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Freezer Stash: Caroline's Top Picks for Grocery Meal Brands

By: Caroline Murphy Kinzey, MS, RDN, LD

How is everyone doing on the kitchen frontlines this week?

As I was making my weekly, cautious, "big grocery run," I had Good Measure Meals friends and customers in the front of my mind. Making the transition to planning/prepping/cooking a majority of meals sometimes feels like the straw that broke the camel's back right now, even for us dietitians.

So in case it might help anyone else, I made a short-list of my favorite easy-to-find frozen meal brands that offer higher quality nutrition and a range of tasty selections.

A quick note on frozen meals, because it's helpful once you know it:  

  • Frozen meals tend to be lower in calories. We all have varying nutritional needs based on many factors in combination (preferences, appetite, activity level, etc.), but I very seriously recommend that meals have at least 400 calories. This is difficult with frozen meals, but we offer some tips below! Also - take notice of your level of hunger before you eat your frozen meal, and then tune in to your fullness level after finishing it. Are you full and satisfied? If the answer is no, this can be a good indicator that your meal may be lacking. It's easy to supplement as needed with pantry staples like fiber-rich beans or additional frozen veggies!
  • In fact, the more veggies the better ("OK MOM," but don't roll your eyes)! It's difficult to even get enough veggies in a single frozen meal, so consider tossing a couple bags of your favorite frozen veggies into your cart to mix in with your selections and keep things interesting!
  • Speaking of adding veggies - if your frozen meal doesn't have at least 5-10g of fiber, add those extra veggies for a boost!
  • Take a glance at the sodium levels (frozen meals often have higher sodium counts)- Good Measure Meals guidelines are <540 mg sodium for 400 calorie meals, and <770 mg for 600 calorie meals.
  • Saturated fat: the recommendation is <10% daily calories from saturated fat. This means <5-7g saturated fat for meals in the 400-600 calorie range.
  • Limited additives & preservatives - it's worth taking a glance to see if there's a massively long list of ingredients that have nothing to do with the actual food components themselves.

OK - now onto my top picks (which check all the items above)! 

Evol Foods

  • Meal Options (Frozen)
    • Single-Serve Meals
    • Modern Nutrition Bowls (1 serving)
    • Multi-Serve Meals (meals for 2 servings)

  • Nutrition/Ingredients:

Evol Foods caught my eye with the tasty-looking pictures on their bright packaging!

I like them because they present a similar nutritional balance to Good Measure Meals in protein, carbs, and heart-healthy fats, and they have vegetarian and gluten-free options for those with special dietary preferences. In addition, Evol Foods advertises no artificial colors or flavors, no antibiotics in chicken, beef, and pork, and cage-free eggs. I also like that it is lower in sodium than many of the traditional frozen meals, but still has great flavor!

  • My Pick: the Vitalize Bowl

This meal features grilled chicken, brown rice, lentils, and ½ cup of vegetables (carrots, spinach, bell peppers) in a "tangy tahini & feta sauce," and I give two thumbs up to the 27g of whole grains & 8g of fiber in the meal!

Calories: 410 | Protein: 19g | Carbs: 41g | Sodium: 530 mg | Total Fat: 22g | Sat. Fat: 4g

More information on their ingredients can be found here.

 

  • Where to Buy:
    • Options to buy online and in stores. Full list can be found here.
    • Depending on selections, locations may include: Kroger, Walmart (offers delivery), Target (offers delivery) , Whole Foods
    • Limited selections can be ordered on Amazon (via Amazon Fresh)

Saffron Road

  • Meal Options (Frozen)
    • Entrées
    • Bowls

  • Nutrition/Ingredients:

The flavor combinations for these Saffron Road bowls and protein-forward entrees had my mouth watering while browsing. As with all my recommendations in this post, the nutritional value of the Saffron Road meals vary based on the selection, but many that I saw had a great balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fat. Additional features as advertised include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Plus, those with specific allergies can search their products via the link here.

  • My Pick: Beef Bulgogi with Brown Rice

I don’t typically prepare a lot of red meat at home, so this steak option felt like such a treat! The marinated sirloin steak sautéed with vegetables (bok choy, mushrooms, onions, yellow soybean sprouts, yellow bell pepper, and scallions) was delicious and drizzled with a sweet & savory sesame ginger sauce.

*Because Saffron Road meals tend to be lower in calories (and fiber), consider bulking your meal up with extra fiber-rich veggies (frozen veggie mixes, or leftover roasted veggies from another meal work great!).

Calories: 340* | Protein: 18g | Carbs: 41g | Sodium: 590 mg | Total Fat: 11g | Sat. Fat: 2g

  • Where to Buy:
    • Full list of locations can be found here 
    • Depending on selections, locations may include: Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods, Sprouts, The Fresh Market
    • Limited selections can be purchased in bulk online here

Amy's Kitchen

  • Meal Options (frozen)
    • Wide variety of frozen entrées and bowls
  • Nutrition/Ingredients:

Amy's Kitchen has products and options all across the grocery store beyond just frozen meals, but one reason I love this brand is the option of "reduced sodium" or "light in sodium" for the frozen meals.

Amy's also has options for gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, soy-free, tree-nut-free, corn-free dietary needs.

  • My Pick: Brown Rice & Vegetables Bowl *Light in Sodium

I couldn't make this list without at least one delicious plant-based option, and this meal is made with organic tofu, brown rice, and plenty of veggies. While the protein and *calories are a little lower than my normal recommended range, it's easy to increase these by adding beans or chickpeas (staples in many pantries right now!).

Calories: 320* | Protein: 10g | Carbs: 46g | Sodium: 220 mg | Total Fat: 11g | Sat. Fat: 2g

  • Where to Buy:
    • Options to buy online and in stores. Full list can be found here.
    • Depending on selections, locations may include: Kroger, Publix, Walmart, Whole Foods, Sprouts, The Fresh Market
    • Select options can be ordered on Amazon (via Amazon Fresh)

Mann's Nourish Bowls

  • Meal Enhancement Options (fresh)
    • Nourish Bowls (fresh) – these are a great way to add veggies to any meal!
  • Nutrition/Ingredients:

Mann's Nourish Bowls are a great way to add a variety of nutrients to your meals because veggies are full of fiber, and packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The colorful pigments in vegetables represent different antioxidants, so the more variety and colors on your plate, the better!

Mann's Nourish Bowls advertise no additives or preservatives in their products.

*Some bowls have more protein and toppings than others, so you can add more depending on your individual needs.

  • My Pick: Southwest Chipotle Bowl

I grabbed the Southwest Chipotle Bowl which included cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, black beans, a tasty chipotle corn salsa, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Mann's Nourish Bowls are great as a side dish, sautéed into a stir-fry, and as a salad base - simply add your favorite protein source (chicken, fish, tofu, hard-boiled egg) right on top! I also pack the Mann's Nourish Bowl's into a pita or wrap them with grilled chicken or sliced turkey.

I've added to this bowl two ways so far to bulk up the protein and calories to make myself a complete and satisfying meal - as a quick lunch topped with 2 hard-boiled eggs & avocado, and as a super-simple side dish for a dinner of roasted crock-pot turkey and rice! These bowls are also perfect for experimenting with fun toppings such as heart-healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, olives, and nuts/seeds.

  • Where to buy:

Kroger had these stocked in the produce section near the bagged salads.

What else has been working for you during COVID-19 quarantine? Tag @goodmeasuremeals with your favorites on social media!

Happy, easy eating to our friends out there this week. And please give yourself plenty of grace during this time of major upheaval.

-CMK

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