Eliminating processed foods from your diet is probably the best tip for keeping your weight in check and feeling fantastic. With such hectic schedules and a limited amount of time to spend in the kitchen, it’s also a pretty unrealistic goal. Thankfully, not all packaged goods are as devilish as you might expect.
When you think about it, any food that’s been altered from its original state is processed. That includes the cubed, fresh pineapple you often buy from the produce department as well as the pre-formed hamburger patties at the meat counter. Even the freezer aisle features tons of healthy foods that don’t contain much, if any, filler. The next time you’re stocking up, go for these seven frozen foods to speed your way to a healthy meal.
Most people’s freezers feature piles of raw chicken breasts and steaks, which are both great choices for assembling healthy and delicious meals. The problem with these large pieces of protein is you really have to plan in advance. If you don’t transfer the meat to your fridge to thaw out the night before, you’re in trouble because cooking from frozen takes significantly longer. In a pinch, you can thaw your protein in the microwave as per the guidelines from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, but you’re bound to end up with dry, flavorless meat.
Frozen shrimp are a much better bet. These tiny crustaceans cook so fast from fresh, you’ll only add a minute or two to your prep time by adding them to your dish straight from the freezer. Shrimp are also a great source of lean protein. According to Men’s Health, you’ll score 18 grams of the muscle-building nutrient for just 84 calories when you eat a 3-ounce portion.
2. Brown rice
One of the most notable takeaways from the government’s updated dietary guidelines is the recommendation to increase our intake of whole grains since many of us are still scarfing a lot of refined carbs. Perhaps the easiest way to make this switch is by opting for brown rice instead of white varieties. The downside? Eating Well says brown rice can take up to 50 minutes to fully cook, while white rice typically falls in the 15- to 20-minute range.
You might be surprised to hear you can buy frozen, precooked brown rice right in your regular grocery store. It may take a bit of searching, though. You can add the grains straight to soups and stews, or steam in the microwave for a quick side.
3. Mixed berries
Antioxidant-rich berries are a favorite among health professionals. Though we’re a long way from knowing whether or not consuming the tiny fruits can aid in the fight against nasty diseases, preliminary research is looking good. One more recent review suggested consuming berries may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
While you can certainly purchase fresh, the frozen ones have a significantly longer shelf life and are often much less expensive. If you’re a smoothie or protein shake fan, they’re actually ideal since you’ll get a creamy, frosty texture without having to water down your drink by adding ice cubes.
If you’re sick of having to wash, stem, and wilt greens every time you want to add them to a recipe, frozen spinach is a must. In fact, it may be even better for you than fresh leaves since it’s frozen very quickly after harvesting. Jeff Blumberg, a nutrition science professor at Tufts University, told The Washington Post fresh spinach can lose as much as half of its vitamin B content in a week.
For the best results, allow plenty of time for it to thaw, then wring out some of the excess moisture in a clean kitchen towel or several layers of paper towel before using. You can add the greens to everything from soups to casseroles to meatloaf.
5. Precooked meatballs
Frozen meatballs can be a great choice, but they can also be a terrible one if you aren’t careful. Many are loaded with preservatives and are more soy than actual meat, so be sure to check out the ingredient list before adding them to your cart. For a rundown of the best and worst choices based on ingredients as well as taste, check out this lineup from The Mercury News.
Like spinach, peas are another great vegetable option in the freezer aisle. In 2014, an in-depth study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry reported on the nutrient retention of frozen versus fresh fruits and vegetables. The results for peas were particularly interesting because they demonstrated the frozen version actually retains higher levels of certain vitamins than fresh peas.
Because they thaw so fast, peas can almost always go straight from the freezer into whatever you’re cooking. Cold preparations are an exception, but you can still thaw the veggies super fast by dunking them in simmering water, then draining after a minute or two.
7. Quality frozen pizza
Yes, frozen pizza can be healthy. Today’s options are a lot more varied than what you remember from childhood, so take a little bit of time to study your options because the range in quality is huge. Go for ones that keep ingredients to a minimum and stay within a reasonable calorie range. Head over to Eat This, Not That! to take a look at some great choices.