The 60 Worst Frozen Foods in America
You head to the frozen food section of your local grocery store with your meal prep plan in mind. You plan to grab some frozen kale for a dinner side and frozen berries for your post-workout shake. You emerge 20 minutes later with frozen low-cal pizzas and low-fat ice cream. Familiar with this scenario?
Those tantalizing options are marketed as nutritious and convenient, so we can't say we blame you. However, many of these insidious eats are healthy-eating enemies in disguise. Before your next trip down the aisle, see what nutritionists consider the worst "healthy" frozen food group, as well as specific "Not That!" products in the most popular categories. And if you feel a little frustrated by this list, fear not—these The 46 Best Frozen Foods in America can be the saviors you're looking for!
Jamba Juice Fruit & Veggie Smoothie, Orange Dream Machine
You might think you're making a waistline-friendly decision by picking up pre-made smoothie packs, but you could be sabotaging your weight-loss efforts. "Many prepared smoothie packs use yogurt made with added sugars and colorings," says nutritionist Kayleen St. John, RD, at New York City's Natural Gourmet Institute. "Sometimes the fruit itself is even sweetened with added sugar." For example, Jamba Juice's Orange Dream Machine smoothie kit features peaches and yogurt but also sneaks in sketchy ingredients such as modified corn starch and added sugars. Pour fruit juice into the blender, as the packaging suggests, and you'll be looking at over a day's worth of sugar.
Eat This! Tip
St. John suggests buying unsweetened frozen fruit chunks and blending them into smoothies with plain yogurt, green tea, or almond milk. For added convenience, freeze unsweetened coconut milk in ice cube trays the night before, so you can just toss them into your blender for an icy, refreshing drink. For some easy, delicious ideas, check out The 25 Best Weight Loss Smoothies!
Bob Evans' Sausage, Egg & Cheese Burrito
This has more than twice the fat as a Jimmy Dean Delights Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bowl; reach for that instead.
Lean Pockets Sausage, Egg & Cheese
If you're looking to stay satiated, starting your morning with one measly gram of fiber isn't the way to go.
Pillsbury Apple Toaster Strudel
This toaster snack doesn't have nearly enough protein and fiber to help you start the day.
Kellogg's Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles
There are better fiber-rich waffles to be had.
Kellogg's Special K Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich Sausage Egg & Cheese
The ingredient list is a novel.
Kellogg's Eggo Blueberry Waffles
Real blueberries are the 15th ingredient on the list.
Jimmy Dean Meat Lovers Breakfast Bowl
Start your day with this meat-packed breakfast and you'll consume nearly half a day's worth of belly-bloating sodium.
FROZEN SIDES, SNACKS, AND APPETIZERS
Tyson Batter Dipped Chicken Breast Tenders
You know they're not kale smoothies, just how bad could they be? Pretty bad. Though often presented as "all natural" and "gluten-free," don't be fooled. "Many varieties of this breaded and fried food contain fat," says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition partner of The American Macular Degeneration Foundation. "They tend to be high in calories, filled with preservatives and artificial fillers."
Eat This! Tip
"You can make your own baked nuggets using a touch of honey and whole wheat panko breadcrumbs, which keeps those nuggets nice and crunchy," offers Amidor. Or at least familiarize yourself with our exclusive ranking of The 46 Best and Worst Chicken Nuggets in America!
Tyson Any'tizers Honey BBQ Boneless Chicken Bites
Why would you want to pregame your meal with seven types of sugars and an absurd amount of preservatives?
Market Pantry Mac & Cheese Bites
If cheese is what you crave, there are far less fatty and starchy ways to get your fix.
Ore-Ida Tater Tots
Hoping these are better than the drive-thru's version? Probably not. "Potatoes are a healthy vegetable, but the way they're processed they end up being high in calories, salt, and fat," says Amidor. And sweet potato fries don't get a free pass: "Many people think since they will cook at home without a fryer, they won't be 'fried.' However, these products are already pre-fried, drenched in oil, then frozen to preserve them," says nutritionist Lisa Hayim, MS, RD. Sounds like a disaster in disguise.
Eat This! Tip
You can reap the benefits of potatoes by roasting slices in the oven with a touch of olive oil and salt and pepper. "You can also make your own baked sweet potato fries, which taste darn delicious," says Amidor.
Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Straight Fries
Sweet potato has more fiber than russet potatoes, but once the food industry starts plowing fat into the produce, all bets are off.
Hebrew National Beef Franks in a Blanket
If you're watching your waistline, you shouldn't consume this much trans fat in an entire day—let alone from a snack.
T.G.I. Friday's Chicken Quesadilla Rolls
With questionable ingredients such as phosphates, nitrites, caramel color, and modified food starch, these cheesy rolls may actually give you rolls.
