Can Frozen Food be Nutritious?
Are frozen foods healthy? This is a question that may have crossed your mind while scouring the freezer aisles for a bargain. Well, they can be. Frozen foods both cut costs and, if chosen wisely, help you achieve a healthier, more balanced diet.
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect against many chronic diseases. And yet, nearly 90% of Americans don’t consume the recommended daily amount. The rising costs of groceries due to inflation may be one reason. One solution: buy frozen, which is just as healthy and much cheaper than fresh.
When it comes to preparing and serving a quick meal, nothing beats the convenience of frozen foods. They fit nicely in your freezer, keep for a long time, and they’re easy to prepare. Stocking up on frozen foods can also be a great way to save money if you buy them when they’re on sale. You can also freeze fresh perishable foods to keep them longer, which is a great way to cut down on waste. Before fresh fruit and vegetables spoil, prep and freeze them, ready to toss in a stir-fry. There are probably lots of foods you didn’t know you could freeze, from avocados to pesto. Plus, most leftovers can be portioned into freezer meals and defrosted as needed. But, many still wonder whether frozen foods can be a part of a healthy diet.
The act of freezing doesn’t make food healthy or unhealthy but, it depends upon the nutritional content of the food that gets frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutrient-dense as their fresh counterparts, but frozen foods like pizzas, snacks, and entrees can be less nutrient-dense when compared to frozen fruits and vegetables. Freezing doesn’t affect the calorie count, the fiber content, or the mineral content of a food. The freezing process can make a difference with a few vitamins (such as folate and vitamin C), but most of a food’s nutritional value will be maintained after freezing.
When you buy frozen foods, prioritize based on what will be most satisfying while also being mindful of added sugar, sodium, or high-calorie sauces. This can be a little tricky when you get beyond a simple bag of veggies. Here are a few tips for selecting frozen foods that honor your taste and health values.
Choose plain vegetables (many of which can be steamed in the microwave in the bag), more often than products that also contain sauces or added flavors.
The same applies to frozen fruit. Be sure to choose fruits that are frozen without added sugar or syrup. Frozen fruit smoothie mixes are often made with added sugars, so keep this in mind when making an informed decision about what variety will meet your taste and health preferences.
Frozen meals and snacks can be richer in saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and calories, and lower in important vitamins and minerals. Go for entrees with at least 10 grams of protein and less than 600 milligrams of sodium per serving. In cases where you must opt for these items due to cost, time, or convenience, consider adding vegetables or another nutrient-dense food to your plate. Some frozen meals also sneak two servings into what looks like a single-serving meal. Be sure to check the serving sizes and then make sure it fits your nutritional needs.
Frozen meats, fish, seafood, and poultry will offer the most nutritional value when they’re made without any extra ingredients. If you’re looking for low-calorie options, avoid breaded chicken, fish sticks, corn dogs, and other battered or breaded frozen foods. Look for frozen chicken breasts, shrimp, and fish fillets that aren’t breaded.
Frozen whole foods support a healthy diet but should not replace fresh foods. Not all foods required for a balanced diet can be frozen, therefore you cannot get all the nutrients you need from frozen food alone.
Oatmeal Monday is held on the second Monday of February every year. Join us in learning about the history of oatmeal and about recipes you can try at home!
Krupa is our onsite registered dietitian and she is available to help Gatorcare members achieve a healthier lifestyle! It’s not about dieting or counting calories but rather building a healthier relationship with food.