Having some low-calorie ready meals on standby is essential for those actively trying to lose weight, as well as for those aiming to maintain their weight while leading a busy life. Whether you're looking for options you can microwave from frozen or fresh, prepared dishes to stop you reaching for calorific foods at the end of a hectic day, ready-made meals can be a cheap and healthy choice.
However, diet ready meals are not all created equal, so we've put this buying guide together to help you find the best-testing offerings out there. We've paired it with a list of our favourite products including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and those that are high in protein, available across Amazon, eBay, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose. It's time to make losing weight that little bit tastier!
mybest UK specialist Tara is a nutritionist and energy coach who helps clients lose weight, improve their eating habits, and get their energy back through their nutrition. Tara specialises in helping busy parents specifically improve their eating with ease and without overwhelm, and get back on track so the whole family can benefit.
A recommendation service that carefully researches each product and consults with experts across many disciplines. We are constantly creating new content to provide the best shopping experience from choosing ‘cosmetics’ to ‘food and drink’, ‘home appliances’ to ‘kids and baby’ products, reaching users all across the United Kingdom.
Buying guides reviewed by featured experts.
Products or services listed have been independently ranked by the mybest Editorial Team based on the points mentioned in our thoroughly researched buying guide as of 16-01-2023. Experts featured in this article did not participate in the selection and ranking process.
Tara is a nutritionist and energy coach who helps clients lose weight, improve their eating habits, and get their energy back through their nutrition. Tara specialises in assisting busy parents in improving their eating with ease and without overwhelm or to get them back on track so the whole family can benefit.
Recently decided to lose a few pounds or just maintaining a trim figure? We're here to guide you through the crucial aspects of finding the best low-calorie ready meals that aren't only great for your waistline but are tasty too.
It's still important to choose a ready meal that gets your mouth watering when you're on a diet, so let's start off by considering the various types of cuisine available. In this section, we will also think about ingredients and specific dietary requirements to ensure your low-cal meal is satisfying, healthy and well-suited to your lifestyle.
Are you a fan of Indian cuisine, a lover of Thai food or do you have a penchant for Italian dishes? When it comes to choosing low-calorie ready meals, you'll want to go for the types of cuisine that get your tummy rumbling to make sure you feel fully satisfied (which in turn might help to keep the pounds off).
Whether you love classic meals like cottage pie or lasagne or you're more into newer dishes like Piri-Piri chicken or falafel, the low-cal section has something for everyone. Look for ready meals containing lots of different vegetables to ensure you get essential vitamins and minerals, as well as dishes made with aromatic herbs and spices for a more home-cooked taste.
There is such a wide variety of ready meals available these days; however, not all of them are created equal! When selecting the right meal for yourself and your family, you must look at the label and find options with lots of authentic ingredients and plenty of vegetables.
Be sure to look at the salt intake as well, as many ready meals are high in salt. You should be aiming to keep your salt intake to 6g or less per day.
Nowadays supermarkets and other online shops are packed with ready meal products that take specific dietary requirements into account, so you don't need to miss out. Whether you're a vegetarian, vegan or follow a gluten-free diet either for health or lifestyle reasons, you're sure to find something (or more likely several things) to suit your needs.
If you're a lover of Italian food but you're also avoiding gluten, look out for gluten-free versions of spaghetti, lasagne or linguine dishes. Likewise, if you're vegan or cutting down on meat and fish, look out for plant-based dishes that excite you – whether that's curry, cottage pie or something totally different.
There certainly is a ready-made meal that will suit everyone, regardless of allergen or dietary preferences. Eating a plant-based diet has many advantages, like helping lower your blood pressure, preventing type 2 diabetes, decreasing your risk of cancer, and even assisting in weight loss.
All ready meals now include a breakdown of the nutritional information on the packaging, which can be invaluable when counting calories. It also ensures that your meal is balanced with enough protein without containing too much saturated fat, salt, or sugar.
