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 so 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. And of course, you can also freeze fresh perishable foods to keep them longer, which is a great way to cut down on waste.
But the question is, are frozen foods healthy?
I will try to put some light on this question, the act of freezing doesn’t make food healthy or unhealthy; it really depends upon the nutritional content of the food that gets frozen. Frozen fruits and veggies can be very healthy, but frozen pizzas, snacks, and other entrees can be quite unhealthy. If your food is nutritious before it’s frozen, it will still be good for you after.
Does freezing change the nutritional value of food?
Freezing doesn’t affect the calorie count, the fiber content, or the amounts of mineral. It can make a difference with a few vitamins, such as folate and vitamin C. But most of the nutritional value will be maintained after freezing. Freezing doesn’t change the amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates or sugar either. The fluid content can change, which is apparent when you thaw your food. You might see a puddle of liquid as water drains away.
Does frozen foods weigh the same as fresh when counting calories? You will be surprised to learn that a closed container of food should weigh the same before freezing and after freezing. But, if there is a lot of liquid that drains from the food as it thaws, the food you serve may weigh a little less. If the only fluid lost is water, the calorie count won’t change for that serving, but it could change the apparent size of the portion.
How should you choose healthy frozen foods?
When you buy frozen foods, look for products that don’t have a lot of added sugar, sodium or high-calorie sauces. Sometimes it’s easy, but it can be a little tricky when you get beyond a simple bag of veggies, here a a few tips for selecting healthy frozen foods. Choose plain vegetables — many can be steamed in the microwave in the bag, rather than products that also contain sauces. If you really love the simplicity of veggies and sauce, look for sauces that are made with less fat and sodium. You’ll need to look at the nutrition facts label and remember to take serving size into consideration. Same thing with fruits. Choose fruits that are frozen without added sugar or syrup. And watch out for extra calories in frozen fruit smoothie mixes because they’re often made with added sugars that we don’t need.
Choosing healthy frozen meals and snacks will take a bit of detective work. They’re often high in saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and calories, but not all that high in vitamins and minerals. If you compare labels or search in the natural foods section of your store, you can find frozen meals and snacks that are better for you. Frozen meats, fish, seafood, and poultry are best if they’re made without any extra ingredients as swell. Cut back on breaded chicken, fish sticks, corn dogs and other battered and breaded foods. Opt for plain frozen chicken breasts, plain shrimp, and fish fillets that aren’t breaded.
There will be other topics on frozen foods, so stay tuned for part two to learn more.
If you have any questions, please contact Lethia Lee at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office. 910-592-7161. or you may e-mail her at Lethia_Lee@ ncsu.edu.
Lethia Lee is the EFNEP Program Assistant for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center.