Have you ever wandered down the frozen food aisle at the grocery store and wondered if you should get fresh food instead? I’m here to share a few main tips about how to choose frozen food. Because surprisingly, frozen food can be just as healthy as fresh.
How Can Frozen Food Be as Healthy as Fresh?
It’s time to dispel the myth that frozen food can’t be as healthy or nutritious as fresh. Frozen produce is picked and frozen at the peak of the season and is frozen directly after. The process of freezing stops all enzymatic reactions, so the nutrients stay intact.
Convenience of Frozen Foods
Frozen foods are easy, require no washing, no peeling, no cutting, and no waste! Plus, frozen foods have a much longer shelf life, and can be a simple meal option for a weeknight where you have nothing left in the fridge to make. You will also find that many frozen fruits and vegetables are better priced than fresh depending on the season.
Key Things to Look for With Frozen Foods
One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that not all frozen foods are created equal. As with any healthy approach to your food choices, I recommend taking a look at the ingredients.
The frozen foods to look for are the ones that only have the actual food as the main ingredient, or that have minimal other ingredients.
- For example, some frozen fruit can have added sugar, so you’d want to take a look at the ingredients to make sure you don’t see “sugar” or something similar listed.
- Some non-produce frozen foods can contain high levels of sodium. Ideally, choose an item without salt listed in the ingredients. If you’re choosing a frozen protein like chicken or premade fries, there may be some sodium – just keep an eye on this and aim for <10% of the DV of sodium per serving.
Frozen vs Fresh Vegetables
The main difference you’ll find between these two are whether they are pre-cooked and/or already chopped and ready to serve. As mentioned above, you also want to make sure that the vegetables don’t have a lot of added sodium or preservative-like ingredients.
Are Frozen Vegetables Healthy?
In terms of nutrient quality, the vegetables are just as nutritious frozen as they are fresh! They can also help with your health goals because sometimes cutting and preparing vegetables can just require that extra effort you don’t have the energy for that day.
In these moments, rely on a frozen veggie mix or precooked frozen broccoli and you’ll save yourself time while still getting something you feel good about on your plate.
Is Frozen Fruit Healthy?
Just like with frozen vegetables, buying frozen fruit may just end up saving you a bit of time when it comes to preparation. Plus, the frozen fruit is already at peak ripeness, so you can purchase it and use it right away, versus purchasing some fresh fruit and having to wait for it to ripen. The nutrients are the same in the frozen fruit as they are fresh!
Frozen Fruit Nutrition Facts
If you choose frozen fruit without any added ingredients, the nutrition facts should be the exact same per serving as fresh. However, as mentioned, some food companies add sugar to fresh fruit. Fruit is already nature’s candy – why add more sugar?
There are two places to double check this – the ingredients list and the nutrition facts label. On the label, look for the added sugars row. This should be 0g. Fruit has naturally occurring sugar, so the “sugar” column will have a number of grams listed.
Example of How to Maximize Frozen Foods
I gathered three frozen food items to show you how easy and nutritious frozen foods can be. The items I bought were:
- Frozen chicken strips
- Frozen vegetables
- Frozen sweet potato fries
I took only enough to make my lunch on one plate, and heated it up on the plate. The rest is back in the freezer. This is great for single people or to cook for one!
Final Thoughts for Frozen vs. Fresh Produce and Other Foods
So, should you choose frozen, fresh, or both? I recommend including both in your meals! Sometimes there’s nothing like biting into a fresh apple from the Farmer’s market. But don’t be afraid to stock up on some veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and simple sides that can make mealtime much less stressful.
Read more of my savvy grocery shopping tips.