A butter chicken ready meal

Ready meals

Butter chicken, green chicken curry, risotto, or for the traditionalists – mac cheese or shepherd’s pie. Whatever your culinary preference, just pick up a ready-to-eat meal from the supermarket and dinner’s good to go. But you might not want to make a habit of it.

We assessed 86 meals from supermarket chillers and aisle shelves. Some meals provided more than an adult’s maximum recommended sodium intake for the day. And 2 provided two-thirds of an adult’s recommended energy intake – that’s the equivalent of eating 2 meals in one hit.

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Tulsi Butter Chicken & Rice with small naan bread (450g) is the worst offender in our survey. It clocks in at 6420 kilojoules, more than two-thirds the kilojoules an average adult should eat in an entire day. It also has the highest sodium content (nearly 1.5 times the adult recommended daily upper limit of 2300mg), 12 teaspoons of sugar and more than 50g of saturated fat.

Wishbone’s Butter Chicken is a better option. A serve is the same size, but has less kilojoules, sugar and sodium, though contains 13.5g of saturated fat.

For about half the price, you can get a SunRice Butter Chicken Curry or Select Butter Chicken Meal for One. Although these have lower levels of saturated fat per 100g, their smaller serving size means some people will find them more a snack than a meal.

Nutritionally, Thai curries in our survey are similar. All had moderate levels of saturated fat and sodium, and low sugar per 100g. However, it pays to check serving size information. Sodium content ranged from 668 to 1190mg per serve and energy from 823 to 2370 kilojoules.

Mexican meals can be a healthier choice. Naked Kitchen Mexican Black Bean Chilli, Pitango Mexican Bean & Pulled Pork Chilli Meal for 1, Tasty Pot Mexican Pulled Pork and SunRice Street Snack Chilli Con Carne & Rice are all low in saturated fat and sugar, and contain moderate amounts of sodium – plus they have a substantial proportion of vegetables and beans.

If a taste of Italy is on the menu, your best option is vegetarian. Café Style Vegetable Lasagne is one of the lowest sodium meals in our survey. Wishbone’s Seven Vege Lasagne is low in saturated fat and sugar per 100g. However, its large 570g size means if you eat the whole meal you’ll be chowing down about half your daily sodium quota.

Creamy pastas with bacon and cheese are high in kilojoules, saturated fat and sodium. For example, Rosa Real Good Food Bacon & Parmesan Pennette has nearly 3000 kilojoules and 1630mg of sodium.

If you’re watching your waistline steer clear of Soho Brown Shepherd’s Pie. Per 100g it has double the kilojoules of Rosie’s Kitchen and Rosa Real Good Food cottage pies. If you eat the entire 440g serving, you’ll be getting more than half an adult’s energy intake for the day.

We also found a huge variation in the size of meals, ranging from 200g to 570g. Although bigger might be better when it comes to taming your appetite, some super-sized meals mean an unhealthy serving of saturated fat, sodium, sugar and kilojoules. Our table shows nutrition information per serve and per 100g. The 100g figures give a gram-for-gram comparison, while the per serve data show what you’ll be eating.

Most of the meals we looked at were light on veges. To boost your vege intake, you’ll want to add a salad to go with the pasta or risottos, or some steamed veges with the curries.

We’ve used green and red symbols to show the products highest and lowest in saturated fat, sugar and sodium.

Our criteria are:

Saturated fat (g/100g):
Green≤1.5 Red >5

Sugar (g/100g):
Green ≤5

Sodium(mg/100g):
Green ≤120 Red >600

Thai curries

MEALS[width=20%]Location[width=10%]Serving size
(g)[width=5%]
Price
($/ serving)[width=5%]
Health star rating (/5)[width=5%]Energy (kJ/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Energy (kJ/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sugar (g/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (tsps/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sodium (mg/ serve)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]
Naked Kitchen Fragrant Thai Red CurryChiller2503.003.582332910.74.37.22.92.911.22.8Green 4.54.5820328328
Tasty Pot Co. Meal Thai Red CurryChiller3506.493137539315.54.412.03.43.45.41.4Green 1.61.6744213213
Tasty Pot Co. Thai Green CurryChiller3506.493147042016.24.612.73.63.611.62.9Green 3.33.3740212212
SunRice Green Chicken Curry with Rice Thai StyleShelf3506.493.5182052111.93.47.42.12.19.62.4Green 2.72.71160331331
The Kaweka Food Co A Smashing Thai Chicken with Fluffy White RiceShelf3505.693.5185052714.34.110.73.13.110.72.7Green 3.13.1668191191
Wishbone Thai Chicken CurryChiller44013.003.5237053921.85.09.62.22.24.01.0Green 0.90.9887202202
Select Chicken Thai Green Curry Meal for OneShelf3505.003197056312.23.59.12.62.612.63.2Green 3.63.61040297297
SunRice Massamun Chicken Curry with Rice Thai StyleShelf3506.493.5200057215.14.310.53.03.010.22.6Green 2.92.91190340340
SunRice Red Chicken Curry with Rice Thai StyleShelf3506.493.5207059218.45.38.82.52.59.82.5Green 2.82.81140326326
SunRice Chicken Satay Curry with Rice Thai StyleShelf3506.493.5218062417.24.99.22.62.613.03.3Green 3.73.7676193193

