If you didn’t know…today is National Frozen Food day! I feel like frozen food gets demonized quite a bit – like carbs and fat – and I thought it would help to put some clarity behind frozen foods and how I used them in my life. I’ll do this by sharing some pros and cons. But first! I shared this side-by-side on Instagram today to show how seeing that something was frozen/processed food might make you turn away…while the image on the right might be viewed as glorified food prep. I’m not about lying to you all, I want to share my reality and what works for me.
- Convenience is a beautiful thing. I will always keep frozen fruits and vegetables as staples in my freezer. They are picked at their peak freshness, frozen, and sent on their way. You will still get plenty of nutrients and benefits from consuming fruits/veggies in this form.
- Convenience is a beautiful thing – for other frozen foods aside from fruits/veggies! While there are some frozen foods that might be considered healthier than others, keeping some things on hand is helpful. Especially for those moments when your meal plan doesn’t sound good or you have unexpected changes in plans.
- You can always add something to a frozen food. We keep frozen burritos on hand and I’ll use these when we don’t feel like cooking or we need something quick but we’ll add some veggies and rice on the side. If you’re someone who keeps frozen pizza on hand, keep things you can add to the pizza that make it more filling like vegetables or proteins.
- Some frozen food is not as “processed” as you might think. I made a pizza dough from scratch which nutritionally is comparable to a frozen dough I’ve seen on the market. I used half of the dough and froze the other, does that make my dough “processed” to the point where it’s all of a sudden unhealthy? Nope. We just tend to put blanket statements on certain foods that end up scaring people into eating the same things all the time or shaming them for choosing a frozen food.
These are some of our staples – from frozen veggies to fruits, to meals / partial meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack/dessert. Frozen foods can fit in any meal plan.
- Frozen food can have a lot of sodium. It’s not surprise that this is my first bullet point. But do you know how to read a label and tell whether or not it’s high in sodium? Miligrams and grams are confusing to most so check out the percentage. If it is 20% or higher, it’s a high source of a nutrient. So if you’re trying to watch out for high sodium foods, check the percentage.
- Don’t forget to also check the serving size. If it is 13% sodium but but the serving size is 2 for the package and you’re planning to eat the whole thing…it’s now 23% sodium.
- They’re sometimes low in fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that keeps us full and helps our digestion system run smoothly. Again, take a look at your nutrition label and if your goals it to feel full from the frozen food you’re choosing, check to see what percentage of fiber is in a serving. 20% is a high source, 10% is a good source, and 5% is a low source.
- Remember the comment above about adding nutrients to frozen meals! If it’s a stir fry of veggies – use brown rice or throw in some flax meal! Any added fiber will help you feel full for a longer period of time.
- The portion size is smaller than the packaging leads it on to be. I’ve often purchased a frozen food or meal and after I’ve cooked it I’ve thought, “that’s it!?” Sure one serving nutritionally does not look unhealthy, but are you going to eat one serving? The serving size is just a guideline it does not mean that serving size will fill you up physically or visually (both important!)
In short, can you make healthy choices when it comes to frozen food? Yes, absolutely! But can you also go into the frozen food aisle and use their meals as inspiration for something to make on your own? Hell yes! I used to do this a lot before I started taking a list to the store with me. I’d find a frozen meal that sounds good, look up a recipe online that’s similar, and make it from scratch. My cost might have been $10-$15 instead of $5.99 but I was left with a more nutritious meal and had leftovers too.
I will add that frozen food has come a long way from the TV dinners that so often come to mind when we demonize frozen food. I think what’s important to remember is that it’s your home and your choice. What works for me may not suit your needs/desires.
Do you keep any frozen food/meals? Or do you have any questions about frozen food that I didn’t cover? Ask below! If you’re a frozen food eater like I am, show me what you’re cooking up on Instagram and tag me @The_Beer_Dietitian. <3