Frozen food can seem like an easy way to put dinner on the table with little effort, but many of these prepackaged meals are more unhealthy than they appear.
The same rules that apply to fresh foods also apply to frozen ones, and you’ll be better off cooking at home and freezing leftovers than you will be dining on frozen dinners. Take a look at some common frozen food items, what you should look out for, and how to choose the best frozen foods over unhealthy choices.
What are frozen foods?
Frozen foods are items that have been preserved by being placed in a deep freezer and frozen so that the water inside the food turns to ice. This protects them from bacteria, mold, and other contaminants which could cause the food to spoil.
If a product is said to be frozen, then it should have gone through this process for you to purchase and consume.
Unsurprisingly, then, there are many misconceptions about what frozen foods are and what they do for you. For example, some people think that freezing food kills all of the nutrients in it; but this is not true!
There are some nutrients (especially vitamin C) that will break down when subjected to heat or light and can be lost when thawed. But just because an item has been frozen does not mean it has lost all of its nutritional value.
In fact, frozen vegetables actually retain more nutrients than fresh vegetables that have been sitting out on your counter for days!
In addition, since frozen fruits and vegetables often come in convenient serving sizes, they make it easier to include healthy foods into your diet without any additional effort.
Problem with processed meals:
Processed meals are associated with a number of ills. These include high sodium levels, low nutritional value, negative effects on gut health, and a higher risk of cancer. All these factors contribute to increased obesity rates in America.
In fact, people who consume fast food more than 3 times per week were found to be 14% more likely to become obese than those who do not eat fast food at all.
So what should you eat instead?
Real whole foods that have not been processed!
The American Heart Association recommends eating less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. Most frozen dinners have over 2,000 milligrams of salt alone. Additionally, most frozen dinners are made up mostly of carbohydrates without much protein or healthy fats — which can lead to a feeling of tiredness after the meal as well as low-energy later in the day.
And lastly, when it comes to fat content, many frozen dinners contain either very little fat or way too much fat. Eating too much saturated fat is linked to heart disease and stroke — two leading causes of death in America.
Meanwhile, Americans consume about 6.3 teaspoons of sugar every day — half the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Even though these sugars come from a variety of sources like fruit juices, honey, milk products, table sugar and other added sugars, they still play an important role in contributing to tooth decay, weight gain, diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
On top of that, consuming high amounts of sugar also leads to increased production of insulin and insulin resistance — both precursors for type 2 diabetes.
Lastly; just because something says Frozen doesn’t mean it’s always good for you. It’s best to avoid any unhealthy frozen foods or snacks like ice cream, pizza rolls, muffins, popsicles, and french fries just to name a few!
Make sure you’re paying attention to the nutrition labels on your food items so that you know what’s in them before putting them into your cart.
What to eat instead:
There are many healthy frozen options that you can enjoy as opposed to unhealthy alternatives. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is a much better option than one filled with processed foods like frozen dinners or pizzas.
Eating well-balanced meals will also provide the energy needed for everyday activities like walking or running and working on tasks around the house.
In the frozen food section of your grocery store, there are a variety of foods that you might think are healthy, including salads and fruit. However, a closer look may reveal different results. Fruit often comes with high sugar content and if not carefully monitored can cause excess weight gain.
In addition, even salad dressings can have additional calories and carbs in them. These things don’t make for an unhealthy food; however it is important to read the label before indulging so you know what you’re getting into.
While fresh produce does take up more space than packaged ones, it has more nutrients in it as well. Overall fresh produce will be better for you than its frozen counterpart, but when time is of the essence or you need something on hand, then opting for frozen food will be better than nothing at all.
How to thaw your meals properly?
Purchasing frozen dinners and meat from the grocery store can have its pros and cons. For example, a frozen turkey breast might be a great option for your holiday meal because it is easy to prepare, tastes good, and is inexpensive.
On the other hand, if you’re going to be freezing dinners for convenience’s sake — like when you know you’ll be coming home after 9 p.m. — you’ll want to make sure to thaw your meals properly so they don’t spoil in the freezer.
It’s best to freeze them right before cooking them or right after cooking them, as this will keep them at their freshest for the longest amount of time.
And when it comes to meat like beef, chicken, or pork, it should never go into the freezer before being cooked since that would result in a tough piece of food that won’t taste very good.
Frozen foods often contain more sugar, fat, and salt than fresh. For instance, many frozen dinners are only about 600 calories for a whole meal. Some salads include 750mg of sodium, which is 50% of the recommended daily intake. Starchy vegetables like peas and corn in their frozen form have up to 20g of carbs per serving, which can contribute to weight gain.
Frozen pizzas can have as much as 10g of sugar per slice, which is equivalent to one soda. It’s best to avoid frozen food altogether when possible, and if you do buy them make sure they’re healthy choices that are made with wholesome ingredients.