(Laura Chase de Formigny for The Washington Post; food styling by Marie Ostrosky for The Washington Post)
By Ginnie Lin, Edited by Christopher Cirino
Unless you are eating vegetables picked directly from your garden or bought at a farmer’s market, a “fresh” vegetable can vary vastly in steps taken, distance traveled, and days picked. The timer as to when a vegetable becomes inedible often started many days or weeks (or much more!) before it was purchased by the consumer. We all can tell the difference in taste between a fresh carrot and an almost spoiled one. On a personal note, some of these taste misadventures as a child formed the memories that prevented me from eating fresh vegetables as an adult.
Enter frozen vegetables. Sure they get a bad “wrap”: people mention that frozen vegetables can get freezer burn, which affects their texture and taste; people say they are lower in vitamins and nutrients compared to the fresh counterpart; and some question the taste. However, these concerns are neither completely true nor deal-breakers. On the contrary, frozen vegetables can provide a lot of healthy and inexpensive ingredients for meal preparation. This post by Ginnie Lin is a great summary on why and how you should include frozen vegetables in your culinary armamentarium.
Hacking Healthy Eating with Frozen Vegetables
What if you had access to vegetables that were inexpensive and could be used anytime: Vegetables like spinach, sweet corn, peas, and carrots that are already washed and cut?
This isn’t wishful thinking; it’s a reality that is in every grocery store: frozen vegetables.
Sometimes we don’t have enough time or money to buy fresh spinach or leafy greens, wash them, and prepare a salad every day. Some stores and brands have even taken this convenience to the next level, with entire frozen vegetable meals!
Below are a few reasons to consider frozen vegetables:
Even if you don’t shop at Whole Foods or other higher end grocery stores, frozen foods can still save you. Let’s look at spinach – an iron-packed leafy green. Fresh spinach, prepacked and pre-washed costs $1.98 . It’s frozen counter part is $0.95. A bag of fresh snap peas is $5.98 while frozen peas are $0.99. That’s six times cheaper!
They’re more accessible.
Because of their price and ubiquitous availability, frozen vegetables are more accessible to families or individuals with financial limitations or other constraints. These challenges can create food insecurity, a decreased availability of food of higher quality and health impact. In areas where it’s too far or too expensive to transport fresh produce, frozen foods can make that trip while not compromising their nutritional value. This being said, frozen foods can be a versatile option for anyone who likes to try new vegetable recipes. Ideally, plan to eat your frozen produce within three months.
They are as healthy as (if not more than) store-bought produce!
Because the vegetables are at their prime when they’re frozen and stay that way until they make it to the shelves, they have about the same nutritional value of store-bought produce which has to picked much earlier in order to ripen in transport. By the time it makes it to grocery stores, it can be at varying degrees of freshness.
The longer the produce is in storage, the more their nutrients degrade. Thus, depending on how long the produce has been in transport and then in storage, even chilled, it can have even less nutrients than frozen vegetables.
The freshest produce from your garden or straight from a farm will always be the most nutritious, but store-bought and frozen are practically tied.
How to incorporate them into your everyday cooking:
They’re so versatile that they can be added to almost any dish with minimal effort. This is an easy start to those wanting to eat more vegetables in their diet!
Rice on the menu? Add some frozen vegetables and soy sauce, and you have fried rice.
Making pasta? Add the frozen vegetables while boiling the pasta, strain, and mix with sauce as usual.
Making an Omelette? Microwave the frozen vegetables, drain, and then throw them in as the eggs are cooking. It’s an easy omelette in no time.
Not to mention how easily they can be added to chili’s and stews, stir-fry’s, any kind of salad including egg salad, potato salad, tuna salad, etc, the possibilities are endless!
Here are some more suggestions for frozen vegetables:
Consider buying a bag with one type of vegetable over mixed preparations
The freezer should be set at 0 F or below
Food Quality may decline over time in the Freezer
Freezer burn does not make the food unsafe; you can cut it away/leave it out for better quality.
Cook the frozen food directly; no thawing needed but do take into account cooking time.
Best vegetables to buy frozen: Artichoke Hearts, Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Cauliflower, Corn, Edamame, Green Beans, Okra, Peas, Spinach, Vegetable Mix, Berries
Frozen vegetables are great to have around and provide a variety to anyone’s meal planning. It’s time we stopped having this stereotype of mushy, frozen vegetables and realize they can easily upgrade a dish!