Like canned foods, frozen foods can sometimes get a bad rap. They’re thought of as unhealthy or lazy, but frozen foods can actually be a cost-effective and efficient way to eat healthy foods, especially if you’re only cooking for one. Since March is Frozen Food Month, let’s take a look at some of the most common myths about frozen foods.
Myth No. 1: Frozen foods aren’t as healthy as fresh foods.
Healthy eating (whether it involves fresh, frozen or even canned foods) is all about making the right choices. After all, a freshly prepared bacon cheeseburger isn’t exactly as healthy as a freshly prepared garden salad. When you compare fresh fruits and vegetables to their frozen counterparts, studies have shown that frozen foods are more nutrient-dense after a certain amount of time. Frozen foods are harvested at peak ripeness before being frozen, which means they are packed with healthy vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A and C, and folate. Fresh foods, on the other hand, lose nutrients the longer they sit out after being picked, and stop being able to compete with frozen fruits and veggies in three to five days’ time.
Myth No. 2: Frozen foods have no expiration date.
Although frozen foods have a much longer expiration date than fresh foods, they do, in fact, have a limited shelf life. The concern is not so much food safety, but rather quality control. Frozen food isn’t always stored properly, which can lead to damage such as freezer burn or other types of contamination.
FoodSafety.gov guidelines recommend the following storage times:
- Bacon, sausage and hot dogs
- Leftover pizza
- Chicken nuggets
- Vegetable or meat-added soups and stews
- Hamburger; ground beef, turkey, lamb, veal and pork
- Chicken and turkey (pieces)
- Steaks and roasts
Myth No. 3: Frozen foods are high in sodium.
Because the freezing itself is a preservative, additives, such as sodium, are not necessarily needed to keep the food edible for a longer shelf life. Many frozen bags of fruits and vegetables will not include any added salt; however, if you are buying frozen pre-made dinners and meals, you may discover a high sodium content. For this reason, it’s important to know how to read nutrition labels and make healthy choices based on what you see on the label.
Myth No. 4: Frozen food can be thawed on the counter.
It seems reasonable to think that setting frozen food out on the counter to defrost at room temperature would be safe; however, it can expose food to bacteria. The best and safest way to thaw frozen food is to place it in the refrigerator. This can require additional planning, as it can take up to 24 hours for meat to thaw this way. If you are in a rush, you can defrost food by placing it in a sealed bag in cold water (but be sure to change the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave as a last resort.
Myth No. 5: Frozen meals are not as tasty as fresh meals.
Unfortunately, this myth really depends on who’s cooking! All things being equal, though, you can make some delicious and nutritious meals using frozen foods. Here are ways to incorporate frozen foods into every meal:
Breakfast: Wild Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie
This fruity and protein-packed breakfast will help you start the day off right. The recipe calls for frozen blueberries, as well as fresh or frozen banana, in addition to Greek yogurt and pomegranate juice.
Pop some of your frozen blueberries from breakfast into the fridge to defrost, along with frozen roasted corn, to make this tangy-sweet salsa to top a filet of salmon.
Dinner: Taco Cauliflower Rice Skillet
Leave regular rice behind for this frozen cauliflower “rice” next time you make tacos. You’ll be amazed at how you can barely tell the difference.