread Pizza, which has just a quarter of the fat of Totino's -- and no trans fat.


The Worst: Banquet Mexican Style Enchilada Combo Meal

This meal packs a surprising amount of hydrolyzed soy protein (a hidden source of MSG), which means that you may think you're eating beef, but a lot of it is meat-flavored soy.

The better bet? O Organics Organic Black Bean Enchiladas: no saturated fat or cholesterol, more than twice the protein of Banquet's meal, and it's USDA-certified organic. True, it's not beef, but it's not like you were getting much of that with the Banquet meal anyway.




The Worst: Hungry-Man Bourbon Steak Strips


With 9 g of saturated fat and 72 percent of your recommended daily intake of sodium (1,720 mg!), not even the hungriest man -- or woman -- should touch this meal.

"Stick to frozen food options that have 600 mg or less per serving," Cipullo says. "Otherwise, you're bound to go over the recommended daily value that's between 1,500 and 2,300 mg."

The better bet? Blake's Organic Macaroni and Beef, which has 404 mg of sodium and an all-organic ingredient list.


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The Worst: Buitoni's Four Cheese Spinach Ravioli


Buitoni pulls a fast one with this "single-serve" meal: It packs in two servings. And is anyone seriously going to stop at eating half the box? The double serving translates into 42 g of fat, 200 mg of cholesterol (66 percent of the daily value), and 1,872 mg of sodium (78 percent of the daily value).

The better bet? Candle Café's Vegan Tofu Spinach Ravioli. It has zero cholesterol and uses tapioca cheese (which sounds suspect, but don't worry -- it tastes exactly like the real stuff, and is much better for you).



The Worst: El Monterey Beef & Bean Green Chili Burrito

El Monterey wins the dubious honor of worst burrito -- the list of ingredients in it is practically a mile long. But even the brands with less junk in them don't get Cipullo's stamp of approval -- most of the frozen burritos we checked out clocked in around 10 g of fat and 700 mg of sodium (about 30 percent of the daily recommended intake).

The better bet? EVOL's Mini Chicken Bean & Rice Burrito. With all-natural ingredients and a slightly more petite size, it has a third of the calories and less than half of the fat and sodium of its larger-portioned counterparts.



The Worst: Bertolli Tuscan Style Beef & Vegetables Soup


Most packaged soups contain a lot of sodium, but Bertolli takes the salty stuff to a new level: 1,110 mg, almost half of the recommended daily intake. It also has 20 g of fat (7 g is saturated fat).

The better bet? Kettle Cuisine's Angus Beef Steak Chili with Beans -- just 540 mg of sodium, plus twice the fiber and five grams more of protein than Bertolli's. Want even less sodium? Look for a veggie-only soup.


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