I remember a time when my freezer staples were ice-cream and Smart Ones frozen meals. That was before I knew anything about nutrition!
When you are striving to make healthy food choices, it helps to be prepared with a supply of nutritious food in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Don’t be afraid to reach for something frozen and convenient on those days when you are pressed for time. With a well-stocked freezer you can quickly put together a satisfying meal. Check out my recommendations below and consider adding some of the ideas to your grocery list:
1. Frozen Vegetables
I’m sure you were expecting this one. While it’s nice to have fresh veggies for salads, steaming or roasting, it’s also smart to stock your favorite frozen vegetables for days when you run out of fresh or just don’t feel like dealing with the preparation. Spinach, broccoli and peas are a few that we always have. Green is especially good but try some of the medleys with other veggies like carrots or peppers.
2. Frozen Fruit
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries (they’re back at WFM!), pineapple, mango, cranberries– any fruit is a good fruit. Get the ones you like. I use them more in the summer when I crave smoothies but once in a while I make them in the winter too. Blueberries are something to add to your overnight oats and sometimes I will put some cherries and pineapple in a bowl when I feel like a little snack. Give them a few minutes to begin thawing and then eat them half-frozen. Don’t forget about keeping a stash of frozen bananas in the freezer too. When they get too ripe on your counter, peel them, break them into three or four pieces and freeze in a container. Bananas are key for giving smoothies creaminess and they are also the main ingredient in banana nice-cream, which is fun to make at any time of the year.
3. Veggie Burgers
Make a batch and store the leftovers in the freezer. Just take a couple out, heat them up in a toaster oven and use to top your salad or mix with veggies. I love this Veggie Burgers Made Easy from the Whole Foods blog. You can buy pre-made veggie burgers but it is much more economical to make them from scratch and you have more flavor options. As for store-bought, I recommend the Sunshine Burgers– both for their excellent ingredient list and taste.
4. Breads and English Muffins
I love, love, love Ezekiel sprouted grain breads and english muffins so these are what I have at my house. Whole grain anything is a good choice though. And the reason they are in my freezer is because I don’t eat them too often. I’ll toast a piece of bread or an english muffin and spread it with peanut butter and jelly once in a while. However, I do keep the tortillas in my fridge because I have learned that they are impossible to separate when they are frozen!
5. Frozen Meals
While these should ideally not play a major role in your diet, they definitely have a place for those times when you are in a hurry. And some are better nutritionally than others. I like a lot of the Amy’s products. What you’ll find in my freezer are the Amy’s burritos. When I was taking classes and working at the same time, my go-to meal when I needed something quick and easy was an Amy’s burrito with a soy yogurt. Something about the warm spiciness with the cool sweet creaminess just hit the spot. This weekend Chris and I were tempted by this new Tofurky frozen pizza which also happened to be on sale. We got one of each flavor and had the pepperoni one Sunday. It was good, in a junky-school-lunch-pizza kind of way. The fake pepperoni actually had a really delicious flavor. These fake meats are something that I don’t like to eat regularly, but in moderation are perfectly fine.
Here’s a frozen meal tip: Balance them out with veggies. Many frozen meals like pizzas and burritos are heavy on the grains (crust, wrap) and low on the vegetables. Instead of eating the whole pizza, have half and make a giant salad to go along with it. If you heat up a burrito, also heat up a bowl of frozen spinach or broccoli to enjoy with it. The point of this? More fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Less flour. You’re increasing the nutrient density of your meal this way!