subscribe Signup for our Newsletter expand Expand Browser
Calorie Count Blog

Ditch Frozen TV Dinners and Make Your Own Instead

Posted on May 28, 2013 10:00 AM in Healthy Eating

By +Leyla Shamayeva

Frozen lunches and dinners have been popular since the 1950’s, and for good reason. They’re convenient, quick to prepare, and the perfect answer for busy people or after a long day at work. The health and nutrition they pack in, however, is a different story. 

With recent health concerns on hypertension and heart disease, frozen dinners have been recognized as one of the contributing offenders due to their high sodium content. Some, like Boston Market’s Swedish Meatballs pack in over 1400 mg of sodium! That’s almost an entire day’s worth for those of us trying to limit our intake. Although healthier options like Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice are great for portion control and offer a balanced meal, they too pack in quite a punch of sodium, as well as preservatives, and aren’t always as filling as we’d like them to be.

Fresh food is the best food for avoiding all the negatives of frozen dinners. Luckily, they are quite easy to replicate. Make your own and freeze it yourself. It’ll be ready for you after a long day or when you don’t have time, just like the store-bought varieties. A quick look at the ingredients list and a search for similar recipes will yield results. The best part is that you have the freedom to omit any ingredient you don’t like, leading to an even more satisfying meal.

Kashi Sweet and Sour Chicken

This recipe will yield a similar balanced meal of grains, protein and vegetables in a much larger, satisfying and still healthy portion. You have the freedom to choose your favorite vegetables, or brown rice instead of Kashi Pilaf to save on calories.

Homemade Kashi Sweet and Sour Chicken (makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup cooked Kashi 7 whole grain pilaf 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon chopped rosemary
½ cup green beans, chopped in half
1 red bell pepper, chopped into ½” pieces
½ cup baby bella mushrooms sliced
1 egg white
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook the pilaf as the directions on the box indicate.
  2. Heat up half the olive oil in a pan and toss in the chicken. Heat over low heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until ready. Remove and set aside.
  3. In the same pan add the rest of the olive oil and let simmer with the minced garlic, ginger and rosemary. Add the beans, bell pepper and mushrooms. Cook until mildly tender.
  4. In a separate bowl mix together the egg white, cornstarch, pineapple juice and vinegar.
  5. Add the chicken to the vegetables and then coat the mixture with the egg white mixture. Let cook another 1-2 minutes. Remove and serve over the pilaf.


Smart Ones Chicken Marsala With Broccoli

Filled with chicken, pasta, and broccoli coated in a creamy sauce, this meal is an easy one to replicate and call your own. The recipe below is similar to the actual packaged meal, without all the preservatives and 640 mg of sodium!

Homemade Smart Ones Chicken Marsala With Broccoli

½ cup whole wheat pasta
¼ cup broccoli spears
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chicken breast, cut into ½” pieces
½ teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup crimini mushrooms, sliced (or whatever mushroom is available)
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
1 tablespoon cooking sherry
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Boil the rotini pasta according to the directions on the box.
  2. Boil a pot of water. Once boiled, throw in the broccoli spears for 20-30 seconds, until a bright green color is achieved.
  3. In a pan, heat the olive oil and let the chicken breast cook until tender and cooked through (3-4 minutes on each side). Remove and set aside.
  4. In a separate pan melt the butter and add the oregano, wine, and sherry. Add the mushrooms and chicken and let cook in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, until mushrooms become slightly wilted.
  5. Pour the pan contents over the rotini and enjoy!


Lean Cuisine Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Chicken

Lean Cuisine is known for it’s low calorie meals, like this Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Chicken. The dish is filled with pasta, zucchini, black olives, and even some parmesan cheese. With few ingredients, it’s easy to replicate and freeze to enjoy later on.

Homemade Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Chicken

½ cup whole wheat pasta
1 chicken breast, cut into three
cooking spray
¼ cup sun dried tomato pesto
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 medium zucchini, chopped into semicircles
5-6 black olives, halved
2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Boil the pasta as indicated on the packaging.
  3. Spray a cooking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Mix the rosemary and lemon into the sun dried tomato pesto and spread 1/8 cup along the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken on top and spread the rest over the chicken. Cover with aluminum foil and let bake in the oven until tender (about 25-30 minutes).
  5. In a separate pot, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Once boiling, place zucchini in and let boil for 10-20 seconds, until slightly tender. Remove.

