YONKERS, N.Y. — Microwavable meals under such brands as Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers taste better than similar products five years ago, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports Health.

According to the findings published in the February issue of Consumer Reports, 14 out of 24 microwavable meals received a “very good” rating for taste from the magazine’s testers, a marked improvement from when prepared meals were last tested in 2004.

“The leading brands have really come a long way in terms of taste,” said Jamie Hirsh, associate editor of Consumer Reports Health. “And all but two of the meals we tested earned high marks for nutrition as well. The key thing to watch out for is sodium; we recommend that consumers try to avoid meals with more than 600 mg.”

The 24 microwavable meals were divided into one of four categories: chicken, beef, pasta/bean, and shrimp. According to Consumer Reports Health, the pasta/bean category offered the most products deemed “very good,” including Lean Cuisine One Dish Favorite Santa Fe-Style Rice & Beans, Kashi Black Bean Mango, Kashi Garden Vegetable Pasta, and Healthy Choice All Natural Entrees Portabella Spinach Parmesan.

“The Kashi brand is clearly one to watch,” Ms. Hirsh said. “It was the only brand that earned a ‘very good’ score for both nutrition and taste for all four of its meals that we tested, though they are a little pricier than most.”

Consumer Reports Health did note that many of the meals tested had so few calories that consumers may need to round out their meals with a few side dishes. On a typical 1,500-calorie-a-day-diet, Consumer Reports Health said consumers should consumer 400 to 500 calories for each meal to safely lose weight.
“Luckily, these meals readily lend themselves to augmentation with healthful, easy-to-prepare side dishes,” Ms. Hirsh said.