When you're short on time — and hey, who isn't? — it can be a challenge to eat healthy. Some days require a quick meal that won't derail all the progress you've made toward weight loss. Enter Weight Watchers-friendly frozen meals.
What Frozen Meals Can You Eat on Weight Watchers?
Let's be clear: If you're looking to lose weight on Weight Watchers (or any other program), you shouldn't be relying on frozen meals three times a day. Still, they can be part of a healthy weight-loss plan. But there are some guidelines you should follow when it comes to the brands you buy and how you eat them (hint: you can jazz them up to make them a little healthier).
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Look at sodium first: It doesn't matter if you're on a sodium-restricted diet or not, frozen meals are notoriously high in sodium. That's why checking the sodium on the nutrition facts label first will help weed out the contenders quickly.
Look for a meal that is below 600 milligrams of sodium per serving. (The American Heart Association recommends keeping daily sodium below 2,300 milligrams to prevent high blood pressure.)
Look at protein second: Ideally, you want at least 10 grams of protein per meal, either from animal or plant-based foods. This will help fill you up, so you're not running to the snack bar mid-afternoon.
Lucky for you, there are a lot of options for frozen meals that fit into the WW diet. Here are some popular frozen meals and their SmartPoints values, along with where you can buy them:
1. Amy's Light and Lean Macaroni and Cheese
- SmartPoints: 9
- Calories: 310
- Sodium: 590 mg
- Protein: 18 g
Add a side of steamed broccoli or cauliflower to up the nutrition factor of this meal.
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $4.29
2. Healthy Choice Spicy Black Bean and Chicken Power Bowl
- SmartPoints: 4
- Calories: 210
- Sodium: 600 mg
- Protein: 20 g
Pair this meal with a side of zucchini slices dipped in salsa for no extra points.
Buy it: Walmart.com; Price: $3.48
3. Daily Harvest Broccoli Rice and Dill Pilaf
- SmartPoints: 11
- Calories: 390
- Sodium: 510 mg
- Protein: 17 g
Add baked chicken or tofu for an extra dose of protein.
Buy it: Daily-Harvest.com; Price: $8.99
4. Lean Cuisine Plant Powered Korean Style Rice and Vegetables
- SmartPoints: 9
- Calories: 370
- Sodium: 450 mg
- Protein: 12 g
Tack on an orange or a fruit salad to round out this meal.
Buy it: Instacart.com; Price: $3.85
5. EatingWell Creamy Pesto Chicken
- SmartPoints: 8
- Calories: 330
- Sodium: 460 mg
- Protein: 23 g
Buy it: Kroger.com; Price: $2.79
6. SmartMade White Wine Chicken and Couscous
- SmartPoints: 5
- Calories: 190
- Sodium: 500 mg
- Protein: 16 g
Pair with a tomato and cucumber salad, apple slices or grapes.
Buy it: Walmart.com; Price: $3.28
7. SmartOnes Lasagna Florentine
- Calories: 300
- Sodium: 590 mg
- Protein: 12 g
- SmartPoints: 10
Add a green salad on the side and peach slices for dessert.
Buy it: Instacart.com; Price: $1.99
Add ZeroPoint foods to bump up the nutritional value of your meal. Fruits and vegetables are the obvious choice and work for all plans, but if you're on the blue or purple plan, beans and lean proteins (think: chicken breast, fish, eggs) are also ZeroPoint foods.
Frozen Meals to Avoid on Weight Watchers
Frozen meals can be a good convenience item if you stick to the guidelines mentioned above. But here are some things you'll want to limit in your frozen meal selection:
- Meals that contain more than one serving: If you're eating for one, be honest with yourself — you might not save that second serving for another time.
- Meals extremely high in sodium: Some meals have more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium, but it's important you steer clear of those that could send your blood pressure soaring. Cured meats often have a lot of sodium, so meals with sausage, pepperoni or ham will probably not make the cut.
- Meals with more than 4 grams of added sugar: Ideally, you don't want your meals to have any added sugar, but sugar is a preservative and may be added as such. Manufacturers may also add a little sugar for taste.
- Anything breaded or fried: These types of meals are typically low in fiber and the breading offers little in nutritional value.
- Frozen meals with no fiber: This means they probably don't have any whole grains, fruits or vegetables, so they're lacking in the nutrients your body needs.
Can You Lose Weight Eating Frozen Meals on Weight Watchers?
If you're following your SmartPoints and staying within the parameters of your diet with added physical activity, yes, you can lose weight by adding a frozen meal into your day.
Keep in mind, though, that frozen meals are considered highly processed foods, and as such, they'll typically cost you more SmartPoints than homemade meals. Because of this, it would be incredibly challenging to stay within your points value if you ate frozen meals for every meal.
When you're eating frozen meals, balance out your diet and keep your nutrition in check by doing the following:
- Add fruits or vegetables to every meal, even if your frozen meal already has some. Chances are, you're only getting one or fewer servings of vegetables in your frozen meal. Adding ZeroPoint fruits and vegetables will help ensure you are comfortably full after your meal and getting in extra fiber.
- Stick with the guidelines above around sodium, protein, fiber and sugar. These are essential in choosing a frozen meal that will fit within your meal plan.
- Use your WW app to check out a frozen meal's SmartPoints value before you buy it, to make sure it fits within your plan.
Pros and Cons of Adding Frozen Meals to WW
Every diet plan is going to have its pros and cons, and doing Weight Watchers with frozen meals is no different. Here's what you're looking at when adding frozen meals to your WW plan:
- Convenience: Frozen meals are quicker to prepare than fresh, homemade meals.
- Portion control: Frozen meals are pre-portioned, so you know exactly how much you're eating.
- Add-ons: You can easily supplement these meals with fresh foods like fruits and vegetables for a complete meal.
- Low in fiber: These meals are often lacking in fiber, which can help with weight loss.
- Highly processed: Frozen meals may contain unnecessary ingredients (think: preservatives, added sugars, etc) due to their highly processed nature.
- Cost: Some options can be expensive when compared to the cost of fresh, homemade meals.
Should You Try it?
You should not opt for frozen meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stick with a max of one frozen meal per day to ensure you are getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean proteins, beans and nuts to round out a diet that is sustainable for weight loss.