As we’re all trying to go to the grocery store less frequently, one troublespot can be fruits and vegetables. After all, fresh produce only stays good for so long.
That’s where frozen fruits and vegetables come in.
Two common questions I’ve been getting lately are:
- Is frozen produce just as healthy and nutritious as fresh?
- If so, what type of recipes can I use frozen fruits and vegetables in?
So let’s take a look!
Are frozen fruits and vegetables just as healthy as fresh?
Let’s start with the first question: frozen vs fresh – which is healthier?
Unless you grow your own veggies or fruits, most of the fresh produce we consume was picked before it fully ripened, transported (sometimes across state or even country lines), and then stocked at the grocery store.
And even once we bring it home, we don’t always eat the produce right away.
So what does all this have to do with nutrition?
From the moment fruits and vegetables are harvested, they slowly start to lose their nutrient content.
This is why it’s so important to both store produce correctly and eat it within a few days of bringing it home.
Curious how to store fruits and vegetables? Check out our ultimate guide here!
In contrast, frozen produce is usually picked at the height of ripening, which means it had more time to develop its nutrient content before being picked.
Once harvested, the produce is washed, and quickly frozen. And this quick freezing helps to retain nutrient levels.
However, there’s still a chance that some nutrients may be lost.
Vegetables, for example, are usually blanched prior to freezing which can lead to a reduction in the amount of water-soluble vitamins including vitamin C and B vitamins.
While fruits aren’t usually blanched, some, like peaches or mangoes, are peeled. And by removing the peel, you’re losing some fiber and likely small amounts of micronutrients.
It’s also been found that after a year or more of freezing, both frozen fruits and vegetables show a further loss of water-soluble vitamins.
So in summary, unless you’re eating fresh produce right off the tree or vine, both fresh and frozen produce can experience loss of nutrients.
So, the question remains: which is more nutritious?
To answer this, one study looked at a handful of common fruits and veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, green peas, spinach, blueberries and strawberries.
For each item, the nutritional content was compared between fresh, frozen, and “fresh stored” meaning it was purchased fresh then stored for 5 days at home.
While nutrient levels did decrease in fresh and fresh-stored produce, overall vitamin content was not significantly different between fresh, frozen, and fresh-stored.
Other studies have found similar results, with some finding frozen produce to be slightly higher depending on the type of fruit or vegetable and storage conditions.
As there’s unlikely to be a significant difference in nutrient content, what’s most important is that you’re getting a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Especially right now, I recommend doing a little of both: have some fresh produce at home, but then also keep bags of frozen ones on hand to reduce the need to go to the grocery store as often.
Healthy ways to use frozen vegetables.
When buying frozen vegetables, make sure to check the ingredient label as many come with sauces that can add unwanted fat, sodium, and calories.
Here are some great ways to put frozen vegetables to good use:
- Replace the fresh veggies with frozen ones.
- Combine with teriyaki sauce and protein of choice for a quick and easy stir-fry.
- Use frozen cauliflower and broccoli to make any casserole.
- Toss them in a skillet with any leftover whole grains you have in the fridge and a scrambled egg for a healthier fried rice.
- Add frozen squash and sweet potatoes to soups and chilis.
- Make a homemade green or red curry with mixed frozen vegetables, frozen riced cauliflower, and chickpeas.
- Use frozen spinach in smoothies, pasta sauces, enchilada fillings, and casseroles.
Healthy ways to use frozen fruit.
As with frozen vegetables, make sure you’re checking the labels on your frozen fruit as some products may have added sugars.
Here are some delicious and healthy uses for frozen fruit:
- Add frozen berries to overnight oats or chia pudding.
- Use frozen banana slices to make a super thick and creamy smoothie.
- Toss into muffin batter to make healthier, whole grain muffins at home.
- Make a healthier ice cream alternative with frozen bananas and milk of choice.
- Simmer on the stove for an easy fruit compote that can be used on pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, and yogurt.
- Make a simple chia seed jam.
- Freeze grapes for a tasty afternoon snack.
Frozen aisle empty? Freeze your own fruits and veggies.
Freezing fresh fruits and vegetables yourself is easy! Plus, it’s a convenient way to make sure you never let produce go to waste.
Just keep in mind that not all produce freezes well. In general, if it has a high water content, like cucumbers or watermelon, it won’t freeze or thaw well.
For a full list of fruits and vegetables that can be frozen as well as tips for freezing, check out our guide here.
The bottom line
When it comes to fresh vs. frozen fruit, both are highly nutritious choices. The key is to pick the option that works best with your budget and lifestyle.
Make sure you’re getting a serving of fruits or vegetables at every meal by using your Lose It! app to keep you accountable.