Healthy frozen dinners might once have been a contradiction in terms, but that's so last century. Whether you're limiting meat, fat and carbs, or maximizing your intake of healthy fiber and nutrients, there are now plenty of convenient, inexpensive options filling the freezer cases of the nation's supermarkets. Interesting ingredient options are increasingly available, too, from popular superfoods to new takes on old standbys like cauliflower.
All the choices compiled here are under $5 per package and a healthy option when you're looking to start cooking.
Click through to see how buying frozen foods can inspire healthy eating and save you money.
In the pod or out, these tender and tasty immature soybeans make a fine snack or side dish. A single serving contains a quarter of your day's vitamin C and three grams of protein, but no cholesterol and a scant 20 milligrams of sodium.
See all the different ways you can prepare edamame, including throwing them on the grill.
2. Lean Cuisine Marketplace Chicken Cashew Stir Fry
This is pretty virtuous as ready meals go, with no artificial flavors, preservatives or colors and no gluten. The tasty Asian-inspired meal provides a full 14 grams of protein per serving, along with 40 percent of your day's vitamin A requirement and only 2 grams of fat.
3. Brussels Sprouts
Bring out these tasty, tiny cabbages all year round, not just when you're making a holiday turkey. A portion of Brussels sprouts packs 12 percent of your day's fiber needs and 90 percent of your vitamin C, but only 45 calories and just 15 milligrams of sodium. Luckily, Brussels sprouts are inexpensive and heart healthy.
4. Boca Veggie Protein Burgers
If you're looking for the protein of a hamburger without all the saturated fat, these little beauties might just fit the bill. Their 15 grams of protein compare closely to a burger of the same size, with plenty of calcium and iron as well but only 4.5 grams of fat.
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5. Sliced Peaches
Fresh, ripe peaches are one of the summer's great delights, but they're so fragile — and peak season is so short — that frozen is a good option for anyone who lives outside of peach-growing country. A 10-slice portion of frozen peaches accounts for just 146 calories, but provides 11 percent of your day's fiber, more than twice your daily vitamin C requirement, and smaller but still valuable quantities of other vitamins and minerals.
6. Amy’s Whole Meals Cheese Enchilada
This is serious comfort food that just happens to be pretty healthy as well. The single-serving container packs 17 grams of protein, a quarter of your day's fiber, and plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron as well.
7. Organic Chopped Kale
Frozen kale won't work in a salad, but it's great in soups, smoothies and stir-fries, and — unlike the fresh kind — you don't have to worry about it spoiling in your crisper drawer. Even in frozen form it's a nutritional powerhouse, providing a whole day's worth of vitamin A along with healthy amounts of calcium, vitamin C and iron. You'll save even more if you try growing your own kale and then freezing it.
8. Saffron Road Palak Paneer
India's largely vegetable-based cuisine boasts thousands of tasty dishes, many of them available in the form of healthy frozen meals. This one with cheese and spinach in a flavorful sauce over basmati rice provides 16 percent of your day's fiber requirement, half of your vitamin A and 35 percent each of your daily needs for calcium and vitamin C.
9. Riced Cauliflower
The key to low-carb meals is healthy replacements for your favorite starchy foods, and one of the best frozen foods in that role is riced cauliflower. A serving contains zero fat, just 3 grams of total carbs and only 1 gram of net carbs, and checks in with 40 percent of your day's requirement for vitamin C as well.
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10. Cafe Steamers Pineapple Chicken
There's a lot to like in this Asian-inspired meal, starting with its bright, bold flavors. If you look further, you'll find a substantial 16 grams of protein, 20 percent of your day's fiber, a quarter of your vitamin C, and substantial quantities of important trace minerals including phosphorus, selenium and manganese.
11. Earthbound Farm Organic Ruby Red Beets
Beets aren't the most convenient vegetable when fresh, because they're dense and slow to cook and stain your fingers — and clothes — when you work with them. Buying them frozen changes that, making it easy to enjoy sweetness, fiber and folate content, and above all their rich store of antioxidant compounds.
12. Lean Cuisine Spa Collection Butternut Squash Ravioli
As healthy frozen dinners go, there's a lot to like about this one. It's creamy comfort food that somehow packs 20 percent of your day's fiber and 100 percent of your vitamin A into one serving, yet has just 260 calories and only 7 grams of fat.
