Frozen Food Month: Decode the Frozen Foods Aisle
Let me start by saying I personally think there is little that can compare to the nutritional value and the deliciousness of a fresh meal, full of yummy clean ingredients, however, sometimes we’re in a rush, or we forgot our lunch at home and there are no fresh options around and often times we reach for something quick, convenient, and well… frozen. March, among other things, is Frozen Foods Month, and the truth is, just like the food in every other aisle of the grocery store, not all frozen foods are created equal. It may look healthy but there could be tons of added sodium and preservatives or it could have great “all-natural” marketing on its package but include ingredients that you simply cannot pronounce. Despite all of the processed “wolves in sheep’s clothing” hidden behind those doors, there are plenty of healthy options that are perfect when you need something to heat up in a hurry!
“According to the CDC, frozen vegetables are nutritionally similar to their fresh counterparts and may be more nutritious than ‘aged’ fresh vegetables,” explains Bob Wright, Director of Education at Hilton Head Health. “Frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and are frozen very quickly insuring both quality and preservation of their nutrients. They are available year round and can be ready in minutes to complement any meal. Before purchasing, be sure to check out labels and comparison shop. For example if you compared Green Giant Valley Fresh Select Broccoli Florets to Green Giant Valley Fresh Broccoli and Cheese Sauce, you would find one has one ingredient, broccoli, the other has over 30, one has 20 calories the other 60, one has 20 milligrams of sodium the other 430. Keep it simple; one ingredient is all you need.”
Just like their veggie counterparts, frozen fruits are picked at the peak of ripeness and as we know, once a fruit or veggie is picked it begins to lose some of its nutritional value, but freezing it after it’s been harvested helps to lock in those essential vitamins and nutrients that it would have otherwise lost on its journey to your kitchen. Added benefit? When certain fruits aren’t in season and fresh in the produce section, you can often find them frozen and ready to enjoy in the chillier aisles! I always keep my freezer stocked with frozen berries to add to my oatmeal, cereal, and Greek yogurt, I love knowing they aren’t going to go bad if I don’t get to them right away and Whole Foods has a great selection of organic frozen fruits to chose from!
I cannot tell a lie, I love waffles in the morning and I don’t have the time to always fire up the waffle iron, make a healthy batter and eat like I’m on a vacation! I’ve lately become obsessed with Nature’s Path Chia-Plus™ frozen waffles. They are gluten-free, USDA-certified organic, Non-GMO Project verified, and packed with some great ingredients including Omega-3 rich chia seeds, quinoa, and amaranth. Plus, because they include a bit of pear and grape juice they are sweet enough to eat without maple syrup and butter (which I almost couldn’t believe at first!). I love to slice up some banana and sprinkle some cinnamon for an added treat in the morning.
Once lunchtime rolls around the microwave in the office kitchen is working back-to-back, heating up a mix of leftovers brought from home and frozen lunches. If you left your lunch at home but have access to a microwave I’d recommend picking up Amy’s Light in Sodium – Single Serve Spinach Pizza which only has 390mg of sodium in it as compared to over 600mg found in your average fresh slice from a pizzeria! Plus there’s 35% Vitamin A, 10% Vitamin C, 30% calcium, and 20% iron thanks to the yummy and easy to pronounce ingredients!
Get home late and need something fast? My absolute favorite go-to for dinnertime when I don’t even have time for a 30-minute meal are Applegate Farms organic frozen turkey burgers. They only have 55mg of sodium, 140 calories, and 7g of fat but contain a whopping 17g of good lean protein. I like to sprinkle them with some garlic powder, cayenne (for a nice kick!), and ground pepper, heat them up on a skillet with a little non-stick spray, and then serve them up on a slice of an Ezekiel English Muffin (see below) and a bed of mashed avocado – you can thank me later!
My Frozen Aisle MUST
Right before the New Year began, my husband and I made a pact to start eating healthier, cleaner, and more humanely and one of the first things we swapped out was our bread for something more hearty. At first I was frightened by Food For Life’s Ezekiel breads (found in your frozen foods aisle!) – they were way darker, super grainy, and I assumed they would taste like chewing on cardboard with dirt on it. Thankfully, I was wrong. I don’t think I could go a week without having this bread – the 7 Sprouted Grains English Muffins are a must-have in our home and not just because they have 75mg of potassium, 4g of protein, 3g of fiber, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals (including iron, folic acid, zinc, and more!) but because “OMG” these things are delicious. As a snack I love to spread fresh almond butter with some banana slices and a drizzle of honey, they are my favorite for serving up open faced burgers (see above!), and I even love them plain and toasted on the side of eggs in the morning.
What are some of your quick but healthy frozen favorites?