Are Healthy Choice Meals A Healthy Choice?

March 27, 2012   25 Comments

For those of us looking for healthy choices, this HAS to be a solution, right? I mean ConAgra Foods has named these meals "Healthy Choice".

Healthy Choice Meals

Not only are they named "Healthy Choice" but now some of them are "Top Chef" inspired! OMG! An actual chef on Bravo designed these for us or maybe just told ConAgra to add some basil - hard to know.

If you ever have watched Top Chef (and, yes, your fearless leader is a fan), you know that the competition is rough. You get ingredients tossed at you and you have to CREATE delicious food in NO time. Then judges, like your family, taste your food and tell you how terrible or wonderful it tastes.

I enjoy this program because I learn from it. I watch them chop, saute, and put taste combinations together and I get inspired in my own kitchen. I hate all the DRAMA of the show (boring.......).

When I saw these in the frozen aisle, I decided to pay $2.50 to try one since they were on sale. The first thing that I noticed is that there is a lot of packaging. You steam the food above the sauce in a plastic steamer and then pour the food into the bowl. You then get to throw out a box, steamer, and bowl after eating this meal (so sad).

Here is the nutritional information for the Grilled Chicken Pesto with Vegetables:

310 calories, 9 g fat, 21.8 g carbohydrates, 21 g protein, 3 g fiber, 550 mg sodium, 8 Points+

The ingredient list is SO long and small that I just give up trying to analyze it. Let's just say there is some stuff in here that I cannot pronounce.

How did it taste? Very salty - but otherwise good. Where was the Top Chef judge when we needed her? "Chef, did you taste it before you plated it?"

The steaming of the food ensured that the pasta wasn't gummy and I actually found myself enjoying eating it. But, it lacked vegetables which I don't think is so great for something called "Healthy Choice".

My conclusions are that Healthy Choice is NOT healthy:

  • for the environment with all the crazy packaging involved.
  • If you are watching your salt intake. It has 23% of your daily value of sodium!
  • for those trying to include vegetables in their diet. There is too much pasta!

BUT, if you were to grab some frozen broccoli and mix it in to one of these, you could have something pretty good. You could do 1/2 broccoli and 1/2 "Healthy Choice" and THEN you would halve the sodium and increase the veggies by 100%.

What do you think of Healthy Choice Meals?

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 25 )

Interesting. Thanks! That's a bit much sodium for me. I spied these JUST yesterday and almost stopped and opened the freezer case. Maybe in a pinch but only in a pinch.

Thats one thing I don't use is frozen dinners. I like batch cook and freeze my meals, than I least I know I'm getting something healthy!

While I'm not advocating for the consumption of these kinds of meals, way back when we ate frozen dinners like these, my wife and I (washed and!) saved the steamer baskets.

Now, when I (for example) mix up quinoa, black beans, and salsa (inspired by Lisa's "burrito bowl" idea in in my own bowl, I put one of those saved steamer baskets on top of the bowl and it handily contains the occasional salsa splatter.

I keep a few frozen dinners on hand. I try to get the most protein and least points I can get. Ionly use them for convience, such as I will be eating alone and dont want to make a mess and cook. Otherwise I like to cook my own food so I can control what goes in it.

I've eaten these. And, yes, we save the bowls (I can't get hubby to save the steamer baskets, though). Were I living elsewhere, we could put them in the recycling bin, I believe (all plastic, foil, glass ...). Anyway, I, too, noticed the poor inclusion of veggies, but they will do in a pinch, esp at work where we only have access to microwave

I'm with Kate -- I keep a few around for when I'm on the run or need a snack, but the meals I choose are high in protein and low in sodium.

Other than that, I try to cook my meals and save leftovers.

Unfortunately, some of their entrees have trans-fat, def not a healthy choice under any circumstance. Factor in the high sodium and it's just not worth it, I'd rather just make something homemade instead.

I keep a few frozen meals at work for the times I'm in a rush in the morning and don't get something else and I'm too broke to go out for a salad or sandwich. I also keep extra frozen veggies to add to them. Good for "emergencies" but I couldn't eat that stuff every day.

Honestly, I do eat some of the "regular" (not steamed) Healthy Choice meals, and I think they're the best tasting of that genre. I love love love the Santa Fe Rice & Beans -- really filling and feels decadent, as it has some sour cream in it....

unfortunately, a really UN-healthy choice for me

with factoring in the high sodium and trans fats.

no thank you!

I gave up frozen dinners a while ago once I started to take really good notice of the nutritional list on them. Eek!!

I firmly believe when looking at foods you have to consider how they fit into your diet as a whole. Would you get WAY too much sodium if you at nothing but Healthy Choice meals? Of course!

Also, they vary even within a brand, which makes sense considering they have different foods. For example, the one I have in front of me has 310 calories, 7g of fat, no trans fat, 660mg of sodium, and 10g of protein. Also 20% of daily recommend Vitamins A&C. Evil and unhealthy? No.

I am sure a lot of people on this blog eat only vegan/organic/homecooked/unprocessed food. Please don't look down on the rest of us, even though we eat (gasp!) convenience food. I use common sense. If you look at your food as part of daily requirements, you're absolutely fine.

Have you ever investigated Lean Cuisine?

@Victoria - yes, here:

@Phoebe - I totally understand your point and I agree that it is important to took at your ENTIRE day.

couldn't agree with you more! The sodium count alone is enough for me to leave THEM alone!

I don't like Healthy Choice meals because the ones I've had didn't really like taste like anything - there was no flavor! I do have a few favorite Lean Cuisines and keep them in the freezer to only use when I'm in a bind. Better than going out to get fast food.

I found these to be as filling as the number of calories suggested. They remind me of rice cakes, where they might be low calories but they end up making me somehow hungrier in the end. When I'm in a pinch I'll eat low cal/low sodium soups that are around 300 cal for the whole can. I tend to mix in some frozen veggies so they are more filling.

I'm not fond of the steamers; they don't have much food in them, and there aren't enough vegetables for my taste. Plus most of them hardly have any meat! I had one that had maybe three TINY pieces of chicken in it. :(

And the "Top Chef Inspired" tag is bogus. The steamer flavors already existed before they partnered with Top Chef; they just stuck a label on it and changed the box. They're still the same steamers as before.

I have spent so much money on these over the years, and I've decided - No More! I am in the process of recreating my favorites and making my own freezer meals. They are better, healthier and I know what's in them!

I rarely eat frozen dinners anymore, now that I have retired. When I look at the portion size and the absence of veggies combined with the list of ingredients, I feel that too many calories go into the sauce.

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