When it comes to buying fruits and veggies, fresh is always best, right? Well, not necessarily.
While I’m a big fan of fresh produce, I'm also serious about helping people fit in at least five servings of fruits and veggies per day, every day. And I've found that when my clients keep their freezers stocked with frozen produce, they're much more likely to hit that mark.
My observation parallels the results of a recent study that found people who buy frozen fruits and veggies consume more produce overall than people who don't buy frozen produce. They also have lower BMIs and higher intakes of potassium, fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.
Full disclosure: The research was supported by the Frozen Food Foundation. But the findings make sense to me for the simple reason that frozen produce can be a whole lot easier. Frozen fruits and veggies don't require any washing, peeling, or chopping. And they won't go bad before you can eat them.
For all this convenience, you're not trading any nutrition. A study by Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Chester in the UK measured nutrient levels in produce that was either frozen or had been sitting in a fridge for three days. The researchers found the frozen samples (which included broccoli and blueberries) had more overall nutrients than the fresh samples.
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What's more, frozen produce can be cheaper than fresh. For example, you can pick up a bag of frozen organic spinach for $50 cents less than a bunch of fresh organic spinach, and you’ll get twice as much of the leafy green. And a 10-ounce bag of frozen organic raspberries costs the same as just 6 ounces of fresh berries.
Now I'm not saying to replace your fresh produce with frozen, because fresh is important too. But to make sure you're consistently eating five servings a day, think of frozen produce as a complement to fresh fare.
Ready to hit the frozen aisle? It’s easy to find clean, additive-free options because freezing is a natural preservative. Just check the bag to make sure that the fruit or veggie is the only ingredient listed.
Here are a few easy and delicious ways to enjoy your bounty:
- Whip frozen fruit, like berries or cherries, with frozen leafy greens, into your morning smoothie.
- Sauté frozen veggies in low-sodium organic vegetable broth, along with garlic, herbs, and spices, for a quick side dish or “bed” for a serving of protein. One of my favorite recipes is broccoli or an Asian mix sautéed with broth, fresh grated ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper.
- Steam frozen veggies, then toss with pesto or olive tapenade. I love these simple combos: broccoli with sun-dried tomato pesto; spinach with roasted red pepper pesto; cauliflower with artichoke pesto; and French cut green beans with green and black olive tapenade.
- For a quick veggie soup, saute frozen veggies in a small pot in EVOO with garlic and herbs, add broth, bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Complete the meal with beans, lentils, or chickpeas.
- Thaw scoops of frozen fruit in the fridge, and then add to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, and stir-fries.
- Make a mock cobbler: Sauté frozen berries, cherries, or peaches in a little lemon water with fresh ginger. Cover with a “crumble” topping made from almond butter, cinnamon, maple syrup, and rolled oats.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
Nutrition – Health.com