Who doesn’t love a good frozen dinner? They’re premade, sometimes multi-course, ready to eat within minutes, and are an absolute lifesaver on those days when you just can’t bring yourself even to think about cooking. Most frozen meals are also preportioned for individual servings, so if you have a family of picky eaters, you can cater to their tastes with a minimum of fuss. Some of them can even be a sensible option for people concerned about their weight or health issues: Studies show that eating Lean Cuisine meals every day can actually help you drop pounds, lower cholesterol, and manage your blood sugar if you have diabetes. 

Best of all, frozen meals have come a long way since 1954, when Swanson marketed a complete Thanksgiving turkey dinner in a sectioned aluminum tray (per How Stuff Works). Today, you can find chicken tikka masala, pad thai, butternut squash ravioli, enchiladas, vegan quinoa bowls, and many more options — and many of them are surprisingly delicious. Note the word “many.” Alas, they can’t all be winners: Some frozen meals miss the mark in a major way, either for their taste or for being bombs in the diet department. If flavor and nutrition are as important to you as convenience, then you’ll want to skip these options the next time you browse the supermarket’s frozen aisle.

These dinners get a thumbs-down from the experts

Nobody ever claimed that frozen dinners are just as delicious as a homemade meal or a four-star restaurant entreé, but if you’re going to spring for one, you at least want it to taste halfway decent. In that case, you’ll want to steer clear of the Hungry-Man Smokin Backyard Barbeque. According to Mashed, the dinner consists of a grilled chicken patty in a glaze that has a “chemical aftertaste,” as well as a pork patty (which, in itself, should raise a red flag) that “tastes like a decaying McRib,” covered with a “horrid” and “inauthentic” chipotle-style sauce. Ranking a close second in the gross-out department is Amy’s Veggie Loaf, which is an insult to all the legit delicious vegan options out there.

Some meals are okay in the flavor department but get failing marks for health. Topping the list is another Hungry-Man offering: their Double Chicken Bowl Boneless Fried Chicken. According to Eat This, Not That!, the chicken patty dinner contains not only 760 calories but also 34 grams of fat and just over 2,000 milligrams of sodium — just shy of the 2,300-gram daily sodium intake recommended by the CDC. Yet another Hungry-Man meal, the Mesquite-Flavored Classic Fried Chicken from their Selects line, weighs in at 1,050 calories and a whopping 72 grams of fat, according to The Daily Meal. The bottom line: Read the label and make smart choices based on calorie, fat, and sodium content (and be wary of any meal consisting of “patties”).

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