Your guide to picking frozen food

03-27-12 Heart of a frozen mixed vegetables

As a swinging, single lady living on her own, I have an extremely tight budget.  I like eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle and sometimes that can make for a high grocery bill, but a tight budget doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.  One way that I save money is buying tons of frozen fruits and veggies.  Frozen vegetables and fruits can actually be more nutritious than fresh, since they’re packaged immediately after harvesting and the nutrients stay at their peak.  Here’s what to look for when buying frozen produce.

When buying frozen vegetables, it’s important to look for plain, 100 percent vegetables (they should be the only things on the ingredient list). There’s no nutritional difference among the boxed, bagged, or steam-in-bag plain varieties, so go with whatever you like. Definitely make sure the vegetables haven’t frozen into a lump as this is a sign that they have been thawed and refrozen.  You want to avoid anything mixed with cheese, topped with sauce, or accompanied by pasta or rice. A cup of plain frozen broccoli, for example, has 30 calories, no fat and 20 milligrams of sodium. Package that same vegetable in a cheese sauce and the calories more than double. My favorite quick meal is to just toss a handful of frozen veggies into a pot of pasta when it’s almost done cooking, drain and toss with marinara sauce.  Such an easy weeknight meal!

When buying frozen fruit, just like with the veggies, 100 percent fruit is the best option. The bags will stay good for about two months after they’ve been opened. Look for resealable bags to help prevent ice crystals, which can signal the fruit has become dehydrated and possibly lost some of its flavor or nutrients.  You want to avoid fruits packaged with sugar. For example, frozen strawberries in syrup can contain up to 11 times as much sugar as natural, unsweetened ones.  Also pass up products with high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.  Throwing frozen berries or mango chunks into a smoothie is a quick way to get an antioxidant boost. Or you can just eat them straight from the freezer like I do!

Vegetables and fruits typically last for about eight months unopened in the freezer.  That’s a lot longer than the produce sitting in your fruit bowl or in the crisper. Frozen fruits and vegetables are definitely a mainstay in this single gals lifestyle!

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Melissa Howard
By: Melissa Howard

Melissa Howard is an aspiring health writer living and working in Boston, MA. Her approach to fitness is to focus on being healthy, not on losing weight or trying to live up to unreachable standards set by magazines or Hollywood. Her favorite ways to stay fit include walking, yoga and pilates. When she's not walking around the city of Boston, she can be found cheering on her favorite Boston sports teams and trying to teach herself to cook.