13. Frozen Mango Chunks
Available in numerous brands, frozen mango pieces are ready at any time to go into baked goods, smoothies, salsas, chutneys and more. Each serving contains 10 percent of your day's fiber needs, along with 20 percent of your vitamin A, 60 percent of your vitamin C and plenty of trace minerals as well.
14. Kashi Blueberry Waffles
Healthy frozen breakfasts are harder to find than dinners, but Kashi's frozen blueberry waffles are a shining exception. Made with the company's blend of seven whole grains, two waffles offer up 26 percent of your day's fiber needs and the healthy antioxidants of blueberries, but only 150 calories.
15. Frozen Pomegranate Arils
Jewel-like pomegranate seeds make a beautiful addition to your meals, but fiddling with fresh pomegranates is time-consuming. The frozen arils make a convenient alternative, and still pack plenty of antioxidant power — and 14 percent of your day's fiber requirement — in a half-cup portion.
16. Saffron Road Vegetable Pad Thai
This vegetarian take on the Thai classic is ideal for Meatless Monday, drawing its protein from tofu and peanuts. That's no sacrifice, with a healthy 13 grams of protein per portion and 16 percent of your day's fiber, but only 1.5 grams of saturated fat.
17. Alexia Sweet Potato Fries
Fries aren't the healthiest of side dishes, but oven-baked sweet potato fries are the exception to that rule. A serving of these addictively tasty fries has only 140 calories and 5 grams of fat, but packs 12 percent of your day's fiber requirements and a whopping 60 percent of your vitamin A.
18. Amy’s Santa Fe Enchilada Bowls
This all-organic take on the comfort food classic is GMO-free and uses pinto beans and tofu instead of beef or chicken to provide the protein. Each bowl packs 16 grams of that important macronutrient, as well as more than a third of your daily fiber, 40 percent of your vitamin C and 20 percent each of your day's iron and vitamin A.
19. Gorton’s Classic Grilled Salmon
As non-vegetable proteins go, grilled, wild-caught salmon is just about the perfect option. Each of these fillets contains just 90 calories, but they're loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, 15 grams of protein and 40 percent of your daily requirement for selenium, a trace mineral that helps prevent oxidative damage. Take that grilled salmon and turn it into an easy and delicious meal of salmon burgers.
20. Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Low-carb frozen meals aren't exactly scarce, but they're certainly harder to find than the conventional variety. Trader Joe's cauliflower crust cheese pizza scratches the comfort food and convenience itches, while providing 14 grams of protein per portion, 12 percent of your day's fiber and 20 percent of your calcium requirement.
Spice up that pizza and give it a home-cooked touch by adding cracked eggs on top.
21. Diced Butternut Squash
Rock-hard winter squashes aren't the easiest vegetables to prepare, so buying them already diced and frozen makes it a lot simpler to include them in your diet. Added to soups and smoothies or roasted as a side dish, butternut squash adds fiber to your diet as well as a whopping 70 percent of your day's requirement of vitamin A. Roasting veggies like butternut squash is an impressive way to serve this affordable food.
22. Amy’s Light & Lean Quinoa and Black Beans Bowl
If your dietary goals skew to low fat but plenty of fiber and protein, this might be your dream lunch. These bowls are all-organic, and the combination of black beans and quinoa yields 10 grams of protein and 44 percent of your day's fiber requirement, but accounts for just 240 calories and half a gram of fat.
Cherries are a longtime favorite for their flavor, but they're even more valued now that we know the anthocyanins that give them their vivid color are powerful antioxidants. Aside from that, a three-quarter cup portion of frozen cherries added to your favorite smoothie will bring over a quarter of your day's fiber needs, 10 percent of your iron and 25 percent of your vitamin A.
24. Healthy Choice Cajun-Style Chicken and Shrimp
Poultry and shellfish play nicely together, especially in flavorful meals like this lean offering. It's super-light, at only 220 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, but boasts 15 grams of protein, 12 percent of your day's fiber, and significant quantities of vitamins A, B and C as well as phosphorus, selenium, manganese and other important minerals.
25. Frozen Beans
Dry beans require advance planning and canned beans are high in sodium, so frozen beans can be the best way to enjoy one these unusually nutritious — and virtuous — legumes. A cup of baby limas contains 20 percent of your day's fiber needs as well as vitamin C and iron, for example, and in some areas you may find ready-to-use frozen black beans or pintos as well.
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Please note photos are for illustrative and representational purposes only. Some might not depict the frozen dishes listed in this article.