It's important to follow the recommended guidelines for adults for optimum health and disease prevention, and of course, to keep that body trim! Per serving, it's advised that we consume 7 grams or less of saturated fat and 1.5 grams or less of salt. The daily recommendation for sugar intake is 30 grams, which can be divided between each of your meals.
When it comes to calories, guidelines advise consuming up to 700 per serving (as an evening meal), which is based on the recommended 2000-2500 daily intake. However, this will probably be less if you have set a weight loss goal, and also depends on how you choose to distribute your calories throughout the day.
If one of your health goals is to lose weight, calorie counting may be necessary. Ready meals are an excellent option for calorie counting because you can be reassured that you consume the exact number of calories and macronutrients as displayed on the label.
You don’t need to worry about your portion control. Using apps and trackers like My Fitness Pal makes calorie counting and tracking your macros easy, and you can even scan the barcode of your ready meals to enter the info quickly.
Ready meals are popular because of their convenience, so most of us will be looking for a product that provides everything needed for dinner in one pack or serving. This can be particularly useful on a calorie-controlled diet as it ensures your meal is around 300 calories, something that can be a little more unpredictable when cooking from scratch.
However, some ready meals provide two servings which can be ideal if you are eating with a partner, and this can help you both stay on track if you're losing weight together. Ready meals can vary in size, so for the ones that are particularly small or low in calories, you'll probably want to serve a healthy side dish alongside it.
Portion control and being mindful of the serving sizes are extremely important when you aim for weight loss or maintain your current weight. In my experience with clients, many of us overeat during our meals without even realising it.
And so when it comes to ready meals, always look at the packaging and see if it indicates that it serves 1 or 2. If it’s 2, be mindful that the whole thing should not be consumed by yourself in one sitting.
Ready meals have been synonymous with the microwave since their invention, but these days they come in a variety of possible heating methods. Always check the cooking instructions on the packaging as some meals are best when oven cooked, whereas others are better in the microwave or heated on the hob.
Be sure to follow the recommended times given for cooking the ready meal, taking into consideration any resting time needed. This will prevent a possible safety hazard if the food becomes too hot and will also ensure your meal tastes its best!
If you have the time, I recommend cooking the ready meals in the oven over the microwave. The meals will undoubtedly taste better in the oven, and the fresh ingredients will remain just as fresh.
Of course, the allure of ready meals is certainly their convenience, so it is still fine to cook them in a microwave. It’s more important that you select a ready meal that is nutritious and made with natural ingredients than it is to worry about the cooking method!
Click to purchase
Keralan Chicken Biryani
Made With Nutrient-Rich and Natural Ingredients
Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagne
A Tasty Veggie Take On the Classic Dish
Beautifully Balanced Lightly Spiced Falafel
High in Protein and Packed Full of Veggies
Ready to Cook Spanish Style Chicken Meatballs
A Healthy and Delicious Meal Option for Two
Vegan Ready Meals
Quick, Convenient and Packed With Plant Power
Calorie Counted Piri Piri Chicken
Cheap and Satisfying With Less Than 3% Saturated Fat
Weight Watchers From Heinz
Pair With Some Veg for a Hearty Dinner
Good & Balanced Meals Bundle
Stock up With a Bundle of Colourful, Balanced Dishes
In at our number one spot, we have the Keralan Chicken Biryani from Waitrose's LoveLife range. Created with the help of chefs and nutritionists, all ready meals in the LoveLife range are calorie-controlled and include lots of vegetables – so you're free to kick back and focus on enjoying your dinner!
This delicious biryani features succulent pieces of chargrilled, marinated chicken breast with spinach, chickpeas and carrot in a spiced coconut sauce served with basmati rice. Packed with natural ingredients, herbs and spices it's so yummy that it almost tastes homemade.
You may have noticed that low-calorie ready meals often include chicken, but if you're a veggie, fear not – there are lots of other delicious diet options. Weight Watchers Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagne brings lots of colour and flavour to dinnertime and is low in calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt.
Coming in at only 256 calories per pack, it can be paired with a healthy side dish for a satisfying meal. It's made with lots of aromatic herbs and indulgent ingredients like cheddar cheese and single cream too, proving you don't need to compromise on taste while you watch your weight!
