Convenience foods like frozen pasta make life easier and help you avoid hitting the drive-thru on your way home after a long day. Tossing a tray in the microwave or emptying a bag into a pot beats boiling water, preparing sauces, cooking proteins, and pairing it all together when time is tight. But as with most processed foods, some choices are better than others. Here are the best and worst frozen pasta dishes you can buy, according to dietitians!
How we chose the healthiest frozen pasta dishes
Here are some considerations when choosing a healthy frozen pasta dish from the grocery store:
- Keep the sodium under 25% of the DV. Frozen meals, especially ones that have added sauces, can come with a lot of sodium added to them. Diets high in sodium are associated with high blood pressure and can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Be mindful of saturated fat. While the research isn't as clear as we once thought, the guidelines still stand that saturated fat should be limited to 10% or less of your daily calories. Choosing a pasta dish with less than 30% of the recommended limit for saturated fat can help you stay on track.
- Fill up on fiber. Not only can fiber help lower your cholesterol, help manage blood sugar, and keep you regular, but it also helps you feel full and satisfied after eating, which can help you eat less overall. Prioritize frozen pasta that includes whole grains, lentils, vegetables, peas, and other high-fiber plant foods instead of just enriched noodles with meat and cheese.
5 Best Frozen Pasta Dishes
Best: Trader Joe's Japchae Glass Noodle & Vegetable Stir Fry
Trader Joe's Japchae Glass Noodle & Vegetable Stir Fry is heavy on vegetables and is ready to eat in just five minutes. "I like that it's a convenient meal with just 6 grams of fat per serving and contains a variety of vegetables," says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD. The only downfall to this frozen pasta is its lack of protein. One serving has only 1 gram, so Andrews recommends adding chicken or shrimp to make it a balanced meal.
Best: Amy's Vegetable Lasagna
For a low-calorie and filling vegetarian pasta meal, Amy's Vegetable Lasagna takes the cake. Loaded with vegetables like zucchini, onions, spinach, carrots, and plenty of rich ricotta cheese, you won't even miss the meat in this dish. The low-fat ricotta and mozzarella cheese adds a decadent flavor and texture with only 4 grams of saturated fat.
Best: Birdseye Veggie Pasta Rotini Marinara
Birds Eye Veggie Pasta Rotini Marinara uses noodles made from lentils and zucchini to help you get a little more veggie into your day. Each serving has 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, and only 250 milligrams, or 11% DV of sodium. Plus, each serving of this vegetarian pasta has 15% DV of iron.
Best: Lean Cuisine Frozen Balance Bowls Creamy Pasta Primavera
I love Lean Cuisine Frozen Balance Bowls Creamy Pasta Primavera because it has 1 cup of vegetables in it, which adds fiber to help you feel full longer," says Sarah Alsing, MS, RD owner of Delightfully Fueled. "To make it a more satisfying meal, I add additional protein with shrimp, chicken, or chicken sausage," says Alsing.
Best: Caulipower Linguini Cauliflower Pasta
Taking it to the basics, this Frozen Linguini Cauliflower Pasta is a gluten-free pasta that's frozen, ready for you to heat up and dress however you'd like. It's made from cauliflower, corn, potato, rice, and lentils, so while it's not low-carb, it has 5 grams of fiber preserving, is gluten-free, wheat-free, and ready in just 3 minutes.
5 Worst Frozen Pasta
Worst: Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat Sauce
Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat Sauce has almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium per serving, making it one of the least healthy pasta dishes you can buy.
Worst: Michael Angelo's Three Cheese Baked Ziti
A frozen pasta dish that's loaded with fat and sodium, Michael Angelo's Three Cheese Baked Ziti isn't worth it from the standpoint of health. One serving has 44% DV of sodium and 60% DV of saturated fat.
Worst: Bertolli Pasta Sides Four Cheese Ravioli
Four Cheese Ravioli has 65% of the daily value for saturated fat and 47% DV of sodium. Advertised as a "side dish," this pasta has enough calories to count as a full meal and half a day's worth of saturated fat and sodium.
Worst: Marie Callender's Fettuccini with Chicken and Broccoli
While healthier than her pot pies, Marie Callender's Fettuccini with Chicken and Broccoli has too much sodium to qualify as a healthy frozen pasta. We love that a side of broccoli is included, but along with many processed, frozen meals, it's too high in sodium for us to recommend. One serving of this dish has 1,040 milligrams of sodium or 45% of the DV.
Worst: Devour Buffalo Style Chicken Mac and Cheese
Buffalo sauce is notorious for being salty, but when it's added to a frozen mac and cheese meal, it's more sodium than we can take. One serving of Devour Buffalo Style Mac and Cheese has 1,740 milligrams of sodium or 76% of the recommended daily limit.
- Source: Sodium and health. (2023, June 6). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/salt/
- Source: Teicholz N. (2023). A short history of saturated fat: the making and unmaking of a scientific consensus. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity, 30(1), 65–71. https://doi.org/10.1097/MED.0000000000000791
- Source: Health benefits of dietary fibers vary. (2022, June 21). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/health-benefits-dietary-fibers-vary