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Adventures in Lazy Vegetarianism: Exploring the Frozen Foods Aisle

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

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Written by andrea bennett

Maybe you're the type of person who makes sure to eat healthy and stays miles away from the frozen and prepared foods sections. If so, good for you. For the rest of us, it sometimes seems necessary to have on hand a store of almost-ready-to-eat items when we're time-pressed, out of fresh groceries, and about to head out the door. So how does the competition stack up? I evaluated the following with smell, flavour, texture, price, and nutrion in mind.

Lick's Nature Shepherd's Pie 4.99

Calories 310
Fat 11 g
Saturated Fat 3.5 g
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 840 mg
Carbs 45g
Fibre 5g
Sugars 9g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A 25%
Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 8%
Iron 20%

Lick's Nature Shepherd's Pie is made with non-gmo soy protein; it also won the "Best Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie Award." My friend Jane and I scarfed it down. Jane said it smelled pretty good as it was warming up, and that she liked it. But when I asked her if she would buy it again, she waffled, saying "I just don't buy frozen prepared foods... they scare me for some reason." As for me, I thought it was really yummy and satisfying with a good range of textures - tvp on the bottom with corn, and mashed potatoes on top. Shepherd's Pie is supposed to be a pretty hearty meal, and this one fits the bill. It does, however, contain 1g of the dreaded trans fat. And a lot of salt...

Guitless Gourmet Black Bean Chipotle Wrap 1.79

Calories 270
Fat 3 g
Saturated Fat 0.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 570 mg
Carbs 51g
Fibre 7g
Sugars 6g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 10%
Iron 10%

As I pushed the Black Bean Chipotle Wrap under Jane's nose, she backed away, saying "it smells a bit like stale peppers." Things didn't get any better after that. The wrap was really gooey, and Jane thought it tasted "like a bandaid - basically flavourless except for a wierd plastically aftertaste." Although we smothered it in ketchup and salsa and ate it because we were hungry, it would never be satisfying as a full meal even if it was edible.

Amy's Veggie Loaf - with Corn and Mashed Potatoes 5.49

Calories 280
Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 690 mg
Carbs 47g
Fibre 7g
Sugars 6g
Protein 8g
Vitamin A 15%
Vitamin C 50%
Calcium 4%
Iron 20%

Amy's Veggie Loaf smells good and looks like what a frozen entrée should look like. I asked my partner Beauchamp to share the veggie loaf with me. As he's a meat-eater, I thought I'd get him to wager in. The first thing he found a little strange was the texture - thick and mushy and slightly grainy. I thought that the mashed potatoes were really good for a frozen entrée; he thought that they were "alright." I thought that it could stand in as a full meal, but Beauchamp said he'd need to eat 2 of them to feel satisfied. We both said we'd buy it again, but agreed we could make something similar and a lot better at home.

Guitless Gourmet Mediterranean Spinach Wrap 1.79

Calories 270
Fat 5 g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 270 mg
Carbs 45g
Fibre 4g
Sugars 4g
Protein 10g
Vitamin A 70%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 15%
Iron 10%

The Guiltless Gourmet wraps are probably the least unhealthy option, with lower fat, lower sodium, and lower cholesterol than the other meals. Beauchamp and I discovered why: they are painfully bland with very little filling. I thought that it smelled tomatoey coming out of the microwave and Beauchamp disagreed. Halfway into the wrap, we found one lone tomato, and I felt like the contemporary equivalent of the Princess and the Pea. Neither of us would buy it again - although it was almost edible when I used it to sop up the extra veggie gravy left over from Amy's Veggie Loaf.

Amy's Vegetable Lasagna, Made with Organic Pasta and Vegetables $5.69

Calories 310
Fat 12 g
Saturated Fat 4.5 g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 20mg
Sodium 680 mg
Carbs 35g
Fibre 5g
Sugars 5g
Protein 16g
Vitamin A 40%
Vitamin C 15%
Calcium 25%
Iron 15%

Amy's Vegetable Lasagna smells absolutely delicious as it's spinning around behind the little glass door in your microwave. A mixture of cheese, tomato sauce, pasta, and spinach, it has a hearty and satisfying texture. Lasagna might be one of the easiest meals to transform into a frozen entrée, but that doesn't mean Amy's loses any points. The spinach ricotta mix is right on, and the entrée could definitely serve as a full meal.

Ian's Pizza - Kid's Meal with corn, strawberry applesauce and a chocolate brownie 3.99

Calories 340
Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 2.5 g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 25mg
Sodium 290 mg
Carbs 60g
Fibre 4g
Sugars 23g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 4%
Iron 10%

Ian's Pizza offers a good variety of foods, that thankfully all taste like food. Except maybe the strawberry applesauce, which tasted kind of chemically. I have to admit, I bought this one for the promise of a brownie - and it delivered. The pizza was good, and the corn was passable. It was surprisingly filling for a kids meal. Also, not surprisingly, packed with sugar....

The Verdict?

The winner is Amy's Vegetable Lasagna!!! Unfortunately the most expensive item on the list, the lasagna was the clear winner in all other categories.
The losing spot is not at all a difficult decision. It's shared between Guiltless Gluey Wraps 1 and 2. (Also, unfortunately, the least expensive items on the list).

All three of us - Jane, Beauchamp, and myself - thought we'd be way better off crafting our own meals. I had to force myself to eat this carby, heavy food all week, and I'm now craving kale and green apples. And I'm the type of person who will happily eat cold pizza or leftover truffle cake for breakfast.

Do you have a favourite frozen vegetarian entrée?

Share yours in the comment section below.

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