The Most Unhealthy Frozen Dinner You Can Buy
Here's a few reasons to bypass that frozen entree isle in the super market.

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Keyboard Warrior

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Most Unhealthy Frozen Dinner You Can Buy

Frozen dinners are such a part of the American way of life that Smithsonian's National Museum of American History displays one of Swanson's compartmentalized aluminum TV dinner trays in an exhibit. The frozen dinner as we know it today, however, is the result of years of experimentation and ingenuity, and over the years just about all nutritional value has been leached out of them.

And we've never looked back; households are busier than ever, and grocery stores are saturated with choices. Frozen dinners are still convenient and cheap, but if you don't do a little label-checking, that convenience can come at a different sort of price when it comes to your health. Interestingly, it's the Swanson name that produces the biggest offenders in this area. Their Hungry Man dinners lead the list in obliterating recommended daily intakes of sodium, and with boxes bragging about "One Pound of Food," aren't doing you any favors in the calorie and fat areas, either.

Not only are such dinners bad for our health, they're bad for the frozen food industry. Chicago market research firm, SymphonyIRI Group, reported that sales of frozen entrées declined 2 percent in 2012 to $9.2 billion, and it's speculated that some of the reasons are a tough economy, changing eating patterns, and the notion that frozen dinners aren't healthy. Consumers are more health-conscious these days than ever before, and often perceive frozen meals as sub-par, nutritionally. Of course that's not necessarily true, and the frozen food industry is taking steps to get the word out that frozen entrées can be healthy and appealing. But meals like this aren't doing much to change perceptions.

10.) Marie Callender's Cheesy Chicken & Bacon Pot Pie
We're putting this last on our list, but maybe it should be first. While the label says that a serving ("1 cup") is 520 calories (with 31 grams of fat and 740 milligrams of sodium), not many people are going to split a pot pie. But you just might want to, because if you eat the whole thing it's — yes — 1040 calories. And that's the kind of comfort food that leaves us uncomfortable.

9.) Stouffer's Fettuccini Alfredo
Sounds straightforward enough, but loaded as it is with creamy sauce, this pasta meal winds up being 630 calories. The good news is, the meal doesn't seem to contain imitation cheese; the downside, besides the calories, is the high sodium (840 milligrams) and 35 grams of fat.

8.) Banquet, Extra Helping Salisbury Steak Dinner
That "extra helping" gets you all kinds of extra goodies including your entire recommended daily allowance of sodium, at 2,363 milligrams. It's extra generous with fat, too, at 40.5 grams. The Salisbury steak comes with mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn. Calories weigh in at 646.

7.) Boston Market Buffalo-Style Chicken Strips with Macaroni and Cheese
This is one of Boston Market's Home Style Meals. But do most meals made at home have ingredients like Dl-Alpha tocopherol and ascorbyl palmitate? (Those probably aren't in your spice rack.) And at home you can control salt better than the 1,500 milligrams here; 31 grams of fat and 680 calories round out the meal.

6.) Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowl: Pancakes & Sausage Links with Syrup
Unhealthy frozen meals are not the exclusive domain of dinnertime; breakfast gets its fair share of entries. This 710-calorie Breakfast Bowl, with four sausage links and three pancakes, also has 34 grams of fat and 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Their site asks: "Feeling the glow yet?"  Um, no.

5.) Don Miguel El Charrito Grande Beef Enchiladas
What could be a good protein source is clouded by enough sodium (2, 100 milligrams) and calories (740) to negate the positives. These 30-fat-gram enchiladas come on a corn tortilla and are sided with Spanish rice, beans, and salsa, which in themselves could be fine without all the sodium. They're covered with imitation Cheddar cheese made with sodium aluminum phosphate and cellulose powder, among other things.

4.) DiGiorno Small Size, Supreme Traditional Crust
This single-serving pizza might seem a better idea than grabbing a few slices at your local pizza joint. But still, its 770 calories are significantly more than most single servings of frozen pizza, with 32 grams of fat and 1,330 milligrams of sodium (plus chemicals like methylcellulose and sodium stearoyl lactylate) to boot.

3.) El Monterey Spicy Red Hot Beef & Bean Chimichangas XX Large
We like our Mexican fix as much as the next person, but not when it involves a heaping load of calories (790), 43 grams of fat and 790 milligrams of sodium (plus a dose of sodium metabisulfite, whatever that is). According to, you'd have to walk 219 minutes to work off your meal.

2.) Hungry Man Sports Grill (Swanson) Popcorn Fish and Chips
Part of Hungry Man's Sports Grill series, the Popcorn Fish and Chips meal is topped with cheese sauce just to make it even more caloric (880). Like its colleague, the Classic Fried Chicken, it has an insane amount of sodium (2,640 milligrams) and actually even more fat (48 grams).

1.) Hungry Man (Swanson) Classic Fried Chicken
You'd better be a Hungry Man (grrr!) to eat this one, which comes with reconstituted potatoes, corn, and a brownie — and you'd better be an Exercising Man to work it off. It tops our list in the calorie category, coming in at 960, with an over-the-top sodium level (2,869 milligrams!) and 45 grams of fat. Ingredients like monosodium glutamate and sodium acid pyrophosphate make it even less like down-home cooking.
The average man needs about 2000 calories a day to maintain their weight, so I don't know why these guys are complaining about a meal that contains 1000 calories.  Just don't have them 3-4 times a day.  Also, cooking takes up a lot of time.  Fast food and frozen dinners are very convenient when eaten in moderation.

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