When to Choose Frozen Vegetables vs. Fresh
We all want to be that person who fills our cart to the brim with fresh fruits and veggies and uses up every last bit of them. We happily buy produce, dutifully drag it home, and feel really good, convinced we’re making the healthiest choice for ourselves and our family. Then, before you know it, you open that crisper drawer and are horrified to see all of those beautiful veggies you so lovingly picked out have turned into a sad pile of mush. You vow to do better next week. Then….repeat.
You’re not alone. We know we can go the canned or frozen vegetable route, but when should we choose frozen vegetables vs. fresh? Does the freezing process zap away nutrients? Will it even taste good? It’s hard enough figuring out how to get kids to eat vegetables as it is.
We’ve got what you need to know about frozen produce, and how it can sometimes be even better than fresh.
Are frozen vegetables healthy?
When choosing frozen vegetables vs. fresh, absolutely. No matter what, having veggies on hand for meals is always a healthy choice, whether they’re fresh, frozen, or canned. Frozen veggies:
- Are budget-friendly
- Don’t have to be washed
- Come pre-chopped
- Are ready to heat and serve
On a busy weeknight, you may be more likely to throw a bag of veggies to steam in the microwave than to chop and prepare a fresh salad. And we have good news — you may not be losing out on nutritional value.
Fresh produce is often harvested earlier than its peak ripeness. This is because it has to travel from the farm to your grocery store, make it from truck to shelves, and still look appealing enough for consumers to want to buy it.
Frozen vegetables, however, are plucked from the farm at their prime, blanched, then flash-frozen. Many experts agree that most frozen produce has just as many or possibly more vitamins and minerals as fresh, especially when you factor in how long your fresh veggies live in your fridge. It really comes down to how you want to prepare them.
Do frozen vegetables have preservatives?
Most don’t, but you should look at nutrition facts on the label before buying, especially if they come with seasoning or sauces.
What are the healthiest frozen vegetables?
Sometimes it just makes more sense to buy frozen veggies. For instance:
- Veggies (and fruit) for smoothies: It’s precut, usually more affordable, and you won’t need ice cubes.
- Veggies that are out of season locally: Chances are the fresh “out of season” options in your grocery store either had a very long trip to get there or have been hanging out in storage for a while. Your best bet is to purchase them frozen.
- Anything you’re planning to cook: Having frozen produce on hand is an easy way to enrich your dish with added vitamins and minerals. You can open a bag to add into casseroles, soups, or pasta dishes for a healthy boost.
The important thing to focus on when it comes to veggies is getting your USDA-recommended 5-9 daily servings. No matter which you choose, you can be confident you’ll get your fix of vitamins and minerals.