Families are facing new challenges when it comes to shopping for groceries while adhering to the government’s #StayAtHome mandate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. This is attributed to the recent stockpiling by consumers brought on by COVID-19.
While many still want to prioritize the nourishment of their families, particularly during these times, the question of whether frozen foods are 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.
Nutrition facts on packages allow you to compare different products in order to select nutritious foods. You can consider factors such as calories, fat, protein, and sugar content across brands, which helps you make smarter choices. Understanding a food label can be difficult; however, doing a little research of terms on a food label can help you know what to look out for.
Here are some common myths and truths about frozen foods:
1. Myth: Fresh is better than frozen. This is a common misconception. What people don’t realize is that frozen foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can actually 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.
2. 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 American Heart Association, 9 out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium and recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. Be sure to take the time to read the label before making your food selection, particularly on frozen meals and entrees. When you purchase frozen vegetables, opt for those with no added salt or salty sauces.
3. 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 stepping up to the plate and 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.
4. 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 flavor. For best results, try to use refrozen meats in dishes that are cooked with moist heat, such as soups or stews.
5. Myth frozen foods expire. According to FoodSafety.gov foods that are continuously stored at 0°F be saved indefinitely. But many home freezers won’t achieve temperatures quite that low, so a more realistic time-frame for keeping frozen foods is 6-9 months. 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.
For more nutritional information visit IAmHerbalifeNutrition.com.
About the Author.
Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education, and Training
Susan Bowerman is the senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition and is one of the primary authors of the Company-sponsored blogs, I Am Herbalife Nutrition and Discover Good Nutrition.
Bowerman is a registered dietitian, holds two board certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a certified specialist in sports dietetics, and a certified specialist in obesity and weight management, and is a Fellow of the Academy.
Bowerman earned a B.S. in biology with distinction from the University of Colorado and received her M.S. in food science and nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. She has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife Nutrition, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Bowerman was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by HarperCollins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.