Ice and oranges, frozen fruit

Are Frozen Meals Healthy? A Dietitian Sets the Record Straight

There may be 99 problems to eating healthier, but knowledge is usually not one of them. Most of us know that it can be helpful to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, eat less processed foods, and cut down on sugar and fat. But knowledge is not always enough to change behavior. 

Behavior change science shows us that new habits have to be easy, accessible, realistic, and close to equal satisfaction compared to previous behavior. So while I could get on my soapbox and talk about all the factors that impact our food choices on a daily basis, I instead want to provide one solution to you. 

Frozen food. 

Outside of old school freezer containing frozen food
If you’re thinking “did she really just say frozen food..?” Yes, yes I did.

Let’s be clear. Frozen foods are just one piece of the puzzle that can make it more likely for all of us to choose healthy foods the majority of the time. There are clearly many deeply rooted issues that need to be addressed regarding our nation’s health epidemics. In this blog though, I want to provide a guide for you on one way you and your loved ones can eat healthier without needing to do a complete overhaul. And perhaps surprisingly, that is with frozen foods. 

Frozen food has a bad rap

Historically, frozen foods have gotten a “meh” rating from dietitians and consumers alike. Think of the mushy, homogeneously-colored TV dinners from years back for example. Additionally, some frozen food companies load their meals with sodium and fat for better taste and longer shelf life. This also allows them to mask lower-quality ingredients that aren’t as nutritionally sound. 

However, the tides have been turning over the last several years

As a registered dietitian, and thanks to some innovators in the frozen foods industry, I can confidently tell you that frozen meals could be exactly what you need in your life if you struggle with food waste, portion control, or obtaining adequate nutrients—you just have to find the right ones.

Finding the right foods in the freezer aisle

frozen popsicles with cherries laying on ice

Take a look at the nutrition facts and ingredient labels for some of the following categories. Your meal does not necessarily have to meet all of the following criteria. These guidelines can be a good place to start when shopping though.

  • Fruit and vegetable content: Check the ingredient label and product photos and aim for meals that have a good amount of produce in them. 
  • Nutrient content: Look for meals that provide some of the following nutrients: potassium, calcium, vitamins A and D, and iron. 
  • Fiber: Look for meals with at least 5g of fiber to help keep you full. 
  • Sodium: There’s not a magic number here, but for a frozen meal, it can be helpful to look for options that provide less than 30% of your daily recommended sodium. 
  • Saturated fat: This type of fat can impact your cardiovascular health so aim for meals with less than 5g. 
  • Trans fats: Most food companies have been forced to switch to ingredients that don’t contain this type of fat, which can have a negative impact on your heart health, but double-check the Nutrition Facts label to ensure you’re choosing options with no trans fats. 

Fortunately, quite a few brands are making this as easy as possible. My go-to brands include Luvo, Eat Local, Evol, Amy’s, Good Food Made Simple, Kashi, Saffron Road, Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Love the Wild, Hilary’s, Sweet Earth Foods, and more. 

The many benefits of healthy frozen meals 

pre-portioned frozen meals laying on counter

Contains more nutrients

Nowadays, frozen meals are often flash-frozen, which means they’re quickly frozen at a lower temperature. This is important because the cellular integrity of the food is not damaged, which allows all the nutrients to be fully retained and preserved. (PSA: this method of freezing also preserves the structural integrity of the food upon reheating—meaning no more mushy, sloppy, or odd textured frozen foods!) 

Since fruits, vegetables, and other items are harvested at their peak ripeness and flash-frozen within hours of harvesting, in many instances, frozen foods contain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts that have traveled miles in a truck to your grocery store.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who regularly ate frozen meals had higher daily intakes of important nutrients such as protein, fiber, and potassium.1

Saves time

Let’s face it, you likely spend 8+ hours of the day working. The rest of the day is spent cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, trying to get exercise in, food shopping, maintaining the house and yard work, taking care of the kids, and doing other things that fuel your passions. It is crucial to be able to save time any chance you get. Heating up a meal out of your freezer will take less than 10 minutes out of your day.

Saves money

For example, 16 ounces of fresh strawberries from Whole Foods currently retails at $4.99 while 16 ounces of frozen strawberries are just $1.99.

Additionally, you are not wasting the average $28.00 per week worth of food that goes bad before you eat it.6

Reduces waste

Buying frozen foods can help you, your supermarket, and the whole supply chain waste less.

Controls portions

Depending on many personal factors, you may need more or less food than what’s provided in one frozen meal. Regardless, because frozen meals come in single-serving sizes, they can help us learn and choose portions wisely. 

The next time you’re at the grocery store, remember:

Don’t be afraid of frozen food.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding your nutrient levels or frozen meals, shoot us an email at dietitians@baze.com

Curious where your nutrient levels stand? Check out the Baze Starter Kit. You’ll get an in-depth look at your nutrient levels, monthly personalized supplements, and allows you to talk directly with a Baze dietitian about your results.


References:

  1. EurekAlertAAAS. (2014, October 20). Frozen meal eaters have better intakes of key nutrients for fewer calories than QSR eaters. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/kny-fme102014.php
  2. Save The Food. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://savethefood.com/

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