An expert weighs in: All about frozen foods
We spoke with a registered dietitian regarding everything you need to know about frozen foods. The good news is they're really not as bad as people think, so cut yourself some slack if these tend to be your go-to meals.
Registered dietitian Estela Schnelle gives us the low-down on everything involving frozen foods. She shares which ones are the healthiest, which ones taste the best and discusses whether or not we should be limiting our frozen food intake. She currently runs a food and life blog — Weekly Bite — and is a part of the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association's Cool Food Panel. One thing's certain — Estela knows food and nutrition, and we're excited to incorporate her tips into our everyday life!
SheKnows: What, if anything, should we look out for when it comes to frozen foods (i.e., sodium, fat content, etc.)?
Estela Schnelle: Frozen foods start out the same as their fresh counterparts, coming from the earth and sea. Frozen fruits and vegetables are been picked at their peak of ripeness, thus allowing them to be nutrient packed. The freezing process preserves nutrients in foods, making frozen foods a great alternative to fresh foods. In general, frozen fruits and vegetables can be less expensive and more convenient than their fresh counterparts. The addition of frozen foods can make the meal prep process a little quicker and give extra room for family time.
SK: We know they're not all bad — what meals or brands should we choose if frozen foods are our only option?
ES: There is a huge variety of different cuisines represented in the freezer aisle, including options that cover snacktime, breakfast, lunch, dinner and entertaining and specialty food occasions. The main thing to pay attention too is the sodium content. The great thing about frozen foods is the nutrition label tells you exactly how much sodium there is per serving, so there's no guessing game.
Check out these 5 tips to reduce your sodium intake >>
SK: Which frozen meals or brands are the healthiest and why?
ES: The freezer aisle is comprised of 3,700+ different, delicious foods ranging from nutrient-rich fruits and veggies that fit a wide variety of dietary needs. This includes everything from vegetarian, organic and gluten-free products. Frozen fruits and veggies are a staple on my grocery list as well as some of the amazing organic options.
SK: Which taste the best? What are your personal favorites?
ES: They all have great flavors, but my favorites have to be the wide variety of frozen veggies as well as frozen fruits for smoothies. We also keep a constant stash of Amy's Organic Burritos in our freezer for a quick meal. We love those!
SK: What meals or brands are the quickest to make and most convenient?
ES: It's hard to single out one particular brand. They are all convenient, which is one of greatest benefits of frozen foods.
SK: Should we be limiting our frozen food intake? And if so, to what extent?
ES: The great thing about frozen meals is that they are proportioned out for you and, with such a huge variety to choose from, it makes it easy to make smart, healthy choices.
SK: Do you have a favorite healthy meal that's easy to make for those of us on the go, but isn't frozen?
ES: Turkey tacos are my family's favorite on-the-go meal. I can have the meal on the table from start to finish in 20 minutes.
SK: Frozen pizza — Is it OK or should we avoid it?
ES: Definitely enjoy frozen pizza. I know my family does. What it comes down to is moderation. Keeping our portions in check keeps our health and our weight in check. Limit yourself to a slice or two and load it with veggies for extra nutrition.
SK: Are there any frozen foods that are just as bad or worse for you than fast food?
ES: Frozen foods are real food. The ingredients are picked in the field and prepared by chefs and the recipes are tested in a kitchen. Many options in the freezer aisle range from low-fat and organic to ultra-indulgent and everything in between. What it comes down to is listening to your body and eating in moderation. When it comes to eating healthy, we are fortunate enough to have such a wide variety in the freezer section. It's not only what we eat, but how much we eat that's important. That's the main key to keep a healthy weight.
SK: What's your best advice for busy moms on the go who want to eat healthy meals?
ES: When it comes to eating healthy meals on the go, planning is key. We want quick, convenient and healthy. Stocking our freezer and fridge with our favorite healthy foods makes it easy to grab some fruit from the freezer and make a quick, on-the-go smoothie, or grab a healthy, preportioned meal from the freezer, heat it in the microwave and know you're getting the nutrition you need in the proper portions.