It's no surprise to us that frozen food is a $28 billion industry in America. After all, frozen meals, fruits and veggies are cheap and easy to prepare.
In other words, a busy mom's best friend, on ice.
Plus, they'll last forever in the freezer. Who doesn't love that?
Frozen food is so popular, in fact, that the month of March has been deemed Frozen Food Month by The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association.
Besides the cost and convenience factor of frozen food, though, what about health? According to Molly Morgan, registered dietitian and owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions, while frozen meals aren't inherently healthy on their own, there are easy ways to make a frozen meal healthier, or to use frozen fruits and veggies to add extra nutritional oomph to other meals, without compromising the ease and cost that makes them so appealing in the first place.
Does Your Family Love Frozen Food?
Are you family members big frozen food fans? Do you have any tricks to make them healthier, or do you have a favorite brand?
And when it comes to fruits and veggies, it turns out frozen could be even healthier than fresh. Frozen fruits and veggies are just fresh fruits and veggies that have been flash-frozen at their peak ripeness. Depending on how long they've been sitting around in your grocery store, that means the strawberries in the frozen food aisle could be more nutrient-filled than the fresh ones, since both fruit and vegetables lose more nutrients the longer they sit around.
Here, find out what to look for in a healthy frozen food for your kid, and what add-ons can help turn a so-so meal into a nutrient-filled one.
How to Pick a Healthy Frozen Meal
Before you head into the frozen food aisle, arm yourself with these tips to be sure you're picking out the healthiest frozen food options for your kid:
- For breakfast or a snack, frozen whole wheat waffles make great options, but check the label to make sure it says 100% whole wheat. If a product claims to be wheat, but not "whole" wheat, there is a good chance it will be mixed with enriched white flour, says Morgan.
- Avoid anything that includes added sauces, which can quickly raise the calorie and sodium count.
- Check the nutrition facts for trans fat content. Morgan’s insider tip: even if there are 0.05 grams of trans fat in a product, regulations allow companies to put 0 grams on the packaging. It's better to check the ingredients list for any [partially] hydrogenated oil products to be sure.
- Always stick with the kid-sized meals. Two options that Morgan especially likes are: Kids Cuisine, which include healthy proteins, starches, fruits and/or veggies, and Kidfresh, which makes a mac and cheese option that contains carrots and spaghetti with sweet potatoes.
How to Make Them Even Healthier
Consider frozen meals and frozen fruits and veggies a blank slate with which you can create a healthy, tasty meal for your kid in a few easy steps.
- Pack more protein into a frozen food meal, like the whole wheat waffles mentioned above, by topping them with peanut butter and bananas, or yogurt and frozen fruit.
- Keep frozen blueberries in the freezer and use them to cool down your kid's oatmeal the next time he says it's too hot. (Just half a cup of unsweetened blueberries has only 40 calories and contains anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells and may increase memory function.)
- Similarly, use frozen veggies to cool down hot soup. If your kid is picky about veggies, try something like carrots or corn, which will add relatively little flavor, but still come packed with carotenoids, which the body turns into Vitamin A and uses for immunity boosting and eye health.
- If a frozen meal comes with a dessert, swap it out for a piece of fresh fruit before your kid even sees it.
Do you buy frozen food? If so, we'd love to hear about your favorites in the comments!
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