Pop quiz time. It's 3 p.m. — what's for dinner? Maybe this week you didn't have time to plan your meals, and dining out is calling your name. As much as we’d all love to serve our families from-scratch meals seven days a week, life happens; we are busy, and that isn’t always possible.
So what can you do? By utilizing frozen foods, you can make quick, convenient and easy dinners at home. Here are five reasons you should consider frozen foods:
1. Frozen Foods Are Full of Nutrition
During the winter months, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is not as readily available and the fruits and veggies are not as nutrient-dense as they are in the warmer months of the year. Frozen produce, though, is picked at its peak ripeness, which locks in the foods’ high nutrient content at that time. Once the food is picked, it is blanched and then flash-frozen to lock the food into its best-tasting state. In terms of calories, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh and have no added sodium as a preservative. Living in the Midwest, I also take advantage of the options of frozen fish. Frozen fish is a great way to get the freshness from a same-day catch on the coast.
2. Frozen Foods Help You Save Money
When purchasing frozen foods, you can use exactly what you need and keep the rest frozen. There is less waste and spoilage when using frozen foods as part of your weekly meal planning. I recommend purchasing one-third of your foods fresh and two-thirds of your foods frozen for the week to reduce foods waste from spoilage. I always recommend using the fresh first and then filling in with frozen the rest of the week.
3. Frozen Foods Are Easy to Prepare
If you routinely find yourself in a time crunch, here's good news: many frozen foods can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. Fruits and vegetables are peeled and cut, so you spend less time prepping for your meal. Frozen meats are usually individually packaged and trimmed for quick preparation. Most cooking methods are simple and fast as well. I prefer steaming, sautéing and microwaving frozen foods for the best taste and nutritive value.
4. Frozen Foods Provide Healthy and Sensible Options
As a dietitian, I am a big fan of following proper portion sizes, and frozen foods help me achieve my healthy eating goals because I can take out the exact portion I need. Frozen fruits and vegetables do not have anything added to them when they are frozen, so it is just like eating the fresh kind. I love the variety of stir-fry vegetable options to mix with my favorite lean protein for a fast and satisfying meal – and frozen fruit for my daily morning smoothie.
5. Frozen Foods Can Be Exciting
Be creative with your meal planning! Try something new and add additional vegetables to your favorite pasta dish, try a new fruit to top your oatmeal, or start incorporating vegetables into breakfast with the delicious recipe below. This will make your meal look like a larger serving and will add even more nutrition plus control calories. Be creative! Frozen does not have to be uninspired!
Recipe by Anne Cundiff, RD, LD, FAND
1 tablespoon olive oil
14-ounce package frozen tri-color peppers and onions
12-ounce package frozen mushroom blend
4 frozen chicken breasts (4-6 ounces each), thawed and cut into 2 inch strips
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
1 package reduced-sodium taco seasoning
12 ounces plain yogurt
8 – 8 inch whole wheat tortillas
1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro, optional
- Place tortillas in a baking dish and warm in a 200 degree oven while preparing the taco mixture.
- Place the olive oil in a large skillet and warm over medium heat and add chicken strips, cooking until slightly browned, 5-6 minutes.
- Add in frozen mushrooms and vegetables, cumin, black pepper and garlic salt. Stir and decrease heat to medium- low, cover the skillet and simmer for about 5-6 minutes or until vegetables are hot.
- Meanwhile, mix ½ taco seasoning packet with yogurt, set aside.
- Prepare taco by placing 1/3 cup of the chicken and vegetable mixture into a tortilla and top with 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture and ½ teaspoon of fresh cilantro. Enjoy!