7 Frozen Vegetables Nutritionists Always Have On Hand
It’s a familiar scenario: you have good intentions to eat more vegetables. You go to the grocery store, see all the beautiful, bright veggies, and bring them home. But life gets busy and before you know it, you’ve forgotten a few and they’re left rotting in a refrigerator drawer. It can make you feel guilty! A great solution is to turn to frozen vegetables. Not only are they always in stock, but they’re usually inexpensive and they last for months.
Plus, you definitely don’t have to worry about whether they are as nutritious as fresh veggies: a study out of the University of Georgia found that most frozen vegetables have as many nutrients — or even more — than fresh vegetables. Another study looked at multiple frozen vegetables and found that their vitamin content was as high or even higher than fresh vegetables because they are frozen at their peak ripeness, retaining all of those nutrients.
Using frozen vegetables means you can cut back on food waste because you don’t have to hurry and use them before they spoil. And pretty much everyone agrees, veggies are one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
So, we decided to call in the experts. Below, hear what frozen vegetables registered dietitians always have on hand and why they love them.
1. Broccoli florets
Eating broccoli will give you a big nutrition boost. This cruciferous veggie contains multiple vitamins and minerals, like manganese, potassium, vitamin C, and folate. It’s also full of plant compounds that fight cancer and inflammation. You can’t go wrong with adding broccoli to your lunch or dinner.
“I always keep multiple bags of frozen broccoli florets on hand,” she says. “A few of my favorite ways to use them include tossing them into a stir-fry, adding them to soups, and I always add them to my kid’s mac n’ cheese, or mac n’ trees, as we call it!”
2. Green beans
“I love the frozen green beans that are found in the steamable bags,” says Emily Tills, RD. “These beans are precut and ready to steam without having to trim them. When getting the store brand, they are usually under $2 a bag for four servings and can be an easy side to a meal or mix them into a pasta dish or casserole with minimal prep.”
Green beans are a great source of fiber, folate, vitamin C, vitamin A, and many minerals, including zinc, magnesium, and calcium. “Green beans are a great source of insoluble fiber which also helps to promote bowel regularity,” she says.
Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains many vitamins and minerals, like calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and plant protein, and also many health-promoting plant compounds. These compounds, like lutein, quercetin, and kaempferol, have antioxidant properties, protect your body’s cells, and may protect against cancer.
“As a registered dietitian and new mom, I always keep frozen vegetables on hand to add a quick pop of nutrients into my meals and snacks,” says Taylor Merloni, RD. “Frozen spinach is my favorite vegetable to add into smoothies, soups, pasta dishes, or stir fry.”
4. Cauliflower rice
“Frozen cauliflower rice is one frozen food item I’d recommend time and time again,” says Trista Best, RD. “Cauliflower is a nutrient-dense vegetable that often gets overlooked for its lack of color and flavor. However, it is extremely versatile and is one of the easiest veggies to sneak into a meal to boost its nutritional value.”
Cauliflower rice is just cauliflower that is cut small to resemble rice. It provides choline, an essential nutrient for your central nervous system, and one that most Americans are deficient in. Cauliflower rice is also a great source of fiber.
“The major benefit of cauliflower rice is its high fiber and low-calorie nature,” says Best. “This allows you to add beneficial fiber into your diet without a surge of calories.”
5. Mixed veggies
Cassidy Reeser, RD and owner of Cozy Peach Kitchen, brings up the different frozen vegetable mixes you can find at most grocery stores. Using a mix of frozen vegetables is a great way to get a boost of different nutrients in one sitting.
“Frozen pepper blends are a great item to keep on hand because they can be added to eggs or hashbrowns with breakfast,” says Reeser. “Bags of frozen stir-fry vegetables are a great option for those who don’t have the time or ability to prep multiple vegetables.”
“The best frozen veggies to keep on hand are the ones that you already enjoy eating fresh,” she continues. Look for mixed veggies at your local supermarket. It’s often easy to find bags that contain broccoli, corn, and red peppers, or the Normandy blend that includes cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli.
“One of my favorite frozen veggies to keep stocked in my freezer is shelled edamame,” says Stephanie Wells, RD. “Edamame are immature soybeans that provide 10 grams of plant-based protein in a 3/4 cup serving. They also provide anti-inflammatory isoflavones and add a gorgeous pop of green to dishes. I microwave them in a bowl of water for a few minutes and add them to paella, stir-fries, and rice bowls for a convenient source of protein and fiber.”
Edamame is also a rich source of vitamin K and folate.
“Frozen peas are one of my favorite go-to frozen vegetables as peas are high in fiber and protein — which keep you feeling full and satisfied,” says Mary Wirtz, registered clinical dietitian and nutritional consultant at Mom Loves Best. “The options are endless with frozen vegetables and [they’re] a convenient, cost-effective, and nutritious way to bulk up almost any meal or snack.”
When peas are frozen at the peak of ripeness, they retain their nutrition. Peas provide potassium, fiber, and a huge amount of vitamin C.
“If using frozen veggies, the best way to prepare is via steam or microwave — which protects and preserves water-soluble vitamins since vegetables do not come in contact with cooking water like they do when boiling,” says Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, RD and owner at Nutrition By DMC. “Grilling, roasting, and stir-frying, aka the dry cooking methods, also retain more nutrients than boiling.” And a special tip for cauliflower: “Do not defrost – spray with a little olive oil and roast them for about 35 minutes until they brown and form a nice caramelized crunch.”
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