Frozen “TV dinners” got their start decades ago in 1954 when the Swanson brothers had 260 tons of turkey leftover from Thanksgiving. Employing the concept of freezing meals the way the airlines were doing at the time, the Swansons created a new dinner craze and ended up selling 25 million TV dinners in their first year. Today, you can find virtually anything frozen, including complete meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with desserts, fruits, vegetables, breads, French fries, and meatballs.
Along with appetizers and snacks, every meal of the day can be found in the frozen-food aisle of the grocery store. But just like anything you purchase, it is still important to read labels and make sure what you’re eating is healthy and nutritious. And like all foods you buy, hidden sugar is also a factor in frozen food.
Frozen vegetables are generally a safe, low-sugar bet at the grocery store. Most frozen vegetables sold at the grocery store are flash frozen before packaging. Flash freezing is a method of bringing foods to frozen temperatures as soon after harvest as possible, all the while keeping taste, moisture, nutritional value, and texture intact.
Frozen vegetables are generally less expensive than fresh vegetables, and they don’t spoil as quickly. Additionally, many different varieties of frozen vegetables are available, including organic brands and international mixtures. Furthermore, veggies don’t need to be in season to find them in the frozen food section.
Frozen fruits are much the same. Berries and stone fruits, like peaches or cherries, are nice to have in the off-season, and they are readily available in the frozen-food section. The key is to stick with 100% frozen fruits without added sugar or syrup. These fruits are easy to find, but reading the nutrition information is always the best practice.
Frozen meals are also beneficial if weight loss is your goal. With frozen meals, macronutrients, portions, and calories are controlled. They take the guesswork out of weighing and measuring when you’re on the go but want to stick with your diet program. Additionally, there are meals to fit every eating style, whether it be vegan or keto. With healthy eating a priority in these meals, sugar content is generally 10g or less.
If weight loss isn’t necessarily your goal, but budget and convenience are, frozen meals are again a winning combination. Choosing items high in protein and fiber – like a frozen burrito or meals with around 20 grams of protein – keep you full, so you’re not reaching for something sweet right after dinner.
After-school snacks for hungry kids are a constant struggle. Nothing ever seems to satisfy their cravings. Once they are old enough to heat something in the microwave, keeping healthy options in the freezer that kids can heat on their own allows you a bit of down time before the next meal occurs. Whole-wheat, breaded chicken nuggets are fabulous and easy, and some brands have 0 grams of sugar.
Edamame is another great frozen food to keep on hand for hungry critters. Although a veggie, these beans are full of protein and fill the tummy with good nutrition rather than empty calories. A quick pop in the microwave and a dash of salt makes a tasty and healthy snack.
Frozen foods would not be complete without mentioning dessert. Yes, desserts are sweet; however, now, more than ever, frozen-treat options with little-to-no sugar are available. There are sugar-free fudgesicles, popsicles, and ice creams that are so tasty, you would never think the sugar was missing.
It is often suggested to stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store when shopping for healthy foods. But the frozen-food aisle is a low-sugar, friendly aisle that has many healthy choices, too! Be sure to check them out during March and celebrate frozen food month.