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Fresh vs. frozen: A kitchen-ista’s guide

Katherine Martinelli is an internationally published food and travel writer and photographer who contributes regularly to publications on three continents. She recently released her first cookbook, Puff Pastry at Brunch: 10 Sweet and Sa...

Tips for healthy eating

Frozen foods offer incredible convenience, but often get a bad rap. The truth is that while fresh is often preferable, frozen grocery items are often flash frozen at their peak, making them a wonderful alternative when time is short or seasonal ingredients are unavailable.
Frozen vegetable blend

Fresh vs. frozen is not a black and white issue — in the end, use whatever you can to get a tasty and nutritious meal on the table. But nothing beats a seasonal, farm-fresh tomato or ear of corn. Get the scoop on fresh vs. frozen in this kitchen-ista's guide.

Tip: Frozen fruits are great for smoothies since they double as ice. Just put your favorite frozen fruits along with yogurt, juice and/or milk into a blender for a healthy and delicious breakfast or snack.

Fruits and vegetables

While in-season fresh fruits and vegetables typically have the best flavor, frozen produce is great to have on hand. It's blanched and frozen immediately after being picked, so it still packs in the vitamins and minerals of its fresh counterparts. Shop locally and seasonally when you can, but don't be afraid to stock your freezer with fruits and vegetables to make sure they're on your plate every day.

Get the skinny on canned vs. frozen fruits and veggies >>

Tip: Buy an economy pack of your favorite meat and freeze portions in labeled freezer bags. This will likely save you money, and will ensure you always have a dinner plan.

Meat

While there is nothing intrinsically better about fresh vs. frozen meat, many people prefer to buy meat fresh and freeze it themselves rather than buy pre-frozen meat. Often you don't know how long pre-frozen meat has been sitting there, whereas if you buy it fresh you know basically how fresh it is and what it is. Then you can decide whether to use it right then or to freeze it.

Learn how to safely defrost meat >>

Tip: When buying frozen fish, check the water content on the label. You don't want frozen fish that has been pumped full of water and, potentially, chemicals. To defrost, put it in the fridge overnight or, if you're in a rush, run it under cold water.

Fish

Frozen fish probably has the worst reputation of any frozen food product. The truth is that often frozen fish is fresher than "fresh," since it is typically flash frozen on the boat almost immediately after being caught. It doesn't get any fresher than that! If you have access to incredibly fresh fish (think sushi grade — so fresh you could eat it raw!), then go for that. But if you're landlocked or otherwise don't have access to the freshest fish, consider frozen.

The verdict

Nothing beats fresh, but there's nothing wrong with stocking up on frozen items to help make healthy, delicious meals.

Freezer guidelines

Most frozen foods should be eaten within one year, so be sure to label anything you freeze. Chicken, pork and vegetables should be eaten within six months, while fish and seafood should be consumed within three months.

More freezer tips

Get friendly with your freezer
How to freeze meat without freezer burn
The fit freezer: How to make low-fat frozen meals at home

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