Healthy Choice Top Chef: Really Top Quality?

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

2943-healthy-choice-top-chef-vegetables-rice.jpgHealthy Choice brand recently launched their new variety of frozen meals inspired by the TV show Top Chef.

I saw a coworker bring one for lunch, and was pleasantly surprised by the ingredient list.

I just had to investigate.There are 8 different varieties of Top Chef Healthy Choice Frozen Meals, but I only evaluated two of them.

Nutrition

The first one I reviewed was the grilled vegetables with Mediterranean rice frozen meal.

The ingredients are mostly brown rice and vegetables with only a few additives. But, then I investigated the chicken pesto flavor, and here is what I discovered:

Ingredients: COOKED ENRICHED PASTA (WATER, DURUM, WHEAT FLOUR, EGG WHITE, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE [IRON], THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), COOKED CHICKEN TENDERLOINS (CHICKEN TENDERLOIN, WATER, OLIVE OIL, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN PRODUCT [ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CORN STARCH, CARRAGEENAN, SOY LECITHIN], DEXTROSE, SALT, SUN DRIED TOMATOES, POTASSIUM AND SODIUM PHOSPHATES, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, FLAVORING, ONION, GARLIC, CARAMEL COLOR), WATER, GREEN AND YELLOW ZUCCHINI, SPINACH, CHARDONNAY WINE, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: OLIVE OIL, BASIL, GARLIC PUREE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, PARMESAN CHEESE (PART SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), ONIONS, PARSLEY, SALT, CREAM, CHICKEN SEASONING (CHICKEN MEAT AND NATURAL JUICES, SALT, CHICKEN FAT, SUGAR, HYDROLYZED [CORN AND WHEAT GLUTEN, SOY] PROTEIN, DRIED WHEY, MALTODEXTRIN, YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVORING, DISODIUM INOSINATE AND GUANYLATE, EXTRACTS OF TURMERIC AND ANNATTO), SHALLOTS, SUGAR, DRIED CANE SYRUP, SPICES, FLAVORINGS, SOYBEAN OIL, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES WITH DATEM, SEA SALT.

There are so many ingredients. Just looking at that gives me a headache!

Mystery Ingredients

2944-top-chef-healthy-choice-chicken-pesto.jpg

  • Potassium and sodium phosphates: Meat preservative that is now used so they don’t have to use potentially cancer-causing nitrites.
  • Potassium chloride: Naturally derived salt substitute used to improve flavor.
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein: A soy protein that has been broken down by an acid to become a flavor enhancer.
  • Disodium inosinate and guanylate: Another flavor enhancer that is not vegan or vegetarian friendly because it can be made from animal products.
  • Datem: An emulsifier used in dough or baking.

Calories

Most Healthy Choice frozen meals are about 230-330 calories on average and up to 6 grams of fat. They are required to keep the sodium levels at 600 mg or less (which is still high, but not as bad as other brands).

That is one thing I like about Healthy Choice. You are always guaranteed that you won’t pick up a meal that is 1000 mg of sodium!

Would I Buy this Again?

I rate Healthy Choice meals, even the Top Chef variety, second to frozen meal brands like Kashi and Amy’s.

The taste is so-so, and so is the nutritional quality. But, it is still better than fast food for those in a pinch.

Do you eat frozen meals? If so, what kind do you like?

8 Comments

  1. nicky

    Dieting is not just about food and eating. Actually it is a change in whole life style. Most diet conscious people think that dieting have to mean “all-or-nothing”. But it is not true. I am also diet conscious but I never skip even one time meal. I am a huge fan of home cooked food. I use protein and fats in my food. It seems to make me feel great all the time.

    Reply
  2. S Price

    Yuck…I don’t touch them for the most part. If I were in dire straits for some reason, and a frozen meal was the best option available, I’d go for Amy’s. Maybe Kashi.

    Reply
  3. Jim

    No matter what you feel about ready-meals – they are popular. When I was traveling in the UK I was amazed at the extent of ready-made or pre-prepared meals – aisles and aisles. Many people would fill half their trolley with them.

    So any items to deal with preservatives is a good thing.

    Reply
  4. Nicole

    I know! I saw some of these, but there is no info on the nutrition facts except when you find them in the store. Sneaky!

    Reply
  5. ted

    I see that they are advertising a line of Healthy Choice 100% Natural meals now with no preservatives.

    I wonder if they fair better. They list everything but the ingredients online….. They’re all vegetarian except for one with lobster. It’s usually the meat in a product the requires the use of so many preservatives.

    Reply
  6. jamespaston

    Now a days the people choose to take good & healthy food or meal and many brands are in market who sell healthy & natural products. Frozen meals need to be checked before they are being purchased. It is very important for your health.

    Reply
  7. Spectra

    I have a hard time with these frozen, processed meals. They are expensive, full of preservatives and additives, and not that great for you. When I am in a pinch, I actually order takeout–my local Chinese restaurant offers plain, mixed, steamed vegetables with steamed chicken. I order that and make my own brown rice and it’s quick, nutritious, and has no additional sauce or anything.

    Reply
  8. Callie

    I often buy these when they’re on sale at the grocery store (2 for $5 dollars or so) and put them in the work freezer. I hate them-they’re salty and not very big and don’t make me feel like i’m eating what i normally eat (healthy homemade meals-and snacks like celery and such) but its great when i dont have the time or don’t have leftovers from dinner the night before. It’s still better then leaving the office and grabbing something at qudoba or pizza places, etc. Its quick and easy for a back-up plan but i can’t say i’m having agood food day when i have one!

    Reply