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Health Inside the Freezer Case

No question — frozen foods are convenient and often economical choices to get a quick meal on the table. Despite that, they’re given an icy stare by some health-conscious shoppers, who view frozen foods as less nutritious than, or somehow not as “good,” as fresh.

March, designated as both National Nutrition Month and Frozen Food Month, is a great time to set the record straight about the benefits of frozen foods.

Case for Good Nutrition

Many retail dietitians recommend frozen fruits and vegetables as nutritious options because they’re usually harvested and processed at peak ripeness and nutrition. This advice is supported by two recent studies conducted at the University of California-Davis in partnership with the Frozen Food Foundation.

The researchers compared the vitamin, mineral, fiber and phenolics (health-promoting plant compounds) in frozen and fresh versions of several popular fruits and vegetables (blueberries, strawberries, carrots, corn, broccoli, green beans, green peas and spinach) and found them generally comparable.

There’s good nutrition news beyond fruits and vegetables, too, according to a study from the American Frozen Food Institute. A dietitian analyzed a one-week menu plan consisting almost entirely of frozen foods, and found that the plan met most dietary recommendations for adult women, including for key nutrients such as fiber, calcium and potassium, which many Americans fall short on.

Additionally, frozen foods can help melt away pounds, according to a scientific review by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. The review showed that single-serving portion-sized meals such as pre-packaged bowls, soups and frozen entrées, helped adults control portions, trim calories and lose weight as part of a weight management program.

Satisfying Health Seekers

Today’s supermarkets are stocked with frozen foods that meet the demands of shoppers seeking certain healthful attributes. They’ll find a wide range of organic, gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well as those positioned as “natural” or made with “real” ingredients. Many products feature sought-after ingredients and flavors like ancient grains, edamame (soybeans), curry, sriracha and ginger, to name a few. And the preservative-adverse have an ally in the frozen aisle, since freezing is a way to preserve foods, so some frozen products contain few or no added preservatives.

Of course, dietitians have long recommended some frozen foods as a convenient way to meet nutrition recommendations and get a balanced meal on the table fast (hello, frozen veggies). But today’s options make that easier than ever. For instance, frozen steel-cut oatmeal and brown rice put these long-cooking whole grains within easy reach of the busiest family. Plain frozen legumes like kidney beans offer protein, fiber and other nutrients without the time-intense prep of cooking dry beans from scratch and without the sodium content of many canned versions.

Frozen foods also appeal to those concerned about food waste, since frozen products can maintain quality during long storage periods and shoppers can use just the amount they need.

There’s a lot to love about today’s crop of frozen foods. Look to your retail dietitian to craft engaging messaging and programs that promote health inside the freezer case.

Dietitians have long recommended some frozen foods as a convenient way to meet nutrition recommendations and get a balanced meal on the table fast.

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