Is Frozen Food Good For You After All?

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Dietitians often remind us to stick to the outside edges of the grocery store. That’s where we’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, and milk, rather than all the preservatives and junk food that are lurking in the center aisles. But, what about the frozen section?

After a 3% decline in frozen food sales since 2009, the industry plans to launch its first national TV advertisement. With the tagline “Frozen: How Fresh Stays Fresh,” the campaign, funded by the American Frozen Food Institute, hopes to diminish misconceptions about the freezer aisle. According to the Associated Press, one commercial in the multi-million dollar campaign says, “freezing is nature’s pause button."

Research suggests frozen fruits and veggies often have higher levels of nutrients than the stuff in the fresh produce aisle, since they're frozen at peak ripeness — in other words, pressing "pause" on the nutrient-loss process. Because, from the time an apple is picked from the tree to the minute you add it to your morning oatmeal, it may have lost roughly half of its original nutrient content. Certain studies stand by the "fresh equals healthier" mantra, because some nutrients do leach out during the blanching and/or peeling process prior to freezing. Still, we can all agree that choosing frozen vegetables over no vegetables is a smart option; their nutrient content often decreases during cooking, anyway. Plus, frozen produce can be a more economical and convenient (i.e. pre-cut) choice than the fresh stuff — especially when it's out-of-season.

Before diving into stir-fry and cheesy broccoli, though, remember the key to buying frozen is to avoid mixes with added sauces, which are often loaded with salt, sweeteners, and artificial flavors. While it's great that the freezer aisle isn't all bad, the upcoming TV ads are still a marketing ploy to amp up sales of all frozen food, including not-so-healthy meal options.