Which microwave meal has the most health appeal?

Microwave meals may have had a bad reputation for being packed with fat, salt and chemical additives. 

But manufacturers are now upping their game, with products that promise a range of health benefits. 

Mandy Francis asked Ruth Kander, a dietitian at Fleet Street Clinic in London, to assess some of the ‘healthiest’ microwave meals for one. We then rated them…

Five a day 

Foodologie Bountiful Burrito Bowl

£2.40 for 400g, tesco.com

Per 100g: Calories, 62; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 2.8g; fibre, 2.9g; sugar, 3g; salt, 0.3g

Claim: ‘Fat, gluten and dairy free. High in fibre. Provides your five-a-day.’

Expert verdict: Made with black beans, sweet potato, vegetables and vegetable ‘concentrates’, this offers your entire five-a-day in one meal. It sounds impressive, but the NHS advice is to spread your intake out over a day rather than eating the lot at once.

This meal is made with simple, unprocessed ingredients. It’s lower in salt than some other meals here, at just 1.2g per pot — 20 per cent of your daily limit — and it contains 12g fibre (40 per cent of your recommended daily intake), too. But as it’s fat free and has the least protein here (just 11g, around half the ideal amount for a main meal), it’s unlikely to keep you feeling full for very long.

Taste: Acidic tomato with powerful coriander notes. 

Taste rating: 4/10

Foodologie Bountiful Burrito Bowl

Foodologie Bountiful Burrito Bowl

Fitness fuel

The Gym Kitchen Chicken Tikka

£3.50 for 400g, asda.com

Per 100g: Calories, 98; saturated fat, 1.2g; protein, 8.8g; fibre, 3.5g; sugar, 1.8g; salt, 0.31g

Claim: ‘High in protein. Two of your five-a-day. A macro-friendly meal.’

Expert verdict: ‘Macro-friendly’ is just a fashionable term used by fitness enthusiasts to describe meals that contain the ‘right’ proportions of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fats (i.e. macro nutrients) to build muscle and maintain energy levels.

There’s a generous 34g of filling, muscle-building protein in one pack — so even if you don’t work out regularly, this meal will help you feel fuller for longer.

The lentils and brown rice here help provide an impressive 14g gut-friendly fibre (almost half your daily needs). There’s just 1.2g salt, and you’ll get two of your five-a-day, too. But it contains 4.7g saturated fat, from the coconut milk — which may or may not be as bad as that from animal sources. More research is needed.

Taste: Filling, but a bit dry — it could do with some sauce. 


The Gym Kitchen Chicken Tikka

The Gym Kitchen Chicken Tikka

High in protein 

M&S Balanced For You Bolognese Pasta Bowl

£2.50 for 300g, ocado.com

Per 100g: Calories, 110; saturated fat, 1.2g; protein, 8.3g; fibre, 1.8g; sugar, 2.3g; salt, 0.38g

Claim: ‘High in protein, which contributes to a growth in muscle mass. One of your five-a-day.’

Expert verdict: With a substantial 24.9g of protein, this should be pretty filling.

The beef and pork must be lean, as the saturated fat content is just 3.6g (around 18 per cent of a woman’s daily limit and 12 per cent of a man’s).

The meat is an excellent source of iron, and pork is a particularly good source of thiamine, needed for a healthy nervous system.

You will also get one of your five-a-day veg portions here.

Taste: A bit bland, and the pasta is slightly slimy, too. 


M&S Balanced For You Bolognese Pasta Bowl

M&S Balanced For You Bolognese Pasta Bowl


Kirsty’s Slow Cooked Beef With Colcannon

£3 for 400g, morrisons.com

Per 100g: Calories, 74; saturated fat, 1.1g; protein, 4.8g; fibre, 1.2g; sugar, 1.3g; salt, 0.47g

Claim: ‘Free of 14 major allergens including dairy and gluten. One of your five-a-day.’

Expert verdict: This could be handy if you have a food intolerance or allergy. While a diet high in red meat has been linked to raised cholesterol and bowel cancer, a small quantity (no more than two 70g to 100g portions of lean red meat a week) is fine, and is an excellent source of iron and vitamin B12, needed for red blood cell formation and energy. There’s around 68g lean, unprocessed beef here.

The sweet potato, parsnips and cabbage provide one of your five-a-day and are a good source of vitamin C. I’d boost the slightly disappointing 18g protein and 4.5g fibre (just 15 per cent of your daily fibre needs) by adding beans or lentils on the side.

