Are Frozen Vegetables Healthy?
Here's the truth about buying veggies from the freezer aisle.
You may think that fresh is always best, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Frozen vegetables can be an important part of your healthy eating regimen – and here’s why.
How Healthy Are Frozen Veggies?
Frozen vegetables are frozen at their peak of ripeness which helps preserve the nutrients. A 2017 study published in Journal of Food Composition and Analysis examined the nutrient composition of fresh, fresh-stored and frozen fruit and vegetables. Fresh-stored was inserted into the study to mimic usual patterns of storing fruit and vegetables for up to five days after purchase. Based on the data collected over two years, scientists determined that the assumption that fresh produce has much more nutritional value compared to frozen is incorrect. The data showed that fresh produce loses vitamins over time during refrigerated storage.
Why You Should Buy Frozen
The 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans specifically called out frozen vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Here's why.
• Convenience: Chopping, dicing and shredding vegetables takes lots of time. Picking up a package of pre-prepped vegetables at the store can save you time on food prep.
• Longer shelf life: Some days you plan on preparing dinner, but get side-tracked by a last minute invitation to dine out. If you don’t get home to prepare your fresh vegetables, they’ll spoil, but when you stock up on frozen vegetables and rely on them for some meals, you don’t have to worry about food spoiling or running to the market every time you run out of fresh.
• Decreased food waste: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015, there was 37.6 million tons of food waste. Overbuying fresh produce only to have it end up in the trash is nothing new to many people. Instead, decrease the amount of fresh you buy at the beginning of the week and rely on frozen.
That Said, Not All Frozen Vegetables Are Equal
When shopping for frozen vegetables, look at the ingredient list for the name of the vegetables … and nothing else. Avoid frozen vegetables made with sauces or dressings that will up the artery-clogging saturated fat.
And once you are ready to use that vegetable, cook it first! Frozen vegetables aren’t intended to be eaten from the bag, as they may contain bacteria that are destroyed when cooked properly and thoroughly. Be sure to follow the package directions on how to cook them. So no more chomping on frozen peas right out of the bag!
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is an award-winning registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is a Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook and Smart Meal Prep for Beginners.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.