From outer space to inside our kitchens – – did you realize that frozen foods began as a part of the space age when Apollo XII astronauts took frozen meals on their spaceflight?
It puts those meals we buy for our freezer in a whole new light.
President Ronald Reagan recognized in his proclamation commemorating March 6 as “Frozen Food Day” the significant contribution which the frozen food industry has made to the nutritional well-being of the American people.
Today we have the ability to fill our freezers with the bounty of products that are now available and continue to evolve. This bounty can create confusing decisions about which foods are good choices for you and your family and which are not. Some are better than others and some should definitely be considered staples in your home freezer.
Healthy Foods to Keep on Ice
These foods will do well in the freezer — and are healthy for us.
- Frozen vegetables – a variety of vegetables should be on hand to use as a side dish or an ingredient in your soups, stews and casseroles. Frozen vegetables are great additions to crock pot meals and stir fry medleys for more convenient weekday meals.
- Frozen fruits – there are more choices in frozen fruits and creative ways to use these in your weekly meals. They are great to use in muffins, smoothies, or as toppings.
- Frozen soup – there are several flavorful varieties of soups that can be heartier than the canned choices. Be aware of sodium and fat content and choose wisely.
- Frozen meals – dinners that include lean protein and vegetables are good choices for quick family weekday meals or one person households. There are a multitude of choices and combinations available.
- Frozen potatoes – there are so many choices such as diced, mashed, shredded, baked, fries, or tots. They can start with white or sweet potatoes too.
- Extra staples – frozen fish and seafood, bread and rolls, fresh meat and poultry, homemade waffles, breakfast meats like low sodium bacon, ice cream or sorbet and pops for the kids, small turkey and ham for special occasions, pasta like tortellini and leftovers.
Freezer Stocking Tips
Here are some ideas for stocking your own freezer in a healthy way.
- Fruits in season are great additions to the freezer. Put in serving amounts such as one cup or for pies four cups for use all year long. You can also put produce from your own garden in deep freeze to enjoy in winter months.
- Double a recipe and put the other half in freezer tight containers for quick meals. I always have a chili or homemade soup, precooked meat strips for stir-fry, meatloaf or meatballs, hamburger patties, cookie dough, pie crust, or a casserole on hand.
- Label and date everything you add so that you know when to use it before it is no longer safe to eat. Keep the items that need to be used up front so they don’t get lost on the shelves. I like to keep my freezer organized with each shelf (or space) holding similar items such as all poultry together, all vegetables together and breads on the top to keep from squashing.
- Buying when things are on sale and freezing can help you stay on budget and insure that you always have a good meal on hand even when money gets tight.
- Keep water in old soda bottles in the freezer to help keep things cold in case of intermittent power outage to prevent loss from spoilage.
As with any food you buy it is important to read the nutrition panel and ingredient lists. Many prepared convenience items contain more items than you would find healthy including sodium and added sugar.
As a rule of thumb with any food item, the fewer the total number of ingredients the better. Frozen vegetables are a good example. Green beans should contain green beans. When you purchase them with added sauces and gravies, the calories, sodium and even fat content rises greatly to a point that your family’s nutrition may be impacted.
Complete meal entrees should contain no more than a third of your total daily calorie and sodium intake or 33% DV. If you are shooting for a 1500-2000 calorie a day meal plan, then eating a frozen dinner with 1200 calories will not be a good fit. If your doctor cautions you against too much sodium, a meal with 1720 mg sodium will not work. There are many good choices for frozen meals but you have to read the labels and compare similar items to find the one that fits your needs best.
Frozen food doesn’t last forever so it is important keep up with the dates. Next time we will learn more about freezer storage times for different foods. See you then!