Frozen foods can play a helpful role in the kitchen — they’re budget-friendly, long-lasting and can help reduce food waste. What’s more, some research shows frozen fruits and vegetables may actually hold in more nutrients compared to fresh produce since they are frozen at their peak freshness. Nutrient value decreases over time, meaning some fresh produce that had to travel a long distance to grocery store shelves might be less nutrient-dense than its frozen counterpart.
BUYING FROZEN INGREDIENTS
When browsing the freezer aisle, read the nutrition labels carefully and beware of added sugars and sodium. Look for a short ingredient list that contains whole foods. In addition to fruits and veggies, frozen meats, fish and grain mixtures can all be great options for creating quick, healthy meals.
COOKING WITH FROZEN INGREDIENTS
PAIR FISH WITH VEGETABLES
Consider buying frozen salmon filets, which are rich in heart-healthy omega-3’s and will last months in your freezer. Thaw them out the night before you’re ready to eat them and pair with a microwaved bag of frozen broccoli and baked (or microwaved) sweet potatoes for a quick, balanced meal.
MAKE A MORE NUTRITIOUS BREAKFAST
Frozen fruit makes a great nutrient-rich addition to oatmeal and yogurt bowls. For smoothies, use frozen bananas, berries, cauliflower and/or spinach for the base of your smoothie. Add other ingredients of your choosing, plus a liquid to mix it all together. You can swap fresh fruit for frozen in muffins, a breakfast crumble and quick breads.
MAKE EASY SHEET PAN MEALS
One-pan meals are convenient, quick and easy options for busy families or those who want minimal clean up. If you forget to thaw your meat the night before, you can bake it from frozen on a sheet pan (though cooking time might be slightly longer). In this case, add frozen veggies and grains halfway through cooking. Frozen vegetables don’t need to thaw when added to an already-hot oven, and you can cook them to your desired crispness.
CREATE A HEALTHIER PIZZA
If you have pizza dough or tortillas in your pantry or freezer, you can easily make a healthy pizza with frozen ingredients. Top the pizza dough or tortillas with tomato sauce and your favorite frozen vegetables. If adding a frozen meat or protein source, make sure it’s ground or cut into small pieces to accelerate the cooking time.
ENHANCE STIR-FRIES OR SKILLET MEALS
Stir-fries are an ideal way to use leftover or almost expired ingredients. Mix high-quality proteins like tofu, frozen edamame, shrimp or frozen meat in a large skillet with cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add in flavor enhancers like garlic, ginger, soy sauce or paprika. Next, add in quick-cooking rice or your favorite grain or noodle to mix with the protein. Lastly, mix in your thawed frozen or canned vegetables of choice.
Check out Healthy Pantry Recipes for easy-to-cook recipes using non-perishable foods with helpful substitutions.