Nutrition Articles

Fantastic Frozen Dinners

Go from Diet Disaster to Diet-Friendly!

1.1KSHARES
Frozen TV dinners weren’t served often when I was growing up in the 60’s. However, on rare, extra-busy nights, I remember eating my meal out of that small, compartmentalized aluminum tray. They were always heated in the oven (since microwaves were not yet staples in every home). Watery mashed potatoes, tough corn, and greasy fried chicken—in no way was it the finest of cuisines, but the novelty made it enjoyable. Eating in front of the TV was always off limits at my house. “We eat as a family,” my mom would preach.

“But mom,” I whined, “Why do you think they call it a TV dinner?” When we were finished, my mom would wash those little aluminum trays to use when freezing her own leftover meals. Back then, our recycled trays held craft paints and rock collections, germinated seeds, and fed every stray dog and cat in the area. Out of necessity, we were all craftier, more resourceful and conservative back then.

Today, frozen dinners make up a $6 billion industry. As a dietitian you may expect me to tout all the horrors and tragedies of using frozen entrees. WRONG! I am here to share the possibilities as well as ways to make the healthiest choices even tastier. While eating in front of the TV is still a no-no in my house, the ole TV dinner has come a long way. It is now more kindly referred to as the frozen dinner. You can heat it in your own microwave in less than 5 minutes, and choose from selections that are varied and superb. No one had ever heard of “chicken parmesan” when I was a kid!

The Perks of Frozen Dinners
  • Quick & easy. Being a practical mom, I know that there are nights when heating a frozen dinner can be the key to getting everyone in the family fed quickly and efficiently, with very little clean-up. Your family can eat in 15 minutes or so and spend some time catching up on the events of the day.
  • Built-in portion control! In the age of biggie-this and over-stuffed that, the frozen dinner is a portion-controlled delight! Few people will actually heat another dinner, and there's no temptation of going back for seconds.
  • Vegetable servings. Green beans, corn, carrots and more, there is at least one (sometimes two!) veggie servings on that tray.
  • Perfect for the single scene. Very few people like to cook for themselves. Whether you're 18 or 80, living in a college dorm or senior citizen apartment, frozen dinners offer great variety for those eating meals alone.
  • Easy prep for all. For anyone who has difficulty in the kitchen due to joint pain, a physical constraint, balance problems, or post-op healing time, frozen dinners can be the trick for easy-yet-nutritious meals.
  • When the cook's away, dinner still stays. When your family's "head cook" needs to take care of business or is gone for a few days, frozen dinners come to the rescue.
  • Economical. Frozen dinners are less expensive than dining out.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 2   Next Page ›
1.1KSHARES

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I agree with the fruit, salad, and milk suggestion, but 300-400 calorie dinners? I'd lose weight FAST at that rate - 7/31/2014 11:26:38 PM
  • MDANBY1
    A good option is to purchase frozen meals from a company such as http://www.marks-
    gk.co.uk - 2/10/2014 9:41:49 PM
  • Honestly Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen meal have really helped me. Are the they the Most nutritional choice I can make? No. However they are vastly better than my old habit of eating fast food for lunch or ramen, chips and a dessert. They have helped me with portion control and are much more satisfying to my than a sandwich.
    - 8/21/2013 12:37:22 PM
  • Very nice article. I stocked up on frozen broccoli's and green beans this week! - 8/13/2013 11:40:39 PM
  • Since I haven't been able to stand too long I have been using more TV Dinners. Hope when things improve I will do more of my own cooking Do add more frozen veggies and fresh fruits. Found the article hepful as well as other suggestions. Want to check Amy's products. Have used Amy's pizzas. - 4/27/2013 12:08:52 AM
  • 34PAYTON
    I never eat frozen meals at home, but they do come in handy - in moderation - at lunchtime during the work week. I usually add some fresh veggies or salad as a side. Moderation is key to my successful dieting, and as long as I don't use frozen meals as an everyday part of my diet, I feel good about myself. - 4/25/2013 12:27:41 PM
  • I'm with the anti-frozen dinner bunch. Nix on the chemicals, especially sodium. I work two jobs. If I can make fresh meals, anyone can. Here's how: Do most of your cooking in one day. I do simple veggies, like steamed carrots and green beans. Then mix and match with a couple of lean proteins, like ginger stir fried chicken or turkey patties or pan grilled fish fillets. I match one protein with a variety of veggies or take it with a salad. Add yogurt with fruit and you have even more combinations. That way I get a variety of meals by using a few basic items every week. Meals for 5 days takes me a couple of hours one day per week. I put them in Tupperware containers in the fridge. - 4/24/2013 10:52:22 PM
  • RMAISTICKLE
    Honestly, this person is delusional. The TV dinner or frozen dinners are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to nutrition. Most of these ready to eat meals are more processed then something you would get at Wendy's these days. Don't get me started on the sodium levels!

