• By Julie Stefanski
  • In 2019
  • March 20, 2019

4 Reasons to Visit the Frozen Foods Aisle

By Beth Stark, RDN, LDN

National Nutrition Month® isn’t the only reason to celebrate in March—it’s also a time to show frozen foods some love in recognition of National Frozen Food Month.

According to the American Frozen Foods Institute (AFFI) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI), frozen food sales were up last year, yet one-third of shoppers report consuming frozen foods only once every three weeks[1]. Personally, this is one area of the supermarket that I never fail to miss and for many reasons.

Whether you are in the role of nutrition educator, or need a little convincing yourself; here are four reasons that a stroll through the frozen foods aisle is a must during your next shopping trip.

 

Meals in a Moment’s Notice

Like filling your pantry to the brim with whole-grain pasta, rice, oats and quinoa, beans, nuts, olive oil, tuna and nut butter, so can your freezer be stocked with veggie burgers, fish fillets, steam-in-bag veggies, unsweetened fruit and whole-grain waffles to make a meal in minutes. And don’t overlook lower-sodium frozen lunch or dinner entrees that boast whole grain, lean or plant-based protein or higher amounts of fiber. Such nutritious ingredients and complete meals can save you in a pinch and often cost less than ordering out.

Nutrition with Ease

At one-time, frozen foods had an unfavorable reputation. They were thought to be more expensive, higher in sodium and nutritionally inferior to their fresh counterparts. Thanks to product innovation and customer demand over recent years, better-for-you offerings in the frozen aisle abound with some foods carrying a more robust nutrition profile than fresh and at a lower price. For example, produce is picked at peak of ripeness and flash-frozen within hours of harvest. This rapid process locks in that fresh-from-the-field flavor and may result in higher amounts of nutrients than fresh produce that has been exposed to changes in temperature and light which many vitamins are sensitive to. Of course, frozen fruits and vegetables are also 100% recipe ready—no need to wash, peel, shell, seed or cut before use. While most fruits and vegetables are packaged without sugar, salt, fat and even preservatives, always scan label to ensure there aren’t surprise sources of these additives tucked inside.

 

Gentle on Your Budget

If cost and time are a barrier to eating enough fruits and vegetables, look no further than the frozen aisle to eliminate this obstacle. Frozen fruits and vegetables are consistently priced and always in season. As noted, they are ready to use in recipes with no prep time. From smoothies, to soups, stir fry, casseroles, grain bowls, stews and more—the possibilities are truly endless. To easily see the cost savings yourself, refer to the unit price of the frozen fruit or vegetable and compare it to that of the fresh. It is important to note that seasonality, organic vs. conventionally-grown or value-added (think veggie noodles, riced, cauliflower, broccoli in sauce, etc.) are factors that may cause such offerings to cost more than standard frozen produce.

 

Food Waste Reduction

According to a recent study by the USDA, American consumers waste about one pound of food per day or about 20 percent of all food that’s put on our plates[2]. Even properly stored fresh foods spoil rather quickly so careful meal planning, shopping and selection of items with a longer shelf life can help you do your part to waste less. Thanks to perfect portioning and the option to use only what’s needed and freeze the rest for later, frozen foods can contribute to a significant reduction in food waste in your home. Utilizing the freezer is also a simple way to get more life out of foods that may have otherwise been tossed, particularly leftover soups, stews and casseroles that didn’t get eaten. The majority of foods can be frozen without any negative impact to flavor or quality. Exceptions to this rule include mayonnaise, cream sauces, lettuce, eggs in shells and canned foods[3].

 

To learn more about the proper handling of frozen foods or how long to safety freeze foods, visit: www.fsis.usda.gov or www.foodsafety.gov

For more on March National Frozen Food Month, visit: https://nfraweb.org/annual-promotions/march-frozen-food-month/

Beth Stark, RDN, LDN is the Manager of Lifestyle Initiatives at Weis Markets, a family-owned and -operated supermarket chain with 200 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. Here, she leads the team of 7 corporately-based and in-store dietitians. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

[1] https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2019/02/25/Frozen-food-is-staging-a-comeback-says-report-but-many-consumers-still-query-its-healthy-credentials#

[2] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0195405

[3] https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/freezing-and-food-safety/CT_Index/!ut/p/a1/jZFRT8IwEIB_DY9dbw7J8G1ZYtiUTYJK2Qsp7NYt2dqlrU759RZ8EQNK-9LefV-ud6UFZbSQ_L0R3DZK8vZwLyYbWMDEn8aQ5lP_HpLsdZE_xDGEy1sHrP8AsuBK_8KK4D8_vaLAjZ7Hc0GLntuaNLJSlAm0hEszoDaUVUqVxPAK7Sep-M4SUyNalzjEyDFbc1m2jRQO1oh7d3J6SX6YlMXPm0SW-EFXtDh9FfhuJ1mwHM_SLIB8_Bs4M7Zv4PJcXOOiVdvjH60juQ1C16HGCjVq7027cG1tb-5GMIJhGDyhlGjR26luBOeUWhlL2SlJ–6F7R-jGTRP3So00RewPo06/#1