Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables – Are We Getting the Same Nutrition?

Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables – Are We Getting the Same Nutrition?

Not everyone likes veggies and only 1 in 10 of us eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day.

Do you eat three servings of vegetables every day?

If you ask your friends, they may tell you fresh vegetables are too much work (or too expensive) and canned vegetables aren’t appealing. Buying fresh produce that often wilts before it is used is a waste of valuable resources too that impacts the food budget.

Are more convenient frozen vegetables as nutritious as fresh from the farm? Will choosing frozen give you not only convenience but the nutrition you need?

Let’s see what a recent report found when checking out the latest new frozen vegetables to intrigue us to fill half our plate with vegetables that give us flavor and convenience.

Latest Findings from Consumer Reports

Recently Consumer Reports, an independent, nonprofit member organization that works side by side with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace using rigorous research, decided to investigate whether vegetables which are flash frozen are as nutritious as fresh vegetables.

They didn’t just look for nutrition, but taste as well. Do the latest fads in frozen vegetables, such as spiralized forms, mashed veggies, veggie tots, or mixes containing new ingredients like lentils, have flavor that would be acceptable to consumers?

They tested different varieties of the newest frozen vegetables that are mashed, riced, or roasted, as well as some of the old standbys.

They judged the vegetables on the basis of nutrition, taste, and texture. They deducted points for excessive sodium content per serving.

They and their researchers found that, nutritionally speaking, fresh and frozen vegetables were even in their nutritional content of 11 nutrients tested. For those who struggle with adding vegetables to the plate due to their prep time, knowing that more convenient frozen vegetables can compare favorably with fresh could help you and your family get the recommended servings every day.

Highest (and Lowest) Ranking Vegetables

Of the 31 frozen vegetables they tested, the scores ranged from 51 to 85 points on a 100 point scale (they consider scores over 80 to be excellent).

Green Giant riced cauliflower and cauliflower/risotto medleys scored the highest. Trader Joe’s Carrot spirals rated 76 points and were the highest rated spiral vegetable.

The roasted vegetables in all varieties scored the lowest overall, with Green Giant roasted broccoli at 51 points. The tot versions made by Green Giant were considered to have ‘mushiness’ and received the low score of 54.

Riced and mashed cauliflower scored well in the taste tests. They noted this product is also very versatile and can be substituted for rice or potatoes and used in other recipes. The popularity of this riced veggie means that other riced vegetables are coming soon including sweet potatoes and broccoli.

Spiralized vegetables seem to be well received by the judges especially considering the fact that the home production phase could be bypassed as well as the need for kitchen equipment not everyone owns. Substituting veggie spirals for pasta is a healthy option for many consumers looking to pump up nutrition without calories and carbohydrates.

Selecting plain vegetables and spicing them up yourself at home is usually the more nutritious choice except for one product, Green Giant Riced Veggies Cauliflower with Lemon & Garlic at 84 points, because it had no added salt and great flavor according to the judges.

Products flavored with sea salt contained high sodium (over 450 mg/serving) but were judged tasty. Most people are under the impression that sea salt is healthier because it is less processed, but it does contribute to a high sodium intake just like iodized salt.

What Else to Look For On the Label

It is important to read food labels and nutrition fact panels on all the foods you buy to compare between like items to ensure you get the healthiest products for you and your family.

Some of these newer vegetable mixes may have some ingredients included that can add calories, sugar, sodium, and fats to your plate without you realizing it.

Vegetable blends with sweeteners in the form of dried fruit and sauces can give you more sugar than you want even if it is in a natural form.

Most frozen vegetables are low in sodium making them a better choice for consumers who fight high blood pressure. However, there are frozen vegetables that are considered high sodium because they exceed 140 mg per serving. Those varieties with seasonings and sauces, especially cheese sauces, should be avoided if you are trying to cut down on sodium.

As with any food on the market, reading the claims on the label and understanding their true meaning is important so that you are making the best choices and not being misled. For example, being considered a “reduced calorie” version but only differing by 50 calories isn’t really saving you much in the way of calories.

According to food labeling laws, a reduced calorie food must be 25% lower in calories than the original version, which has to be greater than 40 calories per serving (considered low calorie). If the original food is 100 calories a serving, the reduced version would be 75 calories. In this instance is 25 calories really as valuable a claim as you might think?

One of the vegetables tested claimed to be reduced calorie but had 60 calories per serving, compared to 110 for the regular version, a savings of 60 calories a serving (a little more than half). Some consumers might think that they were saving more calories by selecting the “reduced calorie” choice.

Good News Abounds

It’s good to see the research suggests the nutrition in frozen vegetables competes well with fresh.

The taste of most of the frozen vegetables, including the newer trendy spiral and riced varieties, was judged to be acceptable and in some cases very good, if not excellent, by the tasters.

Frozen vegetables are more convenient for busy families because they require less preparation time.

The US Department of Agriculture finds that the cost of frozen vegetables on average is cheaper than fresh varieties and some frozen vegetables, like cauliflower, cost significantly less.

For people who wish to lower their sodium intake, frozen vegetables can help fill their plate with nutrition but not sodium.

Label reading and understanding the food claims will help consumers select and compare the food that fits into their desired meal pattern.

Eating a rainbow just got easier — and healthier!


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