The frozen food aisle is filled with healthy, ready-in-minutes options—if you know what to look for. Follow this advice to fill your shopping cart with the most nutritious picks.
By MEGHAN RABBIT
These days, when most of us think about the healthiest food options, we think fresh. The goal is just-picked produce, right? Not so fast. While those strawberries in the produce section may have traveled thousands of miles over the course of a week or more to get to your local grocery store, a bag of berries in the frozen food aisle were likely flash-frozen within minutes of being picked.
Even better? Many frozen food companies are creating products that are filled with nutritious, flavorful and yes, fresh ingredients. In fact, in many cases, frozen foods can be just as healthful—if not more so—than their fresh counterparts. “The right frozen foods are also a great way to keep your diet on track without having to worry about food waste due to spoilage,” says Melissa Karch, R.D.N., a registered dietitian in Longmont, Colorado.
Here are four tips for choosing the healthiest frozen foods for you and your family.
Tip 1. Know what to look for on the label.
Karch loves keeping an “emergency supply” of healthy frozen meals in her freezer, so she always has healthy options when her fridge is on the empty side. However, if you’re buying frozen meals—a.k.a. “TV dinners”—make sure you choose one that includes at least one serving of vegetables, as well as a whole-grain source like brown rice or quinoa. “These ingredients will boost the fiber content and keep you feeling full until your next meal,” she says, adding that it’s also important to opt for frozen foods that have less than 600 mg of sodium per serving.
Tip 2. Choose healthier takes on traditional comfort foods.
Good news: You can give in to your cravings and still stick to a healthy diet by choosing the right frozen foods. Case in point: Alpha Foods’ burritos, pot pies and tamales, which are delicious replicas of these nostalgic comfort foods. They taste as close to the traditional, meat-filled recipes as plant-based options can get, and they’re better for you while still feeling indulgent.
Alpha Foods Buffalo Chik’n Pot Pie
Tip 3. Avoid additives, preservatives and artificial colors.
A bag of frozen veggies is a super-healthy choice—unless those veggies are smothered in cream sauce or gravy, which adds a lot of saturated fat and calories. You’ll also want to read the label for unnecessary seasoning (like salt), or preservatives and artificial coloring. “Overall, try to avoid any ingredients you don’t recognize as food you’d find in your own kitchen,” says Karch.
“Overall, try to avoid any ingredients you don’t recognize as food you’d find in your own kitchen,”
- Melissa Karch, R.D.N.
Tip 4. Combine your frozen faves with fresh produce, too.
Just because a frozen food favorite could be a meal on its own doesn’t mean you have to eat it on its own. “Pair your frozen burrito with a side salad made of washed-and-ready lettuce or spinach that includes a generous handful of baby carrots for added fiber,” she says. “I love adding extra veggies and herbs to any frozen meal for added nutrients.”