17 Worst Packaged Meals to Buy From the Supermarkets

Written By Jill Taylor

Packaged meals are generally unhealthy, but some pose more health risks than others due to problems such as using low-quality ingredients, adding preservatives and chemicals, and ultra-processing. Keep reading as we provide you with the 17 worst of them that you definitely shouldn’t buy at the supermarket.

Frozen Pizza

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Frozen pizza may be a quick dinner hack, but it’s one of the unhealthiest meal options around. It contains too much sodium and calories, typically contributing more than half of our daily intake requirements. The processed meat and low-quality cheese in frozen pizza further reduce its nutritional value.

Pre-Packaged Deli Meats

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, canned and pre-packaged deli meats are low in proteins while high in sodium, saturated fat, and nitrates—all of which are linked to an increased risk of cancer. Even Deli meats bought at counters still contain unhealthy amounts of these, so it’s best to make yours at home.

Instant Ramen Noodles

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Instant ramen contains minimal protein and fiber, making it a terrible meal option if you’re trying to have a balanced diet. One serving also contains an average of up to 88% of your daily sodium needs, and the fact that it’s also fried before packaging makes it bad for your blood pressure and heart.

Microwavable Meals

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To extend the shelf life of these meals that are meant to be cooked at home, manufacturers load them with preservatives. This means you’ll be consuming an unhealthy amount of chemicals. You’ll also not be eating fresh vegetables, so you won’t be getting enough essential minerals. The high amounts of sugar or salt typically added to them could also pose problems for your blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Canned Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Alongside the unhealthy preservatives added to them, canned spaghetti and meatballs also contain processed meat, which is high in saturated fats and nitrites. There’s also the risk of obesity and diabetes from the amount of sugar typically added to these canned meals, as you’ll be consuming almost half of what’s recommended for you in one serving.

Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches

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You should be wary of frozen sandwiches because they contain a high amount of fat. A breakdown of their nutritional value shows that they contain almost 30% fat due to the bacon and sausages. Their preservatives, artificial coloring, and low fiber content make frozen sandwiches even more unhealthy.

Potato Chips

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Potatoes are sliced thinly, deep-fried in oil, and then seasoned with salt and spices, giving you delicious chips to eat. But what you’re getting on the side is fat and sodium content that’s bad for your heart. The preservatives that are then added to packaged chips make their health risks even worse.

Microwave Popcorn

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If you want to eat microwave popcorn, it’s best to go light on or even entirely skip your addition of salt and butter. This is because, as Verywell Health states, “microwave popcorn can be extremely high in saturated fat and sodium, both of which increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

Frozen Chicken Nuggets

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Frozen chicken nuggets typically contain unhealthy amounts of sodium and oil. But this is just one part of it. They also include processed meat additionally made from a combination of bones, fat, and skin—fillers that give them low nutritional value. We haven’t even talked about the unhealthy amounts of preservatives in them yet.

Canned Chili

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Some canned chili brands put so many ingredients in them that they get to boast of giving you enough carbs, proteins, fibers, and vegetables to healthily supplement your daily needs. However, what they can’t save you from is consuming the high amounts of sodium and saturated fat common with these foods.

Frozen Burritos

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Usually made from refined grains, frozen burritos are known to be low in fiber. They typically have too many calories without the necessary nutritional balance, and just one serving can contain over 1,000 mg of sodium, constituting over 60% of our daily sodium needs.

Instant Macaroni and Cheese

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The dangers of mac and cheese go beyond being high in fat and sodium while having low protein and vitamin content. The New York Times shares how a study found that instant, boxed mac and cheese mixes had the highest concentration of phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that are said to pose particular risks to children and pregnant women.

Canned Soup

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One unit of canned soup can easily provide half of your daily sodium needs, as it contains over 700 mg of sodium on average. Considering that it also usually lacks fresh vegetables and lean meats, there’s no value in putting yourself at risk of high blood pressure. Preservatives and chemicals are also used to add flavor and are another thing to worry about.

Frozen Fish Sticks

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Once again, you have a pre-packaged meal that’s too high in sodium for you to be consuming every day. Just five pieces of frozen fish sticks can cover 30% of your recommended sodium intake, and the inclusion of unhealthy fats, excess calories, and fillers further makes it a low-nutritional food.

Packaged Snack Cakes

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With packaged snack cakes, you’ll have to be wary about the sugar in them. However, in addition to the risks of spiking your blood sugar to unsafe levels, you also deal with hydrogenated oils (trans fats) that pose a serious risk to your heart’s health.

Canned Corned Beef Hash

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Corned beef hash has one of the lowest EWG ratings you’ll see. Not only does it contain high levels of fat, sodium, nitrites, and sugar, but we also learn that it usually contains antibiotics and the toxic chemical BPA. This is a chemical that has been linked to increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Frozen Lasagna

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Frozen lasagnas can contain up to 500 calories per serving, as well as high amounts of sodium and preservative chemicals that are bad for your health. Containing trans fats as well, you’ll need to supplement frozen lasagna with no-sauce vegetables to balance out their nutritional content.

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