As a registered dietitian, one of my biggest jobs is to dispel the many (many many many) food and nutrition rumors that make the rounds. Some of these rumors probably started with good intentions of making people eat healthier, but they seriously backfire. Case in point: I’m often asked, “Are frozen vegetables healthy?”
In fact, I’ve encountered clients and patients who report eating fewer vegetables overall because they can’t afford fresh.
Look, I love fresh produce as much as the next girl, but I would recommend frozen vegetables (like, 13 out of 10 would recommend). The trick is to know what kinds to look for, and how to use them.
With that in mind, this post will explain the benefits of frozen vegetables and provide tips for incorporating them into your meal prep.
How Are Frozen Vegetables Healthy?
It’s a major misconception that frozen veggies are less nutritious than fresh ones. In a few cases, they may actually be healthier! But how could that be?
Frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of freshness, then given a quick blanch in boiling water before being frozen. Fresh vegetables are also often picked at the peak of freshness, but what happens to them after? They are transported (often long distances) before sitting on shelves for a few days
It’s true that the heat processing may break down some of the nutrients in frozen veggies, but so does time and other variables. Overall, studies have found the nutritional profiles of fresh vs. frozen vegetables to be pretty comparable.
Nutrient profile aside, there are some key benefits to buying frozen. Frozen is often more affordable than fresh and keeps for longer, which means that you lose less money from food waste. You can also reduce food waste by measuring and cooking single servings of frozen vegetables.
And let’s not forget convenience—frozen vegetables are already washed, chopped, and partially cooked. This saves valuable time during meal prep and can make it easier to stick with a plan.
4 Tips for Incorporating Frozen Veggies
Are you convinced yet? Here are a few tips to make the most of your frozen produce.
- Read your labels, and avoid veggies with added sauces and other ingredients. In most cases, veggies should be the only ingredient.
- Consider the end dish. Frozen veggies aren’t going to work on a veggie tray due to the texture, but they’re pretty great for stir fries, soups, and other “softer” dishes. You can also add a bag of mixed veggies to boiling water when you make whole wheat pasta for an easy primavera.
- Look for creative preps. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both sell fire-roasted corn, for example, that’s great in Mexican-inspired dishes. I also buy 4-5 bags of frozen riced cauliflower and broccoli at a time to use in place of rice.
- Ignore the directions (sometimes). With a few creative hacks, your frozen veggies can taste as good as or better than fresh!
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