High in micronutrients and a good source of fibre and protein, falafel is a great choice for dieters and Tesco's Beautifully Balanced Spiced Falafel is sure to have you feeling full and satisfied. Not only that, but this meal also provides two of your five-a-day.
Cauliflower, butternut squash and red pepper are mixed with chickpea and broad bean falafels, bulgar wheat, baby spinach and red quinoa in a spiced tomato sauce for a really tasty and healthy option. It's also an easy way to get the perfect amount of calories for one person without the need to prepare sides. Top-notch!
Part of a couple and watching your weight together? This Ready to Cook Spanish Style Chicken Meatballs meal by ASDA makes a good meal for two, which can be served with rice, corn on the cob, a potato dish or whatever you fancy.
Some low-cal meals can be a bit on the boring side but the addition of butter beans, red Leicester cheese and various herbs and spices create a deliciously indulgent dinner. However, the calorie content of one serving is pretty low, so it probably won't be enough without pairing with a side – making it slightly more effort to prepare.
Enjoy eating nourishing vegan food? Like to keep your kitchen stocked up? Well, look no further than this multipack of shelf-stable ready meals by Fiid, perfect for those short on time but who'd rather not compromise on quality and healthiness.
Each pouch contains a rich Indian chana masala that can be easily heated up in the microwave or on the hob and is vegan, gluten-free and high in fibre and protein. We love that these meals are naturally low-calorie, making them ideal for not just calorie counters but even big families with a busy lifestyle.
A well-loved dish that's now considered a new classic, Piri-Piri chicken has its origins in both Africa and Portugal and here in the UK, we can't get enough of its spicy, zesty flavours. ASDA's Calorie Counted Piri-Piri Chicken proves that you can find some excitement in your ready meal choices, without the added calories or high cost.
Granted, the packaging isn't exactly inspiring and neither are the words "Calorie Counted", but this meal's credentials definitely surprised us. Packed with aromatic spices, it's tasty, piquant, and makes a satisfying dinner without the feeling of deprivation. All with less than 3% fat, too.
If you're a fan of familiar, hearty British cuisine, you might like this Cottage Pie by Weight Watchers from Heinz. Made from potato, sweet potato and carrot mash with minced beef in a savoury gravy, it's WW's take on comfort food in a convenient and low-calorie package.
For those who just want a quick meal without any faff, this is a good freezer option, but for foodies, it will probably feel a little on the basic side. There's definitely more mash than meat and it does feel like a "diet" dinner, but paired with a healthy side, it does the job.
If you're committed to that low-cal lifestyle but you're also a busy bee, why not opt for a pack of four ready meals? ASDA's Good & Balanced selection has you covered for most of your weekday meals so you can relax.
Featuring Thai red chicken curry, shredded hoisin duck and noodles, spinach and prawn linguine and chicken pesto penne, this bundle brings plenty of variation and colour. On the downside, some of the meals in this pack only have average reviews individually and the options do not cater to veggies, vegans or those on a gluten-free diet.
If you're trying to stay trim, you might be looking for ways to bring interest and excitement into your diet whilst keeping things sensible. Our related articles on vegan ready meals, low-cal and healthy snacks are full of inspiring tips and recommendations.
So there you have it, our definitive guide on the best low-calorie ready meals out there. Hopefully, this article has shown you that low-cal doesn't have to mean low-taste and in fact, there are lots of options out there that are low in saturated fat and calories but also bursting with flavour!
Author: Melanie McPhail
When you purchase products mentioned in the article, part of the sales may be returned to mybest.
The descriptions of each product is referenced from the content available from the manufacturer, e-commerce sites etc.
PC and cameras
Home appliances and electronics
Cosmetics and skincare
Food and drinks
Kids and baby
Interior and furniture
DIY and tools
Sports and fitness
Books, CDs, DVDs
Cars and motorcycles
Housing equipment and renovation
Smartphones and mobile phones