Thai dishes

MEALS[width=20%]Location[width=10%]Serving size
(g)[width=5%]
Price
($/ serving)[width=5%]
Health star rating (/5)[width=5%]Energy (kJ/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Energy (kJ/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sugar (g/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (tsps/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sodium (mg/ serve)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]
Tasty Pot Co. Thai Chicken NoodleChiller3506.49nc143140917.34.913.43.83.86.41.6Green 1.81.8854244244
SunRice Street Snack Chicken with a Kick & NoodlesShelf2003.99312406196.03.01.4Green 0.70.76.81.7Green 3.43.41240Red 620620
SunRice Street Snack Chicken Satay & RiceShelf2003.99412606327.43.72.0Green 1.01.010.82.75.45.4340170170
SunRice Street Snack Chicken Pad Thai & Rice NoodlesShelf2003.993145072210.75.32.8Green 1.41.48.32.1Green 4.14.1780390390
Select Chicken Satay Meal for OneShelf3505.003287081928.48.113.03.73.718.94.75.45.41290369369
Select Chicken Pad Thai Meal for OneShelf3505.003.5310088527.07.75.2Green 1.51.516.14.0Green 4.64.61100313313

Indian curries

MEALS[width=20%]Location[width=10%]Serving size
(g)[width=5%]
Price
($/ serving)[width=5%]
Health star rating (/5)[width=5%]Energy (kJ/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Energy (kJ/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sugar (g/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (tsps/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sodium (mg/ serve)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]
Naked Kitchen Indian Spiced Cauliflower KedgereeChiller2503.003.55382155.02.00.7Green 0.30.33.20.8Green 1.31.3687275275
Pitango Coconut Vege & Split Pea Curry Meal for 1Chiller3506.493.513203789.52.77.02.02.05.61.4Green 1.61.6739211211
Tulsi Vegetable Curry & RiceChiller45011.95nc182040315.53.42.4Green 0.50.59.22.3Green 2.12.12150478478
Tasty Pot Co. Chicken Tikka MasalaChiller3506.493.5144141212.93.76.92.02.011.02.8Green 3.23.2669191191
Tasty Pot Co. Chicken KormaChiller3506.493.5152343515.34.46.21.81.810.92.7Green 3.13.1910260260
Pitango Free Range Butter Chicken & Brown Rice Meal for 1Chiller3506.493.5167047718.25.210.22.92.916.84.2Green 4.84.8721206206
SunRice Butter Chicken Curry with Rice Indian StyleShelf3506.493.5180051510.63.05.3Green 1.51.59.12.3Green 2.62.61220348348
Wishbone West Indian CurryChiller40015.503.5220055034.28.517.54.44.412.83.2Green 3.23.2730183183
Pams Fresh Express Vegetable Curry (with rice)Chiller52010.99nc287055213.92.72.4Green 0.50.514.23.6Green 2.72.72490480480
Pams Fresh Express Lamb Sagwala (with rice)Chiller52010.99nc304058416.43.24.6Green 0.90.97.01.8Green 1.31.31790345345
Wishbone Butter ChickenChiller45013.003.5275061030.26.713.53.03.07.82.0Green 1.71.7828184184
Select Butter Chicken Meal for OneShelf3505.003.5223063821.76.28.82.52.53.81.0Green 1.11.1878251251
Pams Fresh Express Beef Korma (with rice)Chiller52010.99nc334064223.94.66.4Green 1.21.27.01.8Green 1.31.31920369369
The Kaweka Food Co The Perfect Butter Chicken with Fluffy White RiceShelf3505.693.5229065324.77.115.14.34.314.03.5Green 4.04.0587168168
Pams Fresh Express Chicken Tikka Masala (with rice)Chiller52010.99nc349067123.94.66.4Green 1.21.210.72.7Green 2.12.11340258258
Pams Fresh Express Butter Chicken (with rice)Chiller52010.99nc380073125.44.913.12.52.527.06.85.25.21270244244
Tulsi Lamb Vindaloo & RiceChiller45011.95nc360080045.510.110.22.32.37.51.9Green 1.71.72340520520
Tulsi Lamb Rogan Josh & RiceChiller45011.95nc405090056.912.612.22.72.78.02.0Green 1.81.81840410410
Tulsi Tikka Masala & RiceChiller45011.95nc2960119046.018.516.6Red 6.66.611.83.0Green 4.74.71650Red 661661
Tulsi Chicken Korma & RiceChiller45011.95nc61001360104.023.242.4Red 9.49.413.23.3Green 2.92.92370527527
Tulsi Butter Chicken & RiceChiller45011.95nc6420143098.121.852.4Red 11.711.748.012.010.710.73250Red 722722