Ore-Ida Onion Ringers
Fries are almost always the better choice.
Celeste Pizza for One, Vegetable
Don't let the veggie-packed topping fool you—this pie is packed with artificial colors and fattening palm oil.
Michelina's Lean Gourmet Pepperoni Pizza Snackers
Nitrites and soybean oil, but not much good stuff.
Stouffer's Sausage & Pepperoni French Bread Pizza
One pizza contains more saturated fat than 6 Burger King Chicken Strips.
DiGiorno Traditional Crust Four Cheese
Opt for the whole pie and you'll consume about a half day's worth of sodium and added sugars.
Red Baron Thin & Crispy Pepperoni Pizza
Even the Baron's thin crust pies are swamped with salt and sugar.
Tombstone Original Supreme Pizza
Indulge in an extra slice and you'll be ingesting nearly 600 calories and a scary 24 grams of fat coming from sodium-stuffed processed meats. Yikes!
FROZEN PASTA ENTREES
Bertolli Shrimp Scampi & Linguine
Bertolli takes a heavy-handed approach with sauce, as demonstrated by the exorbitant glut of saturated fat in in this dish.
Marie Callender's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
This is as good as the pasta you'd find at a Marie Callender's restaurant. Unfortunately, it's also as caloric.
Stouffer's Three Cheese Ravioli with Meat Sauce
If you're craving cheese-stuffed pasta, save 885 milligrams of sodium and 7 grams of fat with 365 Everyday Value's Organic Four Cheese Ravioli.
Michelina's Tuscan-Inspired Garlic Chicken
The nutrition panel doesn't look too bad, but this Italian chicken dish's ingredient list may scare you away.
Smart Ones Three Cheese Ziti Marinara
Marinara is typically the safest of the pasta sauces, but that rule fails to hold as soon as Smart Ones buries the plate under a rubbery quilt of cheese.
Stouffer's Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo
Alfredo sauce contains any of the following: oil, butter, cream, and four types of cheeses. In other words, it's a full-fat assault.
Stouffer's Classics Macaroni & Cheese
"Macaroni and cheese can potentially be healthy, but the frozen varieties tend to be laden with calories and fat," says Amidor.
Eat This! Tip
"If you're craving macaroni and cheese, make a fresh batch using real cheese, and you can even mix in some fresh cauliflower or butternut squash," suggests Amidor. This will give your meal an added nutrient boost from the veggies, and the fiber will leave you feeling fuller. Brands like Annie's now offer organic vegan shells and creamy sauce, free of artificial flavors and preservatives. Love mac 'n cheese? Then you won't want to miss our exclusive report on the 25 Best & Worst Boxed Mac and Cheese!
FROZEN FISH ENTREES
Van De Kamp's Crunchy Fish Fillets
Throw these back. "Buying fish frozen is a great way to always have a good source of protein in the house. They last long, and can be flavored the way you want them," says Hayim. But avoid anything breaded, or with labels like "battered" and "crunchy," which pack on extra calories, fat, and sodium.
Eat This! Tip
"Opt for either the fresh fish section or grilled filets," suggests Hayim. Frozen shrimp without any additives is also a good bet. And speaking of seafood, we dove into the nitty gritty nutritional details of every popular fish out there to analyze everything from mercury to omega-3s; bookmark our exclusive report The 44 Most Popular Fish Choices—Ranked by Nutrition!.
Mrs. Paul's Fried Clams
Spoiling clams with partially hydrogenated oils and kidney-damaging phosphates is an abomination.
P.F. Chang's Home Menu Shrimp Lo Mein
Chang's sauce is polluted with four kinds of oils.
SeaPak Maryland Style Crab Cakes
These crab cakes almost deliver more starchy filler than actual shellfish. Somewhere, a Marylander is shaking his head.
SeaPak Shrimp Scampi
Shrimp are essentially pure protein, so it's puzzling to find that protein accounts for just 13 percent of this entrée's calories.
SeaPak Jumbo Butterfly Shrimp
Each shrimp delivers more than 50 calories, and nearly half of that comes from unnecessary fats.
FROZEN CHICKEN ENTREES
PF Chang's Orange Chicken
Ch-Chang! This bag has nearly a half-day's sodium and more sugar than three Krispy Kreme doughnuts pack in.
Banquet Chicken Breast Patties
Banquet's breading adds excess calories and zero value. It also gets demerits for using inflammatory soybean oil.
Michelina's Teriyaki Chicken
Just because they're touted as portion-controlled and low-calorie, doesn't mean you should stock up on these. "Many frozen prepared entrees pack a surprising amount of sugar," says St. John. "Be especially cautious of the meals with sweet sauces—think teriyaki and sweet-and-sour."