    I really hope people don't read this article and think it is ok to start chowing down on Hungryman TV dinners! - 4/24/2013 5:13:31 PM
  • Unfortunately, the stark and now proven side effect to many of those frozen dinners is cancer ... processed foods that have been made from foods with pesticides, preservatives and bpa plastic film. So, not only do you have try to find a tasty, lo-cal, balanced one, you have to find out who is paying attention to organics, bpa free plastic film, low preservative, etc. For example, if I HAVE to eat frozen, I now know that Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice use bpa free plastic film, but Weight Watchers does not (at least last time I checked ... when I also said, "well, I won't be buying your dinners until you do"). And, I know that most ingredients I read on Lean Cuisine, I know what they are (following the "if you can't read it, don't eat it rule), where as Weight Watchers has preservatives I cannot pronounce, much less understand what they are. I prefer to make extra of everything I make fresh and freeze dinners myself. Then I know what's in them, I can control the fat, calories and sodium, and I know what I'm cooking them in. Starting to do this takes a little effort and a little organization, but it's worth it in the end. - 4/24/2013 2:44:56 PM
  • When I started my new eating plan I bought frozen inners. I though they were perfect. Pre measure, know exactly the calories, etc you were getting. But of course there is a but, they had preservatives. I don't want to eat any added chemicals. Not in growing the food or the preparation. So I ditched the meals and prepare my own chemical free foods. I feel more healthy and know I am doing something good for my body. Plus less containers to recycle.
    In an emergency I would still eat a new no preservative frozen meal, but not on a steady basis.
    Tisha - 4/24/2013 12:59:58 PM
  • WAUKEE1
    We all have to do what works best for us at the point we are in gettting healthier--so not trying to say DIET....anyway...
    if frozen meals do it for you I say go for it. Agree what others said about adding fruits and veggies. How does this differ from what Jared did with Subway years ago? It worked for him. Somedays Subway works for me too. Other days I cook becuase I want to and have time, sometimes I nuke something frozen. - 4/24/2013 11:24:32 AM
  • MICKEYL53
    Years ago I lost 35 pounds by eating only low calorie/low fat frozen meals for lunch and dinner and a breakfast bar for breakfast with milk. I lost the 35 pounds in three months, although I wouldn't advise losing that much weight that quickly now. This article has motivated me to follow the "frozen meal plan" again. You don't need to join an expensive weight loss program; you can do this on your own. My favorite meals were the Weight Watchers brand. - 4/24/2013 10:15:58 AM
  • It's shocking! Real people eat frozen meals?! Yes, we do! Without the convenience of an occassional fronzen dinner, I would have a hard time sticking to my diet plan. There are good choices out there. My personal favorites are the Amy's brand dinners and the EVOL frozen burritos. Another favorite is the Tandoor Chef Chicken Pesto Cilantro Pizza. I take the time to cook on the weekends and freeze dinners. However, there are times when I want something different and the dinners mentioned above meet my caloric and nutritional needs. Those purists who are critical need to just keep their opinons to themselves, express them in a more objective way or find another site to visit. - 4/24/2013 9:34:27 AM
  • TOOMUCHSUGARTOO
    Most of the frozen dinners have too much sodium for me. Even the so called low calorie.
    I would rather make my own. I freeze left overs in small containers and they are easy to take out of the freezer for a quick and healthy meal. - 4/24/2013 5:40:17 AM
  • NIECY211
    I Feel frozen entrees are ok to incorporate into your meal plan in MODERATION. I know these frozen entrees have been given a bad rep because they are processed foods but its nothing to get excited about if you are puting restrictions on your choices and monitor how frequently they are used. They are advantages like portion control, taking the guesswork out of calorie counting and the abundance of vegetables with certain types of brands to take into consideration as well. I think this is a GREAT article - thanks SP! - 4/16/2013 1:18:22 PM

x Lose 10 Pounds by December 6! Get a FREE Personalized Plan