You’re told you should eat fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain or improve your eating habits, manage diabetes, and improve overall health. After all, they contain a lot of nutrients that help with maintaining glucose levels, lowering the risks of cardiovascular disease, and improving blood pressure.
- —Isn’t used to eating fresh produce on a regular basis
- —Typically lets fresh produce goes to waste
- —Finds them unaffordable and/or out of season
Then you may want to go for frozen versions. Still, many wonder if frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones, and research suggests people have negative associations of frozen compared with fresh vegetables. Let’s settle that discussion here: are frozen fruits and vegetables just as nutritious as fresh ones?
Why Choose Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Over Fresh?
They Retain Their Nutrients at Peak Ripeness
There are several reasons why you may choose frozen produce over fresh ones. First, it’s important to understand how nutritious they are. It’s totally normal to wonder if you’re eating something that’s “processed” but marketed as healthy, especially when you’re living with diabetes. Let’s dive into how produce goes through the freezing process. Before they’re frozen, produce is picked at peak ripeness—meaning they’re at their freshest and most nutritious. During the freezing process, the loss of nutrients slows down and nutritional value is retained. With fresh produce, their nutritional value can wane overtime after being picked.
Prevent Food Waste and Save Money
You can probably recall a time when you excitedly bought fresh fruits and vegetables with the full intention of eating them as soon as possible, only to let them spoil days later. Sometimes, fresh produce is expensive, especially when purchased out-of-season.
There are a couple of ways to resolve this. The first is to limit the amount of produce you buy to what you’ll actually eat—not simply how much you intend to eat. This may mean buying less than you feel you should, but that’s okay because you’ll be preventing food waste and saving money.
Still, if you decide to purchase fresh produce, consider following these tips to freeze some:
- —Choose the right kind of packaging intended for freezing.
- —Label your freezer bags with the packaging date.
- —Freeze foods as soon as they’re packaged and sealed.
- —If necessary, consider blanching some vegetables to prevent a loss of color, texture, and nutrients. Blanching is a cooking process where you plunge your fruits or vegetables into boiling water and remove them after a brief period of time. If using this method, make sure all foods cool prior to freezing.
The other sustainable way is to purchase frozen versions because they’ll last longer and tend to be less expensive.
When to Choose Fresh Over Frozen
While consuming frozen produce is a great way to meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements, you still may want to consider fresh versions if they’re available in-season, when they’re most flavorful, abundant, and less expensive compared to when they’re out-of-season. You may also want to consider fresh fruits and vegetables over frozen depending on how you plan to cook and eat them because the texture differs between fresh and frozen produce. For example, frozen spinach may be great for dips, smoothies, and soups, but not to make a salad. If you’re craving a bowl of strawberries, then it would be better to just get a basket of fresh ones instead of frozen ones that would sog after thawing due to the extra water content.
Next time you’re at the grocery store and feel pressured to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, remember that frozen is a great option, as well. You can still reach your nutritional goals without worrying about food waste and while saving an extra buck or two.
Get Creative in the Kitchen
Whether you’re using fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, there are ways to get the best bang for your buck from them in the kitchen. Diabetes Food Hub® is your source for recipes and cooking tips, and can help you create your grocery list and meal plan. Visit Diabetes Food Hub and search for different recipes that fit your health goals. Need some ideas? Check out a few below that you can make with frozen and/or fresh ingredients:
Chicken Stir-Fry with Snow Peas and Bell Peppers
Sheet Pan Chicken, Green Beans, and Potatoes
Sun-Kissed Health Salad