Whether you're looking for a fast way to get dinner on the table or
a way to stretch your grocery budget, frozen food can be a staple in your
kitchen. "Using frozen ingredients to prepare meals, freezing leftovers
for another time, or making wise choices about prepared frozen dishes
at the supermarket are ways to make life a little easier when planning
healthy food choices," says Tawnya Dorn, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian
and certified diabetes educator at
Queen of the Valley Medical Center. In observance of National Frozen Food Month, Dorn offers some suggestions
on how you can get the most use out of your freezer.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a home cook's secret weapon. "Frozen
berries can be added to smoothies or heated up for a sauce that can top
yogurt or oatmeal, while frozen vegetables can be part of soups, stews
and a host of entrees," Dorn says. "Frozen produce offers great
versatility because you can use off-season fruits or veggies without paying
the higher price it would cost to buy the fresh versions. They also last
a long time, so you don't have to worry about spoilage."
Some frozen vegetable producers have begun livening up their offerings
by making them into complete side dishes that combine vegetables, whole
grain pasta and brown rice. With or without pasta, avoid frozen produce
packaged in sauces or syrups--the produce should be the only ingredient.
The ones with sauce will have more sodium, sugar, and calories.
Frozen home-cooked meals
Savvy home cooks know that they can
save money, and buy a night off from cooking dinner, if they freeze leftovers. "Certain
dishes are ideal for freezing, such as
soups, lasagnas and enchiladas; you can also freeze components of dishes such
as pesto sauce or turkey burgers," says Dorn. You'll want to
make sure you have the proper equipment, such as freezer-safe bags and
containers, as well as the know-how to properly reheat dishes to prevent
food-borne illness; for more information, click
Store-bought frozen meals
Frozen food has come a long way since the days of TV dinners in tinfoil
trays. "There are many more options today when it comes to prepackaged
frozen meals," Dorn says. "However, you must read the labels
with great care. Some meals have too much fat and calories; low-fat or
low-calorie options are better choices, but you should still check the
label for sodium, as many frozen meals are high in salt."
For people with little or no tolerance for wheat, many companies freeze
meals that are gluten-free. Some brands use only ingredients that have
been grown or raised in a sustainable environment, rather than on a mass-production farm.
An easy way to encourage yourself to increase your daily serving count
of vegetables is to opt out of eating meat. Frozen vegetarian and vegan
bowls come in many flavorful options that add protein in the form of whole
grains, beans and seeds. They tend to have less fat, but check the label
to make sure the oils don’t increase the fat—and calorie count—beyond
what you expect.
A good gauge to start with when choosing frozen meals: They should be less
than 500 calories, with 3 grams or less of saturated fat and less than
600 milligrams of sodium. "Remember, those measurements are per serving,
so make sure you note the serving size on the label as well," Dorn adds.
Does your freezer help provide your family with healthy meals? Share a