Frozen vegetables and fruits can actually be more nutritious than fresh, since they’re packaged immediately after harvesting and the nutrients stay at their peak. Vegetables and fruits typically last for about eight months unopened in the freezer.
VegetablesLook for: Plain, 100 percent vegetables (they should be the only things on the ingredient list). There’s no nutritional difference among the boxed, bagged, or steam-in-bag plain varieties, so go with whatever you like. Make sure the vegetables haven’t frozen into a lump―a sign that they have been thawed and refrozen. This means they retain fewer vitamins, says Sarah Krieger, a registered dietitian in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Avoid: Anything mixed with cheese, topped with sauce (such as garlic), or accompanied by pasta or rice. A cup of plain frozen broccoli, for example, has 30 calories, no fat, and 20 milligrams of sodium. Package that same vegetable in a cheese sauce and the calories more than double and the sodium soars to about 600 milligrams.
Tip: Speed up meal prep during the week and amp up nutritional content by adding frozen vegetables (thawed in the microwave or a bowl of cool water) to casseroles, stews, and soups. You can also blend them into dips and use them to top fresh salads.
FruitLook for: Again, pure and simple fruit is the best option. The bags will stay good for about two months after they’ve been opened. Look for resealable bags to help prevent ice crystals, which can signal the fruit has become dehydrated and possibly lost some of its flavor or nutrients, says Krieger.
Avoid: Fruits packaged with sugar. Frozen strawberries in syrup, for instance, can contain up to 11 times as much sugar (about 17 teaspoons) as natural, unsweetened ones.
Tip: Frozen fruits can be delicious straight from the freezer. Mango chunks, cherries, and blackberries are particularly tasty when eaten ice-cold. You can also blend them into smoothies, or top pancakes, waffles, and yogurt with them for an antioxidant boost.