Mexican

MEALS[width=20%]Location[width=10%]Serving size
(g)[width=5%]
Price
($/ serving)[width=5%]
Health star rating (/5)[width=5%]Energy (kJ/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Energy (kJ/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sugar (g/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (tsps/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sodium (mg/ serve)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]
Naked Kitchen Mexican Black Bean ChilliChiller2503.004.58253306.82.70.8Green 0.30.38.82.2Green 3.53.5813325325
Pitango Mexican Bean & Pulled Pork Chilli Meal for 1Chiller3506.49415804509.82.81.8Green 0.50.59.82.5Green 2.82.8861246246
Tasty Pot Co. Mexican Pulled PorkChiller3506.49415774517.12.01.8Green 0.50.513.73.4Green 3.93.91005287287
SunRice Street Snack Chilli Con Carne & RiceShelf2003.993.59844927.43.72.0Green 1.01.03.30.8Green 1.71.7669335335

Other cuisines

MEALS[width=20%]Location[width=10%]Serving size
(g)[width=5%]
Price
($/ serving)[width=5%]
Health star rating (/5)[width=5%]Energy (kJ/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Energy (kJ/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (tsps/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sodium (mg/ serve)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]
Naked Kitchen California Wellness BowlChiller2503.0045452183.61.40.5Green 0.26.11.5Green 2.52.5716286286
Naked Kitchen New Orleans JambalayaChiller2503.0046502604.01.61.3Green 0.55.31.3Green 2.12.1675270270
Naked Kitchen Malaysian LaksaChiller2503.003.582132812.34.96.32.56.31.6Green 2.52.5671270270
Tasty Pot Co. Malaysian Veg LaksaChiller3506.49nc124935715.24.312.43.59.72.4Green 2.82.8661189189
SunRice Street Snack Teriyaki Chicken & RiceShelf2003.993.510305174.02.01.2Green1.012.23.056.16.1820410410
Wishbone Chicken Chorizo PaellaChiller45012.003236052420.74.65.8Green1.38.82.2Green 2.02.01990443443
SunRice Sweet & Sour ChickenShelf3506.493.519705644.91.41.0Green<128.37.18.18.11330380380
Rosa Real Good Food Seared Lemongrass Beef & GingerChiller40010.95nc237659412.93.23.4Green0.914.93.7Green 3.73.71307327327
Wishbone Caribbean ChickenChiller37015.93.5222060127.07.313.43.627.06.87.37.3599162162
SunRice Teriyaki Chicken with VegetablesShelf3506.493.520706897.22.11.6Green1.017.24.3Green 4.94.91740497497
Kopi Mee Goreng Chiller45013.99nc319571023.45.25.9Green1.318.94.7Green 4.24.267.5Green 1515
Kopi Murtabak Chicken Chiller33014.49nc3597109032.79.96.31.914.53.6Green 4.44.41600485485

Mince dishes

MEALS[width=20%]Location[width=10%]Serving size
(g)[width=5%]
Price
($/ serving)[width=5%]
Health star rating (/5)[width=5%]Energy (kJ/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Energy (kJ/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sugar (g/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (tsps/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sodium (mg/ serve)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]
Wishbone Tasty Beef LasagneChiller54014.003.5137025315.12.88.61.61.615.13.8Green 2.82.81080200200
Rosa Real Good Food Cottage PieChiller3506.99nc166047516.54.79.82.82.82.80.7Green 0.80.81025290290
Rosie's Kitchen Cottage PieChiller3506.00nc166047516.54.79.82.82.82.80.7Green 0.80.81025290290
Rosa Real Good Food Italian Beef LasagneChiller2506.60nc118747510.34.16.02.42.48.32.1Green 3.33.3488195195
SunRice Street Snack Spaghetti BologneseShelf2003.993.59504752.61.31.0Green 1.01.06.21.6Green 3.13.1620310310
Soho Brown Lean Brown MeatballsChiller4009.993.5207051614.03.56.0Green 1.51.59.22.3Green 2.32.31050263263
Rosie's Kitchen Italian LasagneChiller3506.00nc221063024.97.115.04.34.34.91.2Green 1.41.4685195195
Soho Brown Shepherds PieChiller44011.493.5459097432.36.914.53.13.16.71.7Green 1.41.41110236236