Serve chicken, zucchini, olives over pasta topped with parmesan cheese.


Your thoughts...

List your favorite TV dinners. Which ingredients would you remove from them to save calories in your homemade version?


How do you suggest freezing them?  What type of container is best?  Glass?

These are so quick to make. Why would you bother freezing them? By the time you thaw and eat them, you probably could have made them fresh.

I think I would make a lot on of single serving meals on my prep day and then freeze them.  That would save me time in the kitchen!  The kids would eat these after school too.

I used to freeze left overs to take for lunches.  I don't like microwaving in plastic so I used glass containers, but I found out that the plastic lids that come with pyrex are not as air tight as plastic containers and things would get freezer burned sometimes.  I started putting plastic wrap under the lids to prevent this.  Also the glass makes it take a LOT longer to heat up in the microwave.  If you dont have an issue microwaving plastic I would suggest plastic containers.  You can also freeze it in a quart sized freezer bag, then cut it out of the bag and put it in a bowl to reheat.  Most things freeze ok, especially if you will eat it within 3-4 weeks so just cook extra of w.e you have for dinner and freeze it.  Some items (fish, some veggies) can be cooked only 1/2 way before freezing because they will cook in the microwave when you reheat.  Try to keep food in small pieces and thin layers for better re-heating.

"Cooking Sherry" is not healthy. It is cheap sherry with loads of salt and should be taken off the market.  A good chef doesn't cook with any liquid (s)he can't drink and cooking sherry is putrid!

Hurray for homemade TV dinners. I center the meat with veggies in freezer-ware.

Comment Removed

Original Post by: solonneysa

Original Post by: pezzhome

These are so quick to make. Why would you bother freezing them? By the time you thaw and eat them, you probably could have made them fresh.

When I'm going to classes and working and managing my home-business sometimes the only time I have to eat is dinner and it's usually a tortilla-less, rice-less burrito bowl from chipotle (which is fine but it's high in sodium). The one day I have to cook is Sunday. What I do is every sunday I make a bunch of meals for my DH and I that includes breakfast and dinner. I make 20 egg "muffins" (two for each of us for 5 days) and a batch of guacamole and then one or two batches of something that we can reheat throughout the week. Our two faves are stir-fry with cauliflower "rice" and my hamburger soup. Making meals ahead of time prevents me from getting frustrated and ordering pizza 3/5 days during the week. My DH doesn't cook. He tries, but it just isn't a good idea to have him cook lol. I have before made frozen "TV-dinners" as well as casseroles that are healthy and can just be put in the oven by my DH before I get home with no prep. The stirfry and soup is just microwaved for about 3-5 minutes.

I would love to get some of your recipes. I hate cooking and only have energy to do it on the weekends. I have tried freezing my cooking but never knew quite how long my stuff was going to last...

i can't seem to edit the quote to shorten it on my phone. Sorry about that.

Cloning recipes or making ahead isn't my problem. What I get bogged down with is the whole issue of how to alter the recipe so that it won't overcook when you're reheating. Also certain ingredients - curry is a prime example - intensify when frozen. Figuring all that out is what's daunting. Now that I'm writing that, it sounds like an excuse, so maybe I'll try just making one or two extra portions to freeze and do it by trial and error. Any tips for good sources of info on making foods to freeze would be appreciated though!

How about calorie count and such for the recipes?


healthyhopes: "How about calorie count and such for the recipes?"


--click on the recipe titles and you are taken to CC's page with nutritional and calorie information.

whenever i freeze cooked food I first put in a container with lid (of the right size for the food) then when frozen I transfer the contents to a plastic sandwich  bag with twist tie. (bag it, tag it)

It saves so much room in the freezer and simple to empty into a container, frozen or defrosted,  to be reheated whether by microwave, stove top or oven.


Where's the calorie count?

Thank you for the great plan because I just considered buying an extra freezer because of the space problems.

you are welcome maggidiet. do not know why this line is underlined???

ok the underlining has

Does anyone know how many calories these recipes have?

I do not rely on the actual count of calories some recipies claim so work the calories out for certainly on the right site to do so.

Post Your Comment

Join Calorie Count - It's Easy and Free!