Even if your meal doesn't taste salty, it could still have significant sodium content. Ready-made meals typically contain sodium as a preservative. Consider choosing low-sodium frozen meals as a healthier alternative.
The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, 1,100 milligrams more than the recommended limit, according to the American Heart Association. And more than 70 percent of this sodium is from processed foods available at the grocery store, including frozen dinners.
As long as you choose low-sodium options that feature a balance of whole grains, lean protein and produce, frozen dinners can be part of a healthy diet.
Read more: 10 Myths About Salt Debunked
Why Low-Sodium Frozen Meals?
Sodium is an important nutrient that helps maintain fluid balance in the body, assists with nerve impulses and plays a role in muscle contraction, according to Mayo Clinic. But, too much salt causes sodium to build up in your blood, increasing blood volume which makes your heart work harder.
Chronically high levels of sodium can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke and congestive heart failure.
Check the Sodium Content
As recommended by the University of South Florida, choose low-sodium frozen foods dinner options that contain no more than 600 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Even with following this recommendation, one frozen meal is 40 percent of the 1,500-milligram limit for people on a sodium-restricted diet, or the recommended daily limit for people with risk factors for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
Check that the sodium information on the label applies to one — not two — servings, and have no more than one frozen entree per day.
Look for Recognizable Ingredients
High quality, low-sodium TV dinners will not come with an ingredient list of additives and preservatives with long, complicated names. Even if it's under the 600-milligram sodium limit, skip any frozen dinner in which you don't recognize more than half of the ingredients as a regular food.
Stick with low-sodium entrees that have short ingredient lists featuring easily identifiable foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, or lean meats such as chicken, turkey, fish or shellfish.
Consider Other Macronutrients
Just because a frozen dinner is lower in sodium than typical frozen entrees doesn't mean it will be low in fat. The University of South Florida recommends choosing meals with less than 30 percent of its calories from fat, or no more than 10 to 18 grams of fat per serving.
High-fiber, low-sodium frozen meals that supply a moderate amount of protein will help ensure that the meal gives you a healthy balance of nutrients along with sodium control.
Look for low-sodium frozen dinners supplying at least 5 grams of fiber from a combination of whole grains, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta, and fruits and vegetables. This will provide 20 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 13 percent for men, according to the National Academies of Sciences.
When it comes to protein, men need at least 56 grams of protein per day, while women need 46 grams.