March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
The freezer case is stocked with every kind of convenience food. From bagels and bread dough to waffles and cookies to fruit and fruit juice to pizza and burritos to vegetables and full dinners, many frozen foods these days are pre-portioned and partly or fully cooked. Enjoy healthy frozen foods with little time or effort with the following tips.
Frozen Vegetables and Fruits
- Choose frozen plain vegetables or those made with low-fat sauces. Some sauces mixed with frozen vegetables add saturated fat, sodium and calories; check the Nutrition Facts label.
- Look for frozen fruits as an option when fresh fruits are out of season. Choose frozen fruit without added sugars in the ingredients list. To help frozen fruit keep its shape, serve while it's still somewhat frozen. Frozen fruit bars make a nutritious snack, too.
- Buy fruit and vegetables in loose-pack plastic bags. You'll only need to pour out what you need; then immediately return what you don't use to the freezer.
Frozen Meals and Entrées
- Use nutrition labeling to compare frozen prepared meals, bowl meals and entrées. Along with traditional foods, you'll find many products (even pizza, lasagna, enchiladas and burritos) with fewer calories and with less saturated fat and trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. When you're comparing the nutrients in one frozen dinner with another, check the label serving size.
- Whether vegetables, fish or poultry, go easy on breaded and fried frozen foods. If you do buy them, check the package directions for oven heating, stovetop cooking or microwaving instead of deep-fat frying.
Reviewed July 2016 Roberta Duyff, MS, RD, FAND, is author of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide and 365 Days of Healthy Eating.