During the winter months, farmers markets are closed and even the earliest spring vegetables are weeks, or months, away.
While it still feels like winter outside and if you’re far from a year-round market, turn to your freezer to help you eat well when fresh produce is scarce.
Choosing healthy frozen food doesn’t mean reaching for frozen, ready-made meals, pizzas, or burritos.
Those foods tend to be highly processed, high in sodium, full of additives and preservatives, and usually not full of vegetables.
Frozen vegetables and fruit, however, are as healthy as their fresh counterparts. Maybe even more so.
Because it's picked when it is ripe and full of nutrients, frozen produce may be more nutritious than fresh.
In contrast, many fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe, spending up to two week being processed, transported to your local grocery store, and displayed before you buy them. Then they sit in the refrigerator until you use them.
Fresh green beans can lose up to 45% of nutrients by the time you eat them. Broccoli and cauliflower lose 25%, peas up to 15% and carrots up to 10%.
While vegetables lose some of their B vitamins and vitamin C during the blanching process prior to freezing, frozen vegetables retain the rest of their nutrients.
In addition to nutritional strength, frozen fruits and vegetables have many other benefits.
Frozen crops can be stored for several months, even longer in a freezer, so you can always have them on hand.
Frozen food can also be less expensive than fresh, especially for organic produce, and since it won’t go bad in the refrigerator, you can stock up when it is on sale.
When fresh produce is available, you can freeze your own – blanch vegetables by immersing in boiling water, then drain and freeze in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out.
Frozen fruit is handy for making a quick fruit salad, whipping up a smoothie or mixing with oatmeal or yogurt.
Frozen vegetables are great for making quick dishes. Try them in a curry, stir fry, soup or stew. Or just sauté them for a simple side dish.
Some frozen foods even make a great snack all by themselves: edamame pods cook up in minutes and are a good source of protein with 12 grams in a one-cup serving.
When in season, fresh and preferably locally grown produce has the best flavor as well as good nutrition. When fresh isn’t available, go frozen to get your fruits and vegetables every day.
When choosing frozen produce, opt for berries and other fruits with no added sugar. Choose vegetables without added salt. Then chill out and make something delicious with frozen fruits or vegetables.
Visit our Healthiest Best Foods homepage for more great ideas to get you and your family eating healthier.