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Consumer Reports Test 26 Freezer Aisle Bowl Meals To Find The Best Combo Of Nutrition And Taste

Bowl meals, also known as “power bowls” and “grain bowls,” might just be the ultimate healthy comfort food, according to Consumer Reports.

The nonprofit consumer organization tested 26 freezer bowls and found that many delivered a winning combination of nutritional value and taste.

Bowl meals are deep dishes packed with a mixture of whole grains, vegetables, and protein often tossed with a flavor-packed sauce. Their ingredients tend to be ‘power’ or ‘super’ foods– those we all need more of in our diets. Power bowls have been growing in popularity.  Bowl meal offerings on restaurant menus increased by more than 30 percent over the last 7 years and have now made their way into the frozen food aisle.

“Frozen meals usually don’t get high marks for healthfulness or flavor. But in our tests of grain bowls, we found many exceptions,” said Amy Keating, R.D., a dietitian for Consumer Reports. “Healthfulness truly didn’t come at the expense of taste, and our team of professional tasters was actually surprised that some of the meals came from the freezer case.”

Of the 26 power bowls tested by CR, 15 received a high enough overall score–a combination of nutrition and taste ratings –to make its recommended list, and not one received lower than a “Good” overall score. Seven of the bowls got “Excellent” ratings for nutrition because they supplied at least a third of the daily value for fiber, contained less than 500 mg of sodium and had little if any, added sugars.

Top performers in CR’s frozen bowl meal ratings include Amy’s Light & Lean Quinoa & Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard, Luvo Planted Power Bowl Great Karma Coconut Curry, and Healthy Choice Simply Steamers Unwrapped Burrito Bowl. “Higher quality ingredients in the top-rated bowls gave them plenty of flavor,” said Keating.

Just because a company had one product at the top of the rating chart didn’t mean that all of the company’s products had similar scores. For example, Amy’s had products at the top, the middle, and the bottom of CR’s chart. Amy’s Bowls Harvest Casserole was rated midpack, and its Amy’s Bowls Teriyaki ranked 26th.

CR’s full ratings of frozen grain bowls can be found on CR.org and in the October issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

The calorie counts of most of the frozen bowls in CR’s tests were reasonably low for a meal, hovering in the 250-300 range. If that’s too light for some, CR recommends tossing the bowl on a bed of greens, like baby spinach or arugula, or top with some raw or steamed vegetables to bulk it up for just a few additional calories while still keeping it healthy.

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