Food as Medicine: The Benefits of Frozen
Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team
When it comes to nutrition while meeting a budget, frozen is where it’s at!
A recent consumer survey of 2,054 adults in the United States found 78% look at food as a tool to stay healthy and prevent the onset of disease. Out of those surveyed, 80% listed fresh foods as healthier than packaged or processed food marketed as healthy.
Here’s a dietitian secret worth spreading:
The answer to health is not just buying fresh foods or shopping the perimeter of the supermarket. Packaged foods, like frozen foods, remain a tried-and-true tool for registered dietitians to meet their own nutrition goals while staying on budget—Why not make it yours?
The Nutrition of Frozen
Single-ingredient foods, like frozen fish, chicken breast, fruits and vegetables, are flash frozen. This means the temperature is dropped down rapidly to minimize the risk of ice crystal formation. When flash frozen, the nutrition, flavor and quality of a food is barely impacted. In simple terms, these foods remain just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.
The Cost-Savings of Frozen
The price you pay for a food item when grocery shopping is one food cost. Other food costs include the time it takes you to prepare the food, the amount of the food that is considered edible versus what was purchased (edible portion) and the subsequent amount of waste that occurs (food waste). For example, does food ever sit in your refrigerator untouched just to subsequently be thrown out?
Let’s consider green beans:
- Fresh green beans typically cost slightly more per pound (~$0.80) than whole frozen green beans.
- Once home, you will need to spend time rinsing and trimming the tips of the fresh green beans.
- Unless you’re using the tips for something else, the portion of green beans leftover after trimming is considered your edible portion. For green beans, you lose about 2 ounces per pound when removing the tips, so you’re left with 14 ounces out of the 16 ounces (or pound) you purchased.¹
- Let’s say you don’t end up preparing the fresh green beans and find them past their shelf life in your crisper the following week? Now you’ve paid for uneaten green beans.
The Ease of Frozen
Depending on what your recipe is, fresh may be warranted. For example, Niçoise salad doesn’t have the same crisp without fresh green beans. For sautés, casseroles and soups, frozen green beans work just fine. In fact, they can save you time from rinsing and trimming. Once you use the amount needed for your recipe, you can return the remainder to your freezer for future recipes. Green bean frittata at Sunday brunch anyone?
The Meal Solutions of Frozen
Frozen foods offer solutions to meals, especially when you’re constantly on-the-go. Who isn’t? Options that are single-ingredient like frozen uncooked shrimp, fish, meat, fruits and vegetables are exemplary kitchen staples. These frozen options help you whip up meals in a matter of minutes. They also help you meet daily Food Group goals for foods Americans often fall short on—such as fruits and vegetables.
For example, if you have frozen salmon filets, frozen pineapple and frozen stir fry vegetables, you can cook up teriyaki salmon in minutes simply by adding sauce and rice most likely already in your pantry.
Shifting Assumptions with Frozen
To get the most out of your weekly groceries while pursuing optimal health within the most cost-effective budget possible, do you need to rethink how you look at packaged foods, specifically frozen foods? In the end, frozen foods are meal solution all-stars for preparing healthy meals in minimal time, with minimal waste at wallet-friendly prices.
1 The Quartermaster School of the United States Army's Combined Arms Support Command. Table of conversion factors for converting “edible portion” weights of foods to “as purchased” weights of foods vegetables. Accessed on 9/27/2022. https://quartermaster.army.mil/jccoe/publications/recipes/section_a/a006.pdf