Is frozen food the best option for you and your family? Food choices are very personal, especially when it comes to those who have specific dietary requirements that are needed for their lifestyle. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, frozen food is flying out of freezer cases. People view them as a convenient, long-lasting staple that is potentially safer because it hasn’t been recently handled. With a little bit of research, frozen food may be a new option for your kitchen.
Frozen or Fresh?
The usual healthy eating mantra is “fresh is best.” Fresh foods offer benefits such as increased nutrients, more organic options and variety. Frozen foods can be viewed as healthier “fast food.” For instance, frozen fruit comes pre-peeled, washed and cut into sizes perfect for smoothies. The trick is to select the frozen foods that fit with healthy eating habits. Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen at peak ripeness. They contain antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that boost our health. A study shared by the British Frozen Food Federation found that the concentrations of antioxidants and phytochemicals measured in the frozen fruits and vegetables was similar to those of the corresponding fresh fruits and vegetables prior to refrigerated storage. And unlike frozen, the study says, “the concentrations of some antioxidants and phytochemicals (in fresh food) decreased during refrigerated storage to levels below those observed in the corresponding frozen produce.” Why? Nutrient levels in fruit and vegetable start dropping as soon as they’re picked. In fact, they continue to fall as they sit in your refrigerator waiting for you to eat them.
Fresh food is also usually more expensive than frozen food. Why? Transporting fresh produce costs more than shipping frozen produce. And once in the store, it can spoil easily for a host of reasons. The cost savings are clear: 16 oz. of frozen strawberries is about $2 while the same amount of fresh strawberries is $4. Buying fresh food out of season further drives up the price and lessens the produce’s nutritional value. There’s a big difference in cost and (potentially in) nutrition between fruit or vegetables from your local farmers market vs. produce shipped from overseas.
Labels Do Matter
Yes, read the labels on all your frozen food. This includes produce and prepared meals. (See What’s on Your Label? for a dietitian’s advice on how to decode a food label.) Many frozen items contain higher levels of sodium, saturated fat and calories. Flip the package over to see how long the list of ingredients is. Are you seeing words that you don’t understand and cannot pronounce? If your food label is a mini book, this is a huge red flag. It may be time to move on to another choice.
Freeze Dried Another Option
Still unsure about frozen foods? Freeze-dried foods are another option. Easy grab-and-go Crispy Green fruit pouches offer you the additional opportunity to continue to make healthy choices while “retaining all or nearly all of their original nutrients after undergoing the freeze-dried process.”
Not everyone’s food choices are the same. In addition, not everyone has identical time or ability to make scratch made meals. Although you may not be able to control what is put into your foods, you do have control over the foods that you stock with which your fridge and freezer. Become your own student and teacher, do your research and allow yourself to be adventurous and branch out into new food possibilities.
Tracy Bush, Nutrimom® is a Food Allergy Consultant, Author, Blogger & Mother. Her website is http://allergyphoods.com