Pastas and risottos

MEALS[width=20%]Location[width=10%]Serving size
(g)[width=5%]
Price
($/ serving)[width=5%]
Health star rating (/5)[width=5%]Energy (kJ/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Energy (kJ/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ serve)[sort;asc][width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sat fat (g/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sugar (g/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (tsps/ serve)[width=5%]Sugar (g/ 100g)[width=5%]Sugar (g/100g)[sort;asc;hidden]Sodium (mg/ serve)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[width=5%]Sodium (mg/ 100g)[sort;asc;hidden]
Wishbone Seven Vege LasagneChiller57013.004147025913.92.58.3Green 1.51.522.75.7Green 4.041270222222
Wattie's Ready to serve Tortellini Creamy Pumpkin & Roasted Garlic Shelf3504.49nc11903408.12.34.2Green 1.21.26.01.5Green 1.71.7860245245
Wattie's Ready to serve Tortellini Italian-Style Tomato & BasilShelf3504.493.513803959.82.82.8Green 0.80.812.63.2Green 3.63.6865250250
Wishbone Tomato PenneChiller2906.903.512504329.73.44.4Green 1.51.54.31.1Green 1.51.5449155155
Wattie's Ready to serve Tortellini Sun-dried Tomato & BaconShelf3504.593.5156044510.22.93.5Green 1.01.017.24.3Green 4.94.9830240240
Wishbone Smoked Chicken PastaChiller2906.903138047511.43.95.11.81.83.60.9Green 1.21.21230426426
Wattie's Ready to serve Tortellini Creamy Mushroom & BaconShelf3504.49nc173049523.16.69.52.72.77.41.9Green 2.12.11100305305
Café Style Vegetable LasagneChiller3004.50nc149049710.63.56.22.02.010.92.7Green 3.63.6344Green 115115
Rosie's Kitchen Macaroni CheeseChiller3506.00nc198556518.65.33.9Green 1.11.111.93.0Green 3.43.4970277277
Rosa Real Good Food Macaroni CheeseChiller3506.99nc198556518.65.33.9Green 1.11.111.93.0Green 3.43.4970277277
Rosie's Kitchen Pumpkin & Feta LasagneChiller3506.00nc205058520.45.88.92.52.512.03.0Green 3.43.41100316316
Wishbone Macaroni CheeseChiller2906.903176060522.67.810.33.63.63.30.8Green 1.11.1901311311
Wishbone Salmon Dill FettucineChiller44014.003266060633.37.619.04.34.34.01.0Green 0.90.9767174174
Wisbone Carbonara FettucineChiller45011.903281062329.46.515.13.43.45.71.4Green 1.31.31330295295
Soho Brown Chicken Pesto PastaChiller38011.993.5282074237.19.812.03.23.21.80.5Green 0.50.5510134134
Rosa Real Good Food Bacon & Parmesan PennetteChiller3506.99nc286082040.711.622.9Red 6.66.66.01.5Green 1.71.71630465465
Rosa Real Good Food Mushroom TagliatelleChiller2136.00nc191790232.715.419.5Red 9.29.22.60.7Green 1.21.2732345345
Café Style Bacon MacaroniChiller3004.50nc3480116027.99.316.6Red 5.55.58.52.1Green 2.82.81160387387
Pitango Pumpkin Leek & Spinach RisottoChiller2502.8039153668.53.45.02.02.02.70.7Green 1.11.1750300300
Pitango Chicken & Garlic RisottoChiller2502.8049703885.02.03.0Green 1.01.01.00.3Green 0.40.4872349349
Pitango Tomato Feta & Basil RisottoChiller2502.953.59753905.02.02.5Green 1.01.07.51.9Green 3.03.0787315315
Wishbone Chicken RisottoChiller3106.70nc154049612.54.04.7Green 1.51.51.80.5Green 0.60.61260407407
Pitango Salmon Dill & Pumpkin RisottoChiller2502.95nc126550613.65.45.82.32.31.90.5Green 0.80.8743297297
Wishbone Tomato & Feta RisottoChiller3106.50315905139.43.03.9Green 1.31.36.91.7Green 2.22.21010327327
Wishbone Chicken Mushroom RisottoChiller3106.703.5173055913.74.45.21.71.72.30.6Green 0.70.71470476476

Note about the tables: We've listed the health star rating (HSR) where possible. Ratings range from half-a-star to five stars and are based on 100g of a product. HSRs can help you compare meals per 100g, but don’t take into consideration serving size, which is determined by the manufacturer. Where HSRs weren’t provided by the company, we calculated the rating. We weren’t able to do this for all products as the calculation requires the fibre content and the percentage of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds in a product. Manufacturers don’t have to state this information unless making a fibre claim or the ingredient is a characterising one. NC = not able to be calculated. Nutrition information is from company websites or label information.


By Belinda Castles
Research and Testing Writer