According to recent findings frozen food sales have spiked 78.8% compared to a year ago, as many families are turning to the availability and convenience of frozen foods.
While many still want to prioritise nourishment for their families, the question of whether frozen food is as nutritious as their “fresh” alternatives has come up.
The answer is that both are healthy and knowing how to read your nutrition facts is one of the best ways to ensure you’re preparing healthy meals for your family.
Here are some common myths and truths about frozen foods:
Myth: Fresh is better than frozen.
This is a common misconception. What people don’t realise is that frozen foods, such as fruit and vegetables, can have more nutritional value than fresh food. These foods are usually picked at peak ripeness, and then processed very soon after harvest, which preserves nutrients. Fresh produce may have a shorter lifespan due to the time it takes for foods to be packed and shipped, not to mention the time it sits in the supermarket. Exposure to air, light and water at the grocery store can also deplete fresh produce of certain vitamins.
Myth: All frozen food is high in sodium.
More food manufacturers are working to reduce the amount of sodium to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers. According to the Australian Heart Foundation*, most Australians consume more than the recommended daily intake, which is no more than 5g of salt or 2,000 milligrams of sodium. Be sure to take the time to read the label before making your food selection, particularly on frozen meals and entrées. When you purchase frozen vegetables, opt for those with no added salt or salty sauces.
Myth: All frozen foods are highly processed.
This might have been true years ago, but as more consumers become savvy about nutrition, food manufacturers are offering more minimally processed foods that are close to their natural state. It is easier these days, for example, to find frozen meals that contain vegetables and whole grains. Again, reading and understanding food labels will help you make the right choice for you and your family.
Myth: Refreezing your frozen food is bad.
Let’s face it. As much as we try to plan out our meals, busy schedules cause our plans to suddenly change, which means the meat you thawed out may need to be put back in the freezer. As long as you thawed out your meat in the refrigerator and not on the counter – which is a big no-no – returning it to the freezer is acceptable. Thawing foods at room temperature can allow bacteria to rapidly multiply and may lead to food-borne illness. But, to be fair, it should be noted that refreezing food can compromise the texture and flavour. For best results, try to use refrozen meats in dishes that are cooked with moist heat, such as soups or stews.
Myth: Frozen foods expire. The Australian Healthy Food Guide** recommends keeping frozen foods for 3-6 months however some foods deteriorate in texture and quality over time. Storing foods in air-tight packages or using a vacuum-sealing kit removes the air from the freezer bag to preserve the food and help preserve quality.
By SUSAN BOWERMAN
MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND,
Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, Herbalife Nutrition.