Chill out: Veggies from the freezer are fast, easy and convenient. Read on…
Frozen Vegetables are Hot!
By Elaine Magee*, MPH, RD
You’re running around your kitchen trying to throw dinner together on a busy weeknight, coordinating what’s simmering on the stove with washing the fruit and remembering when to pick up the kids from soccer practice. Suddenly, you realize you’ve forgotten the vegetables!
No worries. Just pop open your freezer and see which vegetable goes best with your entree. Six minutes later, your micro-steamed veggies are ready to take their proud place on the dinner table.
This scenario happens more often than I want to admit at my house. Frozen veggies come in handy year-round, but I especially rely on them during the winter months, when it’s slim pickings in the produce section. Industry statistics show that frozen vegetable sales peak from November and April, with the highest sales coming during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
In winter, it may not be the quality of the fresh produce that scares us off as much as the price. Frozen vegetable prices, though, are fairly stable throughout the year. And it’s tough to beat the convenience of keeping several bags of frozen vegetables sitting in the freezer, with not a worry in the world about having to use them before they turn brown.
Nutritionally speaking, frozen veggies are similar to — and sometimes better than — fresh ones. This makes sense, considering that these veggies are usually flash-frozen (which suspends their “aging” and nutrient losses) immediately after being harvested. Frozen veggies were often picked in the peak of their season, too.
I ran a nutritional comparison on both fresh and frozen broccoli florets (uncooked), and the frozen broccoli contained a bit more vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin C, and folic acid. A recent government study found no change in amounts of folic acid found in veggies after 12 months of freezing. So don’t let nutrition stop you from buying frozen!
Elaine’s Personal Picks
Let’s face it, certain vegetables manage the stress of being frozen rather than heated better than others. Take peas, for instance. I’m not a “pea person”; my mom forced me to eat peas when I was really young and I think I will be forever influenced by this dinner trauma. But still, I have them around for adding to soups, fried rice, and casseroles. And what would I do without frozen chopped spinach for some of my all-time favorite dishes, like spinach garlic dip and spinach lasagna?
My personal picks for finest frozen veggies are:
- Corn (I like the petite white corn)
- Broccoli florets
- Shelled green soybeans (edamame)
- Frozen spinach
- Petite peas
If you like to walk on the wild side, stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry more unusual choices, like frozen diced butternut squash, shiitake mushrooms, artichoke hearts, a blend of red and green bell pepper strips, and Normandy Blend vegetables (carrots with green and yellow beans).
But the options don’t stop there. In fact, of our 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables, half are available frozen! Here’s a list of those 20 popular veggies from the U.S. government’s Federal Register; those available frozen in supermarkets are followed by an “F”:
1. Asparagus (F)
2. Bell pepper (F)
3. Broccoli (F)
4. Carrots (F)
5. Cauliflower (F)
8. Green snap beans (F)
9. Green cabbage
10. Green onions
11. Iceberg lettuce
12. Leaf lettuce
13. Mushrooms (F)
14. Onion (F)
15. Potatoes (F)
17. Summer squash
18. Sweet corn (F)
19. Sweet potatoes
Source: Frozen Vegetables are Hot
*Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, nationally known as “The Recipe Doctor,” is positively passionate about changing the way America eats, one recipe at a time! Magee wrote a syndicated column, The Recipe Doctor, for more than a decade, performing nutritional “makeovers” on America’s favorite recipes. Magee believes that healthful food isn’t going to do anyone any good if no one is eating it — it HAS to taste great (and be easy to fix, too).
Magee graduated as the Nutrition Science Department “Student of the Year” from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. She also obtained her Master’s Degree in Public Health Nutrition from the University of California-Berkeley and is a registered Dietitian. She has 25+ years of experience as a nutrition expert, consulting to a variety of companies and agencies including supermarket chains, public relations firms, and government agencies and has provided thousands of articles and recipes to web sites and magazines during her career.
Magee is the author of 26 books on nutrition and healthy cooking. The 4th edition of her best-selling book, Tell Me What To Eat If I Have Diabetes, was out February 2014. Other recent books include Tell Me What To Eat If I Suffer From Heart Disease and Food Synergy: Unleash Hundreds of Powerful Healing Food Combinations to Fight Disease and Live Well. Magee’s medical nutrition series includes the best-selling Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Diabetes (over 300,000 copies sold), Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux, and four others. The series is being distributed all over the world, including China, Russia, Spain, Indonesia, and Arabic countries.
Magee has been a nutrition expert and writer for WebMD for 9 years and is the wellness & performance nutritionist for Stanford University, where she helped develop their Performance Dining program. One of her favorite work responsibilities is serving as performance nutritionist for Stanford’s six athlete training tables: football, women’s and men’s basketball, women’s volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis. Elaine was the “Nutrition Guru” for a top morning show in the San Francisco Bay Area (KSFO 560 AM) in 2013. She has appeared on radio and television shows including Good Morning Texas, Eye on the Bay in San Francisco, the Fine Living Network, CBS Evening News, Mornings On 2 in San Francisco, and others. She also conducted monthly healthy cooking segments for the Saturday morning news on NBC in San Francisco for 2 years. For 2 years before that, Magee performed the “Light Cooking” segment for the KSBW-TV midday news in Salinas, Calif. She was the nutrition writer and guest on a video with Teri Garr on multiple sclerosis and with Shekhar Challa, MD, on The Heartburn Friendly Kitchen.