Are Frozen Vegetables Healthy?
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It sounds like you’re well aware that fresh fruits and vegetables are fantastic for your health. In a perfect world, we would all have the time and money to buy locally grown produce, prepare it, preserve it and eat healthy meals at every sitting. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Life is demanding, and, as you mention, there are lots of situations where fresh produce isn’t accessible or manageable.
It can be frustrating to feel like you want to eat well but are falling short. Like you, my clients report a lot of stress around food prep and waste, and, of course, stress isn’t helpful for your long-term health. What’s more, throwing spoiled food away can feel like tossing money straight into the garbage can.
Fortunately, we have options. There are lots of ways to include frozen fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet. Roasting a bunch of frozen broccoli florets on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes is one of my favorite easy side dishes.Frozen food can also be whole food. If you want the simplest options, just keep an eye out to be sure the products you’re buying don’t contain added salt or sugar.
In other words, in a nutritional boxing match between refrigerated and frozen broccoli, you’ve got a fair fight on your hands, and frozen just might take home the prize. Look for the USDA Grade A rating on the packaging to ensure you’re getting the best quality available.
Interestingly, some sources who teach new parents how to make their own baby food recommend frozen vegetables because they’re easy to store and retain their nutritional value. For the same reasons, a lot of people like to use frozen fruit in smoothies as well.
Roughly one-third of the food intended for human consumption in the U.S. goes to waste, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When we discard that food, all the energy used to produce, process, transport, prepare and store it also goes to waste. Furthermore, such food loss and waste leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions, and when food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, another problematic greenhouse gas.
Of course, frozen vegetables also require energy for transportation and storage, but if the food lasts longer and is ultimately consumed rather than discarded, the environmental cost of producing it could be lower than that of shipping fresh produce around the world that ends up rotting in a landfill.
Packaging is a concern for both fresh and frozen vegetables as well. The freezer section is full of plastic bags, and most people use the disposable, single-use bags provided by grocery stores in the fresh produce section. These bags are often not readily recyclable at home, but many retail and grocery stores provide bag drops to reclaim and recycle used plastic bags. If you rinse your produce bags when you’re done with them, you can deposit them in these receptacles as well.
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of food waste, bring reusable produce bags from home when shopping for fresh produce or skip the bags altogether. For any kind of food (fresh or frozen) that goes bad, composting turns food scraps into nutrient-rich soil that can be used in gardens and potted plants. Not everyone has the space or the ability to compost at home, but some cities and private companies offer pick-up services, and there are backyard kits and countertop appliances available.(Note: Product details and pricing are accurate as of the publication date and are subject to change.)
Eating vegetables is generally better than not eating them, so if the difficulty of shopping for, preparing and eating fresh ones feels prohibitive, the best plan could be to remove as many obstacles as possible and head for the frozen section.Bonus: Frozen produce is usually pre-cut, which can make life a lot easier if you’re busy or need to cook in small portions. There’s nothing wrong with convenience if it helps you make healthy, sustainable choices—for your body and for the planet.“Hey, Health Coach” is for informational purposes only and should not substitute for professional psychological or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your personal situation, health or medical condition.By submitting your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, you agree to let Forbes Health use it in part or in whole, and we may edit the letter for length and clarity. All submissions remain anonymous.
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Sarah Hays Coomer is a Mayo Clinic and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, certified personal trainer and author based in Nashville, Tennessee. She has spent nearly 20 years helping individuals and groups build personalized systems to ease chronic stress with self-selected, concrete behavioral changes. She has contributed to many publications, spoken at organizations and universities nationwide, and written three books: The Habit Trip, Physical Disobedience and Lightness of Body and Mind. You can find her on her website, LinkedIn or Instagram.
Alena is a professional writer, editor and manager with a lifelong passion for helping others live well. She is also a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and a functional medicine certified health coach. She brings more than a decade of media experience to Forbes Health, with a keen focus on building content strategy, ensuring top content quality and empowering readers to make the best health and wellness decisions for themselves.