There’s no denying that home-cooked meals are typically much healthier than take-out. But if you have a busy lifestyle, grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking can feel like overwhelming tasks. Fortunately, you can find a wide variety of nutritious frozen foods nowadays.
Freezer foods can make prepping lunch and dinner a cinch, and since they keep for much longer, they can help minimize food waste. Plus, since fruits and veggies are flash-frozen at peak ripeness shortly after harvesting, research has shown that they have just as many — if not more — nutrients than their fresh counterparts.
For these reasons, Irene Mejia, RD, a licensed nutritionist and sports nutrition specialist, keeps her freezer stocked with these healthy frozen foods. Here are a few of the staples she always keeps on hand for easy weeknight meals.
Berries are among the more costly fruits at your local supermarket — and they can spoil in just a few days. That’s why Mejia likes to keep frozen strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries in her freezer.
Berries are known for being chock full of antioxidants — compounds that fight the free radicals that play a role in cancer, among many other chronic diseases. And luckily, studies show that berries maintain their antioxidant levels long after they’re frozen.
“They’re so versatile,” Meija says. “You can add them to smoothies or use them as a topping to your oatmeal.”
You can also use frozen berries in Greek yogurt parfaits, muffins and other baked goods, and pancake batter.
Pro tip: To prevent them from getting mushy while thawing, simply place frozen berries in a bowl of shallow cold water for about 5 minutes.
This is one of Mejia’s go-to frozen veggies, and with good reason. It’s high in satiating fiber, as well as many other essential vitamins and minerals, like immune-boosting vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.
Not only that, but there are countless ways to use up frozen broccoli. Mejia notes that makes an easy side dish for fish, chicken, beef, or any other protein. But you can also toss frozen broccoli into casseroles, quiches, and grain bowls. Or, you can use a food processor to make broccoli “rice,” and then stir in eggs and cheese to make a broccoli pizza crust.
Raw shrimp only lasts for a day or two in the fridge but it can keep for months in the freezer.
“Frozen seafood also tends to thaw faster than meat or poultry, so it’s great when you are in a rush,” says Mejia.
Plus, since it’s frozen right after it’s caught, frozen shrimp may be even fresher than the shrimp you buy at the seafood counter.
Whether you opt to grill it, sautee it, boil it, or air fry it, frozen shrimp offers a hefty dose of protein with very little fat or calories. Use it in stir-fries, pasta dishes, salads, tacos, and so much more.
4. Veggie burgers
On nights when you just don’t have the time — or energy — to prep and cook an elaborate meal, Mejia says frozen veggie burgers can definitely come in handy. And you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy them; even meat eaters who are trying to cut back on their intake of animal products may find these burgers to be delicious and nutritious entree options.
All that said, not all veggie burgers are created equal. Ideally, look for products that are mainly packed with whole foods like beans and vegetables, and don’t contain a lot of preservatives or fillers.
Pair a veggie burger with air-fried sweet potato fries, kale chips, or colorful salad for a meal that’s ready in just 15 minutes.
There are loads of reasons to add spinach to your shopping list: this leafy green is high in both fiber and protein and is chock full of nutrients that boost heart and eye health, lower blood pressure, and even ward off cancer.
“Fresh spinach has gotten very expensive, though, and it goes bad so fast,” says Mejia. “Frozen spinach is far more affordable and works great for stews or pasta dishes.”
You can also add frozen spinach to frittatas, stratas, dips, homemade pizzas, and soups.
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