Consumer Reports' best frozen dinner options

The Consumer Reports test kitchen found several delicious, healthy choices that will keep your family happy and your pocketbook full. In this time-starved world, it's hard to get a home-cooked dinner on the table at night, but that doesn't mean you have to go hungry.

Consumer Reports evaluated 19 frozen convenience meals from brands like Contessa, Birds Eye, and Stouffer's. All of them could be prepared in under 20 minutes, either in a stovetop skillet or a microwave. "Most of the meals we looked at were complete with chicken or shrimp, vegetables, and usually pasta or rice," Ellen Klosz said.

But, are they meals you'd enjoy? Trained sensory panelists at Consumer Reports evaluated them for both taste and nutrition. "There were many good, healthy choices, but it's important to check the nutrition label because there were some meals that were high in fat and sodium," Klosz warned.

But don't despair. Consumer Reports found lots of quick, tasty options for the time-strapped or kitchen-challenged. One is the Contessa Sesame Chicken. It's a Consumer Reports "best buy" for around $2.50 a serving. It scored very good on both taste and nutrition, with fresh-tasting vegetables and tender chicken.

For even less, another good choice is Birds Eye Voila Chicken Florentine. It has firm penne pasta and fresh-tasting spinach and yellow squash. It costs just $1.28 per serving. Either would be a good alternative to take-out.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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