Eat This! Tip
Instead of opting for pre-made, purchase frozen meal ingredients separately. "Buy frozen plain quinoa, frozen edamame, and frozen broccoli, and add you own sauces and flavorings so you know all the ingredients going into your dish," suggests St. John. Try one of these 30 Quinoa Recipes for Weight Loss!
Chili's Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl
Made with more rice than chicken, there's nothing fun about this party in a bowl.
Healthy Choice Pineapple Chicken
This bowl contains more sugar than protein—it has nearly as much of the sweet stuff as a half-cup serving of Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream.
Healthy Choice Café Steamers Sweet Sesame Chicken
This poultry bowl stuffs in almost a half day's worth of added sugars.
Banquet Chicken Fried Chicken Meal
Never settle for a frozen dinner with about a half-day's worth of blood-pressure-spiking salt.
Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken
There's nothing lean about breaded chicken tossed with 15 grams of sugar.
Healthy Choice Sweet & Sour Chicken
With ingredients such as kidney-harming phosphates and potentially trans fatty modified food starch, we're wondering how this meal was labeled "healthy choice."
Marie Callender's Chicken & Bacon Pot Pie
This cheesy and meaty meal serves up plenty of Not That! ingredients such as nitrites, caramel color, and interesterified soybean oil. Pass up this pot pie.
FROZEN BEEF ENTREES
Johnsonville Grillers Steakhouse Onion Seasoned Patties
Thinking you'll nestle a lean frozen burger patty in a lettuce wrap and top it with spinach and a scoop of guacamole? Sounds healthy in theory, but in practice, "One hamburger patty can enable you to ingest more than half of the daily recommended maximum for saturated fat and cholesterol as well as chronic-disease-enhancing steroids and carcinogens created upon cooking," says Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.
Eat This! Tip
"There are myriad options in the freezer section for all sorts of nutritious veggie burgers, some made with beans, grains, nuts, soy foods, and/or vegetables," says Hever. Just make sure that your veggie burger alternatives aren't loaded with sodium, fillers, and unfamiliar ingredients. Still want to stick with meat? Buy grass fed. Instead of going for White Castle's microwaveable options, go for a quality pick such as RESPECT Turkey Burgers or one of our top veggie burgers.
Banquet Beef Pot Pie
A pot pie crust is essentially an oversized pastry, which is to say lots of carbs glued together with saturated and trans fats.
Eat This! Tip
"Instead, try a non-dairy, vegetable-filled pie from companies like Amy's. They also have a Shepherd's Pie and Tamale Pie," says Hever.
P.F. Chang's Home Menu Beef with Broccoli
Chang's bagged meals suffer from the same sodium saturation that plagues its restaurant fare.
Hungry-Man Home-Style Meatloaf
Word of advice to the calorie conscious: Purge Hungry-Man from your freezer for good. This is consistently the worst brand in the frozen-foods aisle.
Smart Ones Smart Anytime Mini Cheeseburgers
There's a lot of bun around these mini burgers, and if you bite into more than just one, you're looking at a meal that will potentially cost you over 16 grams of fat.
Healthy Choice Café Steamers Barbecue Seasoned Steak with Red Potatoes
With over a handful of different sugars, this meal will probably cost your waistline more than dessert ever would.
Trader Joe's Steak & Stout Pies
Heat up one of these beer-spiked pot pies and you'll consume as much fat as nearly three medium bags of McDonald's fries.
El Monterey XXL Spicy Red Hot Chimichanga
The double XL Mexican burrito is fried in vegetable oil and packs in a whole day's worth of heart-disease-causing trans fats.
Häagen-Dazs Low Fat Frozen Yogurt Coffee
This Häagen-Dazs is a Häagen-Don't because no frozen yogurt should have that many calories for such a small serving.
Ben &Jerry's FroYo Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt
Oh no, froyo! This one is worse than most of the full-fat ice creams in the freezer aisle.
Rice Dream Organic Cocoa Marble Fudge
Rice Dream adds vegetable oils to create a high-cal approximation of ice cream. Ick.
Blue Bunny Blu's Birthday Party
Titanium dioxide (an ingredient found in sunblock) and eight other artificial dyes are just some of the scary ingredients in this tub.
Talenti Belgian Chocolate
Even this Belgium-imported cocoa isn't worth the belly fat.
Graeter's Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip
One serving of this stuff has as much sugar as you'd find in seven Sugared Donuts from Dunkin Donuts!
Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup
Eat two scoops of this and you'll take in more calories than you would with a McDonald's burger with a small side of french fries. So sad! But if you love Ben & Jerry's pints, then at least check out our exclusive list of Every Ben & Jerry's Flavor—Ranked By Nutrition!
This post was originaly published February 1, 2016, and was updated on May 31, 2018 to reflect products' updated nutrition information.