Frozen foods often get an unwarranted bad reputation. Mainly due to freezer meals being highly processed and full of sodium and preservatives. But what if I told you this was not the case for freezer fruits and veggies, and they could actually be a GREAT option.
Hear me out:
>> Frozen fruits and veggies are SUPER fresh! Frozen produce is picked at its peak ripeness and flash frozen to maintain optimal flavor and nutrients. Frozen fruits and vegetables contain more micronutrients than fresh. When you buy fresh produce in the grocery store, there’s a chance it’s been harvested hundreds of miles away before traveling to your town. It sits in your grocery store for a few days before you buy it, store it in your home, and eventually prepare to eat it. Some of the vitamins and minerals present in your fruits and vegetables are highly susceptible to damage by lights and heat - so eliminating these variables protects the nutrient quality in your food.
>> Frozen fruits and veggies are cost effective. Do you want to include more organic produce in your routine, but can’t justify the cost in your weekly budget? I understand! Consider shopping for frozen organic produce as they are usually cheaper than fresh options. At my local Kroger fresh organic broccoli is $2.69/ pound whereas frozen organic broccoli is $1.34/ lb. That adds up! Remember to shop with coupons, keep your eye on sales, buy in bulk when needed or simply shop the freezer section first!
>> Frozen fruits and veggies can drastically reduce food waste. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food waste in the US is estimated at 30-40 % of the food supply. I hate to admit it, but I don’t always use my fresh produce before it goes bad. Life happens and things come up in the week where I can’t always cook the meals I planned. I absolutely despise throwing away and wasting food. Frozen fruits and veggies last about 18 months in the freeze compared to 10 days for fresh produce in the fridge. That’s an astounding difference!
Tips for utilizing frozen fruits and veggies
- Ensure the ingredients say what you are buying. ie if you are buying frozen broccoli, the ingredients should read “ broccoli.” Not “broccoli, salt, etc”
- Utilize frozen berries in your oatmeal. Microwave them before putting them in your oatmeal for a nice berry flavor. If you are making overnight oats, you can throw them into the jar straight out of the freezer and they will thaw by morning
- Substitute frozen veggies for fresh in numerous recipes!
- Frozen veggies work great in crockpot/ instapot recipes especially soups and stews
- Season them with spices to add more flavor
- Believe it or not, you can roast frozen veggies and make them crispy!
- Minimize moist heat methods of cooking if you don’t want soggy veggies, such as microwaving and boiling. I recommend sautéing, frying or roasting them instead. The longer the vegetables are exposed to heat and water, the lower the quality.
Check out this recipe below!
Zuccotash with Grilled Shrimp
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-pound frozen shrimp (26-‐30 count peeled, deveined, tail removed)
1 cup zucchini (frozen)
1 cup summer squash (frozen)
5 strips bacon (cut in ¼” pieces)
1/2 cup shallot (finely chopped)
1 cup sweet red pepper (frozen)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen corn (frozen)
1 cup edamame (frozen)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus more for squeezing)
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped)
2 tablespoons basil leaves (torn)
lemon wedges (leaves)
1. Marinate shrimp by combining lemon juice, seasoning salt, pepper, garlic and oil in shallow dish. Thread shrimp onto bamboo skewers and place in dish, turning to coat in mixture. Refrigerate until ready to grill (no longer than 20 minutes.)
2. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-‐high heat. Rub grill grates or grill pan with some olive oil.
3. Heat a large skillet (12-‐inch or larger) over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy about 4 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towel lined plate. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Add shallots, peppers and garlic to pan, season with salt, pepper and thyme and cook for 2-‐3 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add wine to pan and scrape up any browned bits. Simmer until reduced by half, 1-‐2 minutes.
4. Begin grilling the shrimp, cooking until opaque all the way through, about 5 minutes. Remove cooked shrimp to a plate covered with foil to keep warm.
5. Add corn, edamame, zucchini and squash to shallot mixture. Cook, stirring over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add cream and lemon juice. Cook over medium-‐high heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Stir in parsley and bacon. Divide zuccotash between 4 plates, top with shrimp skewers, a squeeze of lemon and torn basil.
6. Garnish, if desired, with lemon wedges and basil leaves.
Christina is a registered dietitian / nutritionist and strength and conditioning specialist located in the Atlanta, GA.