When writing your grocery list, don’t overlook the freezer section. There are many tasty options that are both nutritious and affordable for every season.
1. Frozen vegetables
Tired of pale tomatoes and limp broccoli? At this time of year, it can be tough to find high-quality produce in the fresh section. Although many winter vegetables are still a cost-effective and nutritious option, the frozen aisle is my preferred stop for wintertime produce. Frozen vegetables can be microwaved, steamed or stir-fried as a colorful addition to your proteins and starches. Some of my favorite options include:
- Frozen peas with olive oil and an herbal seasoning (herbs de Provence, Italian blend or similar).
- Frozen corn sprinkled with garlic powder, black pepper and a dash of salt.
- Frozen steamed broccoli with this quick dressing.
- Mixed vegetables microwaved per package instructions and spritzed with oil and a salt-free steak seasoning like Mrs. Dash.
If you’re cooking for just yourself, only pour what you need into your steamer or microwave-safe bowl. Storing the unused and still frozen portion is as easy as sealing the bag with a clip or transferring the contents to a sealable plastic bag to prevent freezer burn.
Warning: some bags of frozen veggies have added sauces or seasonings. Check the nutrition label to make sure the added fat and sodium isn’t excessive. Often it’s just as easy to add your own low-sodium seasonings to your taste and to complement the other parts of your meal.
2. Frozen fruits
Just like vegetables, you’ll get more nutrition for less money when buying frozen fruit in the off-season. For a quick and filling breakfast, try this tasty smoothie recipe that’s high in protein and antioxidants. You can also enjoy frozen fruit in one of my favorite ways:
- Microwave along with instant oatmeal.
- Mix into plain yogurt and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Warm in the microwave and sprinkle with sweetener or chocolate chips for dessert.
3. Frozen (healthy) entrees
These aren’t your mother’s TV dinners. Healthy frozen entrees can be found in almost every grocery store from several different companies. Whether you prefer more traditional tastes (try brands like Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine) or you like to branch out (look for Evol, Amy’s, Luvo and Sweet Earth), there’s a tasty meal waiting for you that takes just minutes to prepare. Look for meals that give you the balance you need with this checklist:
- Check the calorie content—Meals should provide no more than one-third of your daily calorie goal.
- Prioritize protein—Meals with 15 grams of protein or more will do the best at keeping you satisfied. Along with strength training, adequate protein will help preserve your muscle, providing all kinds of benefits.
- Check sodium—It’s an unavoidable part of processed foods, but even among the “healthy” brands there is a surprising amount of variability in sodium content. Aim for no more than 650 mg in your meal.
- Fill up with fiber—You pay more for meals with vegetables, but it’s worth it! To be sure you’ll leave the table comfortably full, look for at least 3 grams. Some options, like the ones with beans, have as many as 11 grams. You’ll definitely be satisfied, and you’ll be lowering your cholesterol, too.
With all the tasty options available in the freezer aisles, you’ll get through the winter with a healthy immune system, a maintained or shrinking waistline, and maybe even some new stand-by recipes to keep you and your family full and nourished.