Gone are the days from our childhood microwavable TV dinners of mushy mac ‘n’ cheese and unidentifiable meats. A wholesome meal is always touted the best meal, but when we’re crunched for time, it’s easy to pick up a quick-fix meal. But not all frozen foods are bad for you. In fact, some foods, like frozen produce, are picked and packed at their peak nutritional value and ripeness.
Below, registered dietitian Tara Gidus gives tips on how to navigate the frozen food aisle and discover the healthiest finds for your grocery cart.
1. Inspect the packaging
Check for ice crystals because if you see or feel them, it probably means the contents inside were thawed and refrozen. Large crystals can cause the cells in foods to rupture and create a mushy texture when thawed and eaten.
2. Read labels
One of the most important things to look at is the fat content of the meals. Aim for meals that have 10 to 15 grams of fat or less per serving; otherwise, try to keep the fat content to less than 35% of calories coming from fat. Make sure you also check how many servings are in a meal. Some look like they are packaged for one serving, but there may be two or three in the entire box or bag. Also, check the sodium per serving, as many frozen foods have a high sodium content. The recommended daily intake is 2,300 milligrams, so it’s best to look for meals that have between 500 to 1,000 milligrams or less per serving. You don’t want to take in all your sodium in a single meal.
3. Steam it
The steam technology that frozen foods use is great, as it keeps the food more crisp instead of leaving it soggy.
4. Proper storage
Shop for your frozen foods last when going through your grocery list—this is especially important as the weather warms up. Another thing to be sure of is that you’re not leaving them in the hot car, which will allow them to defrost. Defrosting them will affect taste, texture and may affect cook time. Also, try to avoid putting food on the freezer door because it’s the warmest part of the freezer’s space.
By Cielestia Calbay
Cielestia Calbay is the associate editor for Competitor Magazine. If she's not in the office, you'll probably find her outdoors or scouring the area for the nearest juice bar.