Consumer Reports: Healthy steam-cooked meals

Nina Pineda has your Consumer Reports
December 31, 2013 3:13:50 PM PST
Want a healthy dinner in a snap? What about a microwavable, steam-cooked meal?

The packaging suggests they're better for you, and that the flavors are "unlocked by steam!" Some even cook in a separate steamer basket. But is it truly a cooking revolution or just a lot of hot air?

Consumer Reports put 10 steam-cooked meals to the test. From Kashi, Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and Marie Callender's.

Consumer Reports' expert Linda Greene evaluates each one.

"Cooking with steam can be healthy, but we found that these meals weren't very different from frozen meals that have been around for years," Greene said.

If you're watching your waist, read labels carefully. Of those tested, the Marie Callender's meals were highest in calories and fat. Roasted Garlic Chicken weighs in with 17 grams of fat per serving!

A lower-fat option is the garlic chicken from Lean Cuisine - which stood out for it's flavorful veggies and large white chicken pieces. Kashi's Sesame Chicken is also quite tasty and offers a nice mix of multigrains, veggies, and white meat.

But there's a caution with almost all the steamable meals.

"We found that the meals didn't cook very evenly. At times in the chicken dishes, the chicken was dry and in the pasta dishes, sometimes the pasta was hard," Greene said.

The tastiest stuffed pasta is Marie Callender's Three Cheese Tortellini. It has a soft filling and a decent tomato sauce. While steamed meals may not be innovative throw in a salad and some fruit and you've got a fast, tasty, and healthful dinner.