True, frozen meals are convenient, but they’re often highly processed and full of sodium — unless you make your own. Each of these five meals has less than 550 calories and can be thawed easily for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
1. BAKED CHICKEN & BROCCOLI CASSEROLE
- 8 ounces (227 grams) whole-wheat pasta
- 1 pound (453 grams) chicken breast, chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups (960 ml) broccoli florets
- 1 (14.5-ounce) jar “light” Alfredo sauce
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) shredded part-skim mozzarella
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil and saute the chicken chicken. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
In a large bowl, mix the chicken, cooked pasta, broccoli florets and Alfredo sauce. Pour mixture into a baking dish and top with mozzarella. Bake for 35–45 minutes until top is golden.
Freezing Note: If freezing, do not bake. Allow your assembled casserole to cool. Then, wrap in several layers of plastic wrap. Store in the freezer for up to four months. When you’re ready to enjoy, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Bake at 350°F for 35–45 minutes.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: About 1 cup cooked pasta, with 1/2 cup of sauce
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 452; Total Fat: 17g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 121mg; Sodium: 724mg; Carbohydrate: 29g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 6g; Protein: 45g
2. BASIC BEEF & BEAN CHILI
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 pound (452 grams) 93% lean ground beef
- 2 (14.5-ounce) cans low-sodium diced tomatoes with chilies
- 2 (15-ounce) cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 cup (360 ml) frozen corn, thawed
- 1 1/2 (22.5 ml) tablespoons chili powder
In a medium saucepan, cook the beef over medium-high heat until browned. Set aside. Saute the onions in the same pan for 5 minutes. Add beef, beans, tomatoes, corn and chili powder. Bring chili to a boil and simmer, covered, 10–15 minutes.
Freezing Note: Once chili has cooled, pour into zip-top bags. Store in freezer for up to three months. Thaw and reheat in a pot until chili simmers, then remove from heat and serve.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: About 1 1/2 cups
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 446; Total Fat: 9g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 65mg; Sodium: 204mg; Carbohydrate: 53g; Dietary Fiber: 18g; Sugar: 13g; Protein: 39g
3. TURKEY & ZUCCHINI LASAGNA
- 1/2 pound (453 grams) lean ground turkey
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) olive oil
- 1 (24-ounce) jar low-sodium pasta sauce
- 2–3 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise to 1/8-inch thickness
- 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) skim ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) Parmesan cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions for 5 minutes. Add turkey and cook until brown, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 25 minutes to thicken. Arrange zucchini slices at the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.
Top with sauce and 4–6 tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Repeat with remaining zucchini slices, meat sauce and ricotta cheese. Lightly brush the top layer of zucchini with olive oil. Top with grated Parmesan. Bake for an hour or until the cheese browns. Cool and serve.
Freezing Note: If soupy, drain liquid before freezing. Store in the freezer for up to two months. When ready to enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator, bake at 350°F for 40 minutes. Cool and enjoy.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 4-square-inch slice
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 404; Total Fat: 17g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Monounsaturated Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 93mg; Sodium: 363mg; Carbohydrate: 18g; Dietary Fiber: 0g; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 45g
4. APPLE PIE BAKED OATMEAL
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) pecans, chopped
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) apple pie spice
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) applesauce
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) low-fat milk
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) water
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour mixture into a greased 8-by-8 baking dish. Cover well with several layers of plastic wrap. Store in the freezer.
Freezer Note: Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic wrap and bake for about 30 minutes. Cool and serve.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: About 1 cup
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 276; Total Fat: 13g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 48mg; Sodium: 308mg; Carbohydrate: 35g; Dietary Fiber: 5g; Sugar: 13g; Protein: 8g
5. CHICKEN & CHICKPEA TOMATO CURRY
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Madras curry paste
- 2 cups (480 ml) cooked chicken, shredded
- 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can low-sodium diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) low-sodium tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cooking oil
- Chopped mint (optional garnish)
Heat cooking oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add curry paste and cook for another 1–2 minutes. Add tomato, tomato paste, water, chicken and chickpeas. Stir mixture and allow it to simmer until curry reaches desired consistency, usually 10 minutes.
Freezer Note: Allow curry to cool before freezing. Store in ziptop bag or airtight container for up to 3 months in the freezer. Curry can be thawed in the fridge and reheated via microwave or stovetop.
Serves: 6 | Serving Size: About 1 cup
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 256; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 186mg; Carbohydrate: 19g; Dietary Fiber: 5g; Sugar: 4g; Protein: 29g