TASTE: Good mash, but the beef is a bit tough.  5/10


Kirsty’s Slow Cooked Beef With Colcannon

Kirsty’s Slow Cooked Beef With Colcannon


Love Your Veg Thai Red Vegetable Curry With Rice

£2.50 for 350g, sainsburys.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 111; saturated fat, 1.3g; protein, 3.9g; fibre, 2.5g; sugar, 2.8g; salt, 0.46g

CLAIM: ‘Source of fibre. Source of protein. Two of your five-a-day.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Eating plenty of fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

But it can be surprisingly difficult to get your 30g recommended fibre intake every day. This simple vegetarian meal offers a handy 8.6g.

It claims to be a source of protein, but I would add a small portion of chicken, fish or tofu to boost the rather low 13.3g protein for a more satisfying meal.

TASTE: Aromatic Thai flavours with a spicy kick. 7/10



Waitrose Plantlife Smoky Vegan Chilli With Rice, £3.50 for 380g, waitrose.com

Per 100g: Calories, 110; saturated fat, 0.3g; protein, 4g; fibre, 3.2g; sugar, 1.7g; salt, 0.4g

CLAIM: ‘Source of fibre. Two of your five-a-day. Helping you live holistically.’

EXPERT VERDICT: The ingredients are pretty simple and natural, apart from the soya mince (which may be better for heart health than meat, but is quite a heavily processed ingredient).

The kidney beans and vegetables give this meal 12g fibre (almost half your daily needs). On the downside, the protein level (15.3g) is a bit low, and it contains 1.52g salt — a quarter of your daily limit.

I’m not sure how this meal helps you ‘live holistically’, but perhaps it’s a nod to the idea that a vegan diet can be better for the environment.

TASTE: Rich and spicy. 7/10



Slimming World Free Food Diet Cola Chicken

£3.50 for 550g, iceland.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 65; saturated fat, 0.3g; protein, 9.8g; fibre, 0.9g; sugar, 3.1g; salt, 0.5g

Claim: ‘Helps fill you up and leaves you feeling satisfied for longer. Relatively low in calories.’

Expert verdict: You don’t need to eat special ‘diet’ foods to lose weight. However, if you struggle with controlling portion sizes, ready meals like this could be helpful.

With an impressive 53.9g protein in one meal (just over the average daily requirement), this should make you feel full. I’d be tempted to split the pack into two portions and add a serving of quinoa for energy-boosting carbohydrates and gut-friendly fibre, plus some vegetables.

There is 17g of mostly added sugar here — more than half your daily limit — and some artificial sweeteners and additives, making it more processed than some of the other meals here. It’s quite salty, too (2.75g).

Taste A substantial meal, but cloyingly sweet. 


MunchFit Teriyaki Salmon Meal

£10 for 450g, ocado.com

Per 100g: Calories, 107; saturated fat, 0.86g; protein, 8.6g; fibre, 1.1; sugar, 5.4g; salt, 0.6g

Claim: ‘Lower carb, high-protein meal to support fat loss and maintain muscle.’

Expert verdict: I like the use of cauliflower ‘rice’ here — it’s a clever way of adding vegetables into a meal.

You’ll get a very filling 38.9g protein from the salmon and edamame beans, which also supply you with heart-friendly omega 3s.

This isn’t really a low-carb dish, as it contains about 24.3g of sugar, which comes mainly from added maple syrup.

There’s a nice, short list of simple, natural ingredients here — but you’ll need to take the relatively high salt content (2.7g) into account, particularly if you have high blood pressure.

Taste: Fresh, but the sauce is a bit vinegary. 


Help a troubled gut 

Field Doctor Chicken Paella

£6.50 for 380g, fielddoctor.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 117; saturated fat, 0.7g, protein, 6.7g; fibre, 1.8g; sugar, 2.3g; salt, 0.44g

CLAIM: ‘Low in FODMAPs [fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols, carbohydrates that some people find hard to digest]. Two of your five-a-day. Provides 15 of your 30 weekly plant types contributing to a more diverse gut microbiome.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Studies have shown a low-FODMAP diet can reduce IBS symptoms. A full-on low-FODMAP diet can be challenging, but this meal could be useful for that.

It’s good that this supplies lots of different plant types, although some (such as the herbs) are in tiny amounts. The 7.2g fibre is also beneficial for gut health, and the 26g protein should make this a satisfying meal.

TASTE: A delicious home-cooked flavour. 


source: dailymail.co.uk