Our Top Picks for Healthier Frozen-Food Dinners

By: Carolyn Malcoun  |  Monday, September 26, 2016

Maybe you don't venture into the frozen food section unless it's 100 degrees outside. But I do! Along with frozen fruit and vegetables, I keep my freezer stocked with a handful of carefully curated convenience foods to turn into an easy dinner. Fish sticks, potstickers, veggie burgers, mozzarella sticks, meatballs and hash browns are among my favorites.
Related: Healthy Eating Just Got Easier with EatingWell's New Frozen Dinners
I'm all for cooking from scratch—I do it for a living! But sometimes I just don't have time for that. I have a preschooler who demands dinner immediately upon arrival at home. If I'm feeling less than inspired by what I planned for dinner that night, I grab a box or bag from the freezer and transform it into a healthy meal. And you can too. Armed with some shopping advice and the tasty recipes to transform these staples, you may find yourself in the freezer aisle more often.
1. Frozen Meatballs
What to look for: Pick one with less than 450 mg of sodium per serving and skip brands with added sugar.
Our Favorites: Bove's Italian Style (beef) and Al Fresco Italian Style (chicken)
Try them in: Meatball & Creamed Spinach Skillet
2. Frozen Veggie Burgers
What to look for: Shoot for 200 mg or less of sodium per patty. Skip any with added sugar. You may choose to avoid caramel color—it contains a compound that can cause cancer, but it's used in such small quantities it shouldn't be a health concern.
Our Favorite: Sunshine Burgers Black Bean South West
Try them in: Veggie Burger Hash
3. Frozen Potstickers
What to look for: Look for a brand that has 600 mg or less of sodium per serving.
Our Favorites: Annie Chun's (chicken & vegetable) and Chef One (vegetable)
Try them in: Potsticker & Vegetable Stir-Fry
4. Frozen Hash Browns
What to look for: You may see disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (also called sodium acid pyrophosphate) in the ingredient list. It's a common, safe food additive that prevents the potatoes from browning and reduces acrylamide formation (a carcinogen created during frying). Opt for unseasoned ones and save 200-300 mg of sodium per serving.
Our Favorites: Cascadian Farms and Ore-Ida
Try them in: Ham & Gruyère Hash Brown Waffles
5. Frozen Fish Sticks
What to look for: Most are made with pollock, which is a sustainable choice if it's Marine Stewardship Council certified (look for the blue label or contact the manufacturer). Try to avoid added sugar (or make sure it's as close to the end of the ingredient list as possible). Go for one with 300 mg or less of sodium per serving.
Our Favorites: Kidfresh Fun-tastic and Dr. Praeger's Lightly Breaded
Try them in: Fish Tacos with Avocado-Lime Crema
6. Frozen Mozzarella Sticks
What to look for: Opt for a brand that has added sugars as close to the end of the ingredient list as possible. Aim for less than 250 mg of sodium per serving.
Our Favorite: Alexia Mozzarella Stix with Olive Oil & Italian Herbs
Try them in: Eggplant & Mozzarella Stick Roll-Ups