During the winter months when many fruits and vegetables are out of season, you can head to the freezer section of your supermarket to stock up. Nutritionally speaking, frozen fruits and vegetables are often superior to the fresh ones you find in the supermarket. Why? On average, food travels 1,500 miles from a farm to a supermarket, taking up to two weeks to arrive there. Food can lose up to 45 percent of its nutritional value in that time. And who knows how long it has been in the store when you buy it?
This is why frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option. Most are quickly frozen, right after picking, when they’re at their peak ripeness and most nutrient-packed. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also usually less expensive.
Follow these tips to get the most of frozen fruits and vegetables:
- Read labels. Most frozen vegetables and fruits are salt- and sugar-free, but not all. If you are limiting those ingredients in your diet, make sure you know what you’re getting. If you can afford it, buy frozen fruits and vegetables stamped USDA “U.S. Fancy,” the highest standard, and the one most likely to deliver the most nutrients.
- Don’t boil veggies. When vegetables are boiled –regardless of whether they are fresh or frozen –they lose significant amounts of their water-soluble vitamins. Instead, microwave or steam vegetables to minimize this nutritional loss. When microwaving frozen vegetables, place them in a small dish and add a tablespoon of water. To steam, simply insert a steaming basket (or strainer) in your pot and set it over simmering water just until veggies are crisp-tender.
- Avoid long-term storage. Check the expiration dates on frozen fruits and veggies before eating them (nutrients in frozen fruits and vegetables will diminish after about three months). Buy only amounts you’re sure to use. Once the packages are opened, transfer any remaining vegetables into a zipper-type plastic bag to prevent freezer burn. Also, avoid purchasing bags of frozen fruits or veggies that feel like a solid lump; it’s a sign that the contents thawed at one point and re-froze together.