There’s danger lurking in your grocer’s frozen aisle this month. It’s masked behind big savings and an event called “National Frozen Food Month.” It happens every March, and it could be detrimental to the health of your family.
Frozen foods can seem great: they’re convenient, they’re simple, and they save us a lot of stress. But most of the time they are not so good for your health. Think about what lives in the frozen food aisle: frozen pizzas, TV dinners, ice cream, and pre-made entrees. None of them are good for you, and the ones that look like they could be would be healthier and cheaper to make yourself, even with the incentivizing sales this month.
There are two exceptions to the frozen aisle quandary. They are fruits and vegetables. It’s true that fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables from the produce section contain a slightly higher amount of vitamins and minerals. But during each product’s off-season, fresh items are usually picked before they can fully mature, making the frozen aisle a better place nutritionally.
What Produce to Buy
When you hit the store this month, the best deals for your family’s health and pocketbook will be off-season, frozen fruits and vegetables, combining nutrient-optimization with the sales of National Frozen Food Month. That makes your best options:
- Frozen Corn
- Frozen Green Beans
- Frozen Peas
- Frozen Peppers
- Frozen Berries (With the exception of strawberries! These are in season starting this month in the prime strawberry-growing locales in the country.)
- Frozen Peaches
- Frozen Cherries
If you’re buying local, these seasons may alter slightly depending on your climate. But a vast majority of produce sold at grocery stores is sadly not local, and March falls during off-season for the above produce in growing locales.
Other Tips to Maximize Nutrition
There can be a temptation to buy in bulk whenever you see a massive sale. When you’re shopping for frozen fruits and vegetables, this is not the best method. Buy only what you think your family will eat in the upcoming month or two; hold onto them too long, and the nutrients will start to deteriorate.
Another thing to consider is the product’s USDA grade. Frozen produce must meet USDA standards, and will display the department’s signature shield along with a rating. You’ll want to look for “Fancy” or “Extra Fancy” if you’re trying to load up on those nutrients that make vegetables so good for you. While eating the lower grades (which are all numbered) is probably still better than not eating vegetables at all, it’s not going to get you the most bang for your buck when it comes to preparing healthy meals.