When you think of the frozen food aisle at the grocery store, you might imagine TV dinners, French fries and other unhealthy options. Loaded with preservatives, trans fats and additives, it’s no wonder so many of us speed past this aisle! However, there is one section of the frozen food aisle that is important for health nuts not to pass by – frozen fruits and veggies.
This produce has been picked at a time when their nutrients are at a peak. They retain their nutrients when they are frozen because they are packaged directly after harvesting. As long as you follow these guidelines, you can save time and money using frozen vegetables and fruits – it might even help you add more color to your diet. Bonus points on buying organic!
Look for: When you pick up a bag of frozen peas, beans, broccoli or another favorite veggie, look at the back to ensure that the list of ingredients consists only of the vegetable, with no added butter, oils or other preservatives.
Avoid: On the ingredients list, make sure your chosen item does not have cheese or other sauces mixed in. These types of add-ins can contribute to the vegetable’s overall fat, sodium and caloric value. Also make sure the vegetables aren’t frozen into a lump. Sarah Krieger, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, told Real Simple Magazine that this means the veggies have been thawed and refrozen, which means they retain fewer vitamins.
Look for: Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes and pineapple are all great fruits to buy frozen, since they either do not grow naturally in many areas or because they have a short harvest season. Again, check the list of ingredients to make sure no preservatives were added. Bags with resealable zippers are good because they keep out ice crystals that can dehydrate fruit and make it lose its flavor.
Avoid: Sugar is often added to frozen fruits to make them especially tasty, but these products can have as much as 11 times more sugar than unsweetened varieties!
While frozen fruit is great straight out of the bag – icy cold cherries and strawberries are a tasty addition to cereal or smoothies – remember that frozen veggies often have to be thawed before adding them to casseroles and other dishes to make sure everything cooks evenly.