They don’t compromise nutritional value either, making them a smart choice for shoppers.
Secrets of the Deep Freeze
According to a recent study by the Nielsen Company, frozen foods represent 12.2 percent of all food and beverage sales. Because they’re flash frozen immediately after being harvested, vegetables in the freezer section are at least as nutritionally similar—and sometimes superior—to fresh. Even vitamin C, one of the most fragile nutrients, survives freezing if the package has not been thawed and refrozen. Freezing fresh fruits and vegetables shortly after harvesting also preserves flavor, quality, and often texture. That’s why frozen peas frequently taste better than fresh.
If budget is a concern, consider a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which finds that frozen vegetables often cost less than fresh or canned. Frozen foods have a long shelf life, lasting up to six months in a freezer with a constant temperature of 0º or below.
“What is most reassuring about frozen fruits and vegetables, even as compared with fresh ones, is that you know exactly what you are getting” because their ingredients are listed on the package, adds nutritionist Marion Nestle, PhD. The healthiest frozen foods tend to have the shortest ingredient list, she adds.
USDA requires companies to show that their cooking directions, when carefully followed, will destroy any possible pathogens in frozen foods. (Freezing halts the growth of micro-organisms but won’t kill them.) Some natural frozen food companies, like Amy’s Kitchen, precooks its ingredients to kill potential pathogens before its pot pies and other meals leave the factory.
When shopping for and using frozen foods, keep the following tips in mind to help ensure safety and freshness:
1. Choose only clean, undamaged, and ice-free packages.
2. Read nutrition labels carefully. Be sure to check the portion size. Look for meals with at least three grams of fiber, 400 calories or less, under 800 milligrams of sodium, and four or less grams of saturated fat.
3 Check the sell-by date.
4. Make the frozen food aisles your last stop before checkout, and place freezer items in insulated bags to keep them cold on your trip home.
5. Put frozen foods away immediately when you return home.
6. Mark frozen food packages with a purchase date, and rotate them in the freezer. Recently purchased items should go in back and be used only after those that were purchased and stored previously.
7. If you need to defrost an item, put it in the fridge overnight.
Freezing Seasonal Bounty
See a money-saving special in the produce section of the store? Consider buying extra produce and freezing some for later use.
Cut veggies in serving size pieces, and blanch briefly in boiling water until barely soft. Cool completely and spread onto a baking sheet to freeze until pieces are solid (about one hour). Put vegetables in marked, dated containers in your
Because they’re more delicate, fruits are a bit more complicated to freeze. Briefly blanch hard fruits (apples or pears) before freezing. Place fresh blueberries directly on a baking sheet in the freezer and pop into containers once they’re frozen. Citrus fruits cannot be frozen, even though their juice freezes well.
Leftovers often freeze well too. Cool any hot liquids (sauces, soups, stocks) almost to room temperature. Transfer to containers and refrigerate overnight before freezing. This avoids freezer burn and preserves flavor.
Even hot cereals freeze well. Cook up a big batch. Cool leftovers and put in small containers or bags for “instant” breakfasts.
Look to Your Freezer for Fresh Ideas
One advantage of stocking your freezer with a wide range of foods is that it greatly increases your chances of having the necessary ingredients on hand when you want to try a new recipe. It also allows you to be more creative. Here, we take frozen carrot and coriander soup (which would make a nutritious, light meal on